Please excuse me as I do some thinking about the way we have been led astray in our eating habits for the past say... fifty years or so. A few incidents happened recently that helped me realize how few Americans know what real food looks like. The ponderings also reminded me of a dear friend who moved away a few years ago.
Part of my Pantry Lifestyle is doing my best to get healthy food the least expensive way. I think of it as a type of foraging.. Not in the forest by my house but by asking where it can be found. I'm not really good at this, not like my friend when I ran into her at the produce section of the grocery one day. She was asking the produce manager if she could have the veggies he was throwing away... and he said, yes!
My friend had lived in Sierra Leone where people were starving so she had no problem with asking for thrown away perfectly good edibles. She and her husband are spending their retirement years doing missionary work again, this time in a country which cannot be disclosed. I miss her. She inspired my cooking in so many ways.
I did have Hubby ask the organic farmer in church if there were any strawberries in his field. He was told those left were not all that good but to come over with a bucket, anyway. It was worth the try since Hubby can only eat organic strawberries and free is good.
So after he picked a large bowl full, I went through them and found about two-thirds were quite edible even if some had to have a small slice cut off here and there. From that strawberry field that did not have strawberries up to the farmer's standards, I was able to freeze three full sandwich size Ziploc bags and keep a small bowl for a treat later that evening.
We have made friends with the young woman who runs one of the food pantries in the area. She is always on the lookout for organic foods donated to her food pantry and she sets many aside for us. We, in turn, take her many items we receive that we cannot eat but others desire... usually because they are highly processed or too high carb. It is a win-win situation!
This is the way neighbors of long ago helped each other for a couple of reasons. First, it was not considered odd at all to share from each others gardens or root cellar. Second, people then knew what food looked like straight from the ground and did not expect "produce section of the grocery store perfect".
I think so often of the look on my friend's face as she watched that produce manager throw good food away just because of a bruise here and there. He knew people would not purchase it if it were not picture perfect.
This past week the red dish pan (shown above) has gotten a lot of use. It fits perfectly in my sink, filled with very cold well water it provides a nice bath for the veggies and herbs brought in from the garden. Always with some dirt on them and sometimes some little creepy crawly critters (yuk).
The water was particularly dirty after swishing around some lettuce I had pulled (rather than cutting) and I wondered how many children today know that lettuce can be... dirty. Yep, veggies are not grown with perfect shapes and surrounded in plastic.
Am I going anywhere with these thoughts? Ummm... not really. Other than the fact I am more aware each year how distant most of us have become with the reality of food. Many of the strawberries that were not sprayed have little bruises which must be cut off. Apples that are not sprayed are often imperfect, too.
Don't even get me started on tomatoes which have been grown for shipping and not taste. Although I am not one that believes only heirloom varieties are to be grown. My two favorite tomatoes growing in my garden are not heirloom but they are tasty. And I find I much more appreciate the Blue Lake green beans which have been bred to make them less stringy. I grew an heirloom variety last year that was actually chewy.
So I am not advocating returning to the 18th Century. Although I would absolutely love to sit down and dine with Thomas Jefferson (one of our Founding Foodies) and ask him about his garden. That would be fine dining, indeed.
I recall at the end of each Rebecca's Garden episode (when HGTV really did have garden shows), she would say something like "Get your hands dirty this week!". Well, summer is the perfect time to show our kids where produce comes from and let them know one gets their hands dirty when planting and harvesting.
I know I'm "preaching to the choir" because so many Pantry People understand completely what our great grandparents took for granted. Food grows in the ground or on trees or on bushes and lets plant plenty to can (or dry) for the winter and share with the neighbors. Perhaps we can exchange blueberries for those beans!