I came into the house tonight after spending a beautiful Ohio summer evening in my garden. I am a novice gardener to say the least. In this my third year of suburban backyard gardening, I have added potatoes, onions and cucumbers into the mix. Today I harvested most of my potatoes and onions, along with a second round of rhubarb. I also planted carrots for a fall crop that I hope to successfully store through the winter months. And I just finished blanching and freezing a pound of green beans picked this evening as well.
My garden time is also my think time. Playing in the dirt, feeling the warm sun and cool breeze as I weed, watching a small toad wiggle away from my green bean patch – these are relaxing to me in a way most other things are not. As I worked in my garden, I realized how much I am being re-educated by both my garden experiences and my Fresh Fork Market journey. My perspective on food, where it comes from and what I should do with it, is changing – and for the better, I believe.
Most of us approach shopping for food like we shop for a new car. We expect a new car to come exactly like it looks on the TV commercial or on the car lot – in the color we like, with the power we desire, and sporting all the specific bells and whistles we have in mind. We want guarantees on the performance of the car, the maintenance of the car, the gas mileage of the car. And when the car dealer hands over the keys to this car, it most likely will look and perform exactly like all the other cars of this make and model. Not much risk involved in the transaction.
We often go to the grocery store with the same mentality. We want our food to look exactly like it looks on TV or in the newspaper ad – in the color we like, with the flavor we like, and sporting all the excitement of a gourmet restaurant. We want guarantees on the flavor of the food, the performance of the food, the longevity of the food. We want pretty food in safe plastic-wrapped packaging so our hands don’t get dirty. We want shiny food, glossy produce, shelf-stable breakfasts and long-lasting canned soups. We don’t want risk.
We have lost sight of what real food looks like and tastes like. We have forgotten what it takes to make the food we feed our families every day. Real food often comes with dirt on it. Or a few tiny blotches from sitting on the ground for a bit. Or some funny wrinkles from a few days in the hot sun. Sometimes real food isn’t ready right when we want it because of weather issues. Real food isn’t usually shiny and it certainly does not come plastic-wrapped so we don’t get our hands dirty. Real food comes with risk. But real food comes with so much more.
Real food brings us back to the freshest of flavors and the boldest of colors. Real food, fresh food, contains the most valuable nutrients in their most productive state. Real food leaves behind the plastic and cans and brings instead fresh peels and living seeds for the compost pile or next year’s garden. Real food begs to be eaten soon and rewards us with the best taste. Real food teaches us a little bit more about what it takes to produce the healthy, natural food we want to feed our families.
I am growing to love brushing the dirt off potatoes and onions from my garden. Right now my cucumbers are looking a bit prickly and crooked, but I still can’t wait to slice one up in a salad sometime soon. Real food, real flavor, and real fun!