Wednesday, September 9, 2009
As a child, I never thought much about where my food came from. Clearly, it came from the store. Except for the stuff that came from our family garden. (Like the bazillion apricots and plums and almonds and pomegranates we had to clean up off the lawn all spring and summer long. Did I mention I grew up in Las Vegas? Where the summer lasts for about six months? Oh, how I hated cleaning that stuff up.) Even as an adult, I never put too much effort into thinking about the origins of my meal. I've always been most concerned with the final product, the flavors on my plate.
The last several months, however, I've thought about it more. A lot more.
When we lived in the mountains of Utah (see how I said "when'? Because we have had the great fortune of leaving Utah behind, hopefully forever.) and my husband was fishing for our dinner a few days a week and bringing home big, luscious rainbow trout and bass and happy little perch (okay, maybe they weren't so happy anymore), it was the first time I'd ever been so intimately aware of where exactly my entree came from, and the effort exerted to catch it and kill it, and what exactly was involved in the process of cleaning it and preparing it to be prepared. Sure, I'd thought about it in very vague terms before, but I'd never experienced it. I'd never sat on the edge of the river/lake/reservoir/pond hoping that my husband would catch a good one and looked around and been able to observe exactly the conditions and surroundings that contributed to my dinner.
Before this summer, I'd never shelled peas fresh from my uncle's (or anyone else's) garden. I'd never taken seeds directly from a flax plant. I'd never tasted a radish before it was all spicy and bitter and weeks away from its growing spot. Oh, and, radishes straight from the garden? Completely different than radishes from the store. Just wash, salt and eat. Gooood.
When we moved to the East Coast in the late summer, I was lucky enough to become fast friends with Ruth, who introduced me to the joys of going out to pick raspberries and apples, and who then schooled me in the art of making jam. Lots and lots of jam. Ruth also has tomato plants taller than her backyard fence and pots and pots of plants growing everything from strawberries to jalapenos. Needless to say, this girl with a black thumb is going to learn a lot from Ruth.
All of this oneness with my food and the harvest and whatnot has gotten me thinking more about not only where my food is coming from, but about my kid. And how I want her to understand that food doesn't come from a store. That someone cultivated and harvested those fruits and vegetables and those grains, and that the meat or fish on her plate had a face, it was a living animal, and we should respect that. I want her to understand that someone somewhere worked very hard so she could enjoy the bounty. I want to instill these things in her, create more of an appreciation for good food and the having thereof, but I don't want to make it a killjoy, either. Hopefully someday we'll have our own little plot of earth in which I can try to teach her these lessons very literally, but in the meantime, it seems there is much thinking to do. And eating. Because really, that is the whole point.