Tag Archives: Mister Bua

Men and their gardens

5 Jun

I come from a long line of earth tenders. A very long line.

That’s Mister Bua you see there, grandfather to several of my cousins. He and Mrs. Bua lived in the ground floor apartment of Uncle Joe’s house on Berriman Street in Brooklyn. A general contractor by trade, my uncle bought the property because it had enough room for his red dump truck and assorted building materials, space for lots of family cookouts in the summer, plus a good-sized garden where he could grow vegetables.

The tree that Mister Bua is tending is a fig tree, a healthy one too. The trellis on the left is for a squash-type vegetable that we call googootz (here’s a link that explains), and the vast majority of the plants that I see are tomato plants.

I do not see a single weed. If you are at all familiar with vegetable gardening then you are likely as awestruck by this as I.

In a week or two I will have my own garden, a 24’x24′ plot of earth, fully planted. Like my uncle and Mister Bua, along with many other men I grew up admiring for their skill and loving for their generosity of spirit, tending to a garden in summer is a need, not a choice. If I didn’t have to nurse my fig trees (four now), tomatoes (a couple dozen plants, at least), googootz (always a crapshoot), garlic (230 or so this time around) and assorted other things I really do not know what else I would be doing from mid-June until September.

I know this may sound silly, or at the very least quaint, but looking at this photograph of Uncle Joe’s garden makes me all kinds of weepy. Go ahead and click on the picture, enlarge it and really take a good long look. Mister Bua, a sweet man with a kind heart, is exactly where he wants to be at this moment and doing exactly what he needs to be doing. Every single thing coming out of the ground is lush and beautiful, tended to by men who care deeply for them. Hell, even the sheets drying patiently on the clothesline, possibly Cousin Ursula’s, Mister Bua’s granddaughter, make me nostalgic.

Things just could not be more perfect.

Mister Bua’s cornbread

17 Sep

It isn’t really cornbread.

But you knew that.

It’s a crispy baguette that has been soaked in melted sweet butter. The butter was neither poured over nor spread on the bread when it was warm from the oven. It was melted by something much, much better: a just-steamed, super fresh ear of local corn.

We’re getting to the end of the growing season. The nights are growing cold here in Maine, leaves are beginning to turn. I’ll miss the fresh corn and the bread that I always eat alongside it.

I have Vito Bua to thank for this summer tradition that I hold dear. Mr. Bua was grandfather to several of my cousins. I remember him for only two things: dancing with the ladies (boy, could he dance with the ladies!) and teaching me how to eat fresh summer corn.

Mr. Bua died long ago, and we never were what you would call close. And yet, every summer when the corn comes, there he is teaching me all over again what to do.

“Here,” he says in that thick Italian accent of the immigrants of his day. “First you put your butter on your bread. Like this.”

“Now, go ahead, rub the corn up and down until it all melts.”

“Okay, son, the bread is the best part of all, you know. Don’t ever forget that.”

And I never did.

Thanks, Mr. B.