Friday, December 11, 2009

The Story of a Meal

Last night we enjoyed a fabulous mostly local meal. IT was a pleasure! For me, the meals that mean the most come equipped with a story. Too much of our food is without story, just food. But when food has a history, some story that you connect with, I think that it has the ability to not only nourish our bodies, but our souls as well. And our souls could use all the nourishment that they can get these days.
So, how do you connect with your food and it's story? How do you find a way to make food more than "just food"?
I imagine that we each do this in our own way. For me, it begins with growing as much of our food as possible. Putting up the harvest by drying, canning, pickling and root cellaring as much as possible. It does not always last us all through the winter, but it is a start. It also means cooking from scratch with wholesome nutritious ingredients that are without artificial color, artificial flavor, food additives, pesticide residue, genetic modification, hormones or drugs. It is about being aware of where food comes from and what is in season.
The food we supplement our own produce with is bought, whenever possible, at the local farmer's market. At the Farmer's Market you get to talk with the farmer and ask questions about how the food was grown and where and even find out what variety of tomato it is. The varieties of produce available at the Farmer's Market are so diverse, especially when compared to what you can find in a conventional grocery store.
When we buy produce at the grocery store, we make sure to get organic. It does cost more and the regulations leave much to be desired.. but I know that I am NOT buying genetically modified produce and this is important to me. If I can talk to the farmer and find out how the food is grown, I don't need the certified organic label... but without the farmer, I want the certified label.
This fall we got a share in a cow that was raised locally and humanely. No feedlot meat for my family. Several folks went in on it and we have a great supply of wonderful beef. It has the flavor of life.
Another great source of local meat for us is Hickory Nut Gap Farms. It is the family farm of Amy and Jamie Ager. They raise wonderful meat. Last year we got a pork tenderloin from them at the Farmer's Market. The first bite brought memories flooding back to me, " This is what meat is supposed to taste like," I exclaimed. I had forgotten, I had actually forgotten what meat is supposed to taste like. As a child, we raised most of our own meat: each year a pig or two, a calf, and chickens. But it has been so long, that I had forgotten that taste of "Life" that is inherent in fresh meat. That one bite brought it all back to me and nothing else would ever be good enough again.
Now we get our meat from Hickory Nut Gap and have a great time going out to the country (all of a 15 minute drive) to do our shopping, talk with the farmer and see the baby animals. 
I will be honest with you, it does cost more. But the flavor is such that you don't need as much because it actually is satisfying on so many levels. Most of this country's food supply travels many, many miles to get to us, and average of 150o miles.  This food is breed to have long shelf-life and to look good. Taste is not even a consideration. No wonder so many of us simply eat to live...
Buying local should not cost more that food brought 1500 miles and imbibed with petroleum in so many ways. But for now, it does. The more we can support the local growers, the better it will be for all of us: economically, environmentally, nutritionally. In time, our support will make a big difference in so many lives!

I recently read the book, "Kitchen Literacy" by Ann Vileisis. This book rocked my world. It tells the fascinating story of "How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes From and Why We Need to Get It Back". Check it out. It will change your relationship to food and the stories we attach to our food.

I am fond of recounting our food's story as we sit down to eat. We hold hands around the table and Rebecca says thank you for the yummy food. I love that she is always so sure that it will indeed be yummy before the first bite! Then I tell the story of our meal.
Here was last night's story:
Yum! Hamburgers made from our cow with homegrown onions and home grown garlic and fresh picked arugula. Yum. Sweet Potato fries made from the sweet potatoes that we grew in our front yard this summer.   And my favorite, Tomato Jam made this summer from our tomatoes, basil and cayenne pepper instead of catsup. Yum. Maybe next time I will make the buns from scratch and someday maybe we'll get a goat and make our own cheese, but for now we know that the bread is organic and the cheese has no bovine growth hormone or antibiotics. Thank you for good food! Yum!
Does your meal tell a story? Is it telling the story that you want to hear?

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