catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 16 :: 2011.09.16 — 2011.09.29


Do it yourself

My kitchen was piled high and deep with various bags and boxes. Fruits and vegetables were tumbling out of their containers while I realized exactly how much work I had ahead of me for the day. I had just returned from our local farmers’ market where I purchased twenty onions, fourteen ears of corn, a bag of imperfect peaches, and a bushel of tomatoes. “You mean a half bushel, right? Just one basket?” the farmer asked when I requested the bushel of tomatoes.  “Nope, I really do want a full bushel. Two baskets.” She went off to bag the red fruit for me. After selecting my twenty onions, a different woman helped me tally and pay for the produce. I said, “I have twenty onions and a bushel of tomatoes.”

 “You mean a half bushel, right? Just one basket?” she asked.

“No, a full bushel,” I replied.

“Oh, someone’s gonna be busy”

“Oh, yes! I’m going to make marinara sauce, salsa, BBQ sauce and ketchup!”

About five years ago, when I gave up buying clothes for a year, I started thinking about where my “stuff” comes from. I became concerned with who was making my clothes, how much they were paid, and about consumerism in general. That year led me to approach all of my shopping habits with a new eye. I started to wonder where my food came from as well, how far it traveled to arrive at my table, and the conditions under which it was grown. A few months later, I listened to the audio book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and shortly after that, I jumped on the locavore bandwagon.

After Kingsolver, I devoured Michael Pollan’s books and then headed straight for the documentary section for the films King Corn and Food, Inc. The more I learn about food, the more I want it to be grown close to home.

In fact, a few years ago I carved out my own garden space from my parents’ yard, and the small patch of soil has grown into a 20 × 28 × 40 foot “Enchanted Garden!” I grow the majority of my food in the summer months, and as I harvest, I will spend several hours a week in the kitchen processing as much as I am able. In the winter, a trip to the grocery store is rare because I just run to the chest freezer to pull out a few ingredients. Last year was my biggest canning season yet, with countless jars of marinara, BBQ sauce, ketchup and salsa. This year I have also added pickles, beets, turnips and cabbage.

My ability to eat locally is ever expanding as I continue to learn about the vast selection that are farmers have to offer. In March of this year, I decided to give up buying food at the grocery store for a month. It was the tail end of winter, too early for gardens, yet I was still able to purchase all of my food from local farmers. I bought raw honey, pastured eggs and meats, and local vegetables all within a seven-mile radius of my home. I also purchased a share of a cow and receive one-and-a-half gallons of raw milk each week. From that, I make my own soft cheeses, yogurt and butter. The farm is thirty minutes away, which expands my local radius to about twenty-five miles.

Being a locavore also means that I only eat food when it is in season in my area. Eating “in season” means I must wait for food to be ripe and ready for picking. Waiting has become a thing of the past in American culture. As Kingsolver wrote, we:

…browbeat our teenagers with the message that they should wait for sex, for example. Only if they wait to experience intercourse under the ideal circumstances (the story goes), will they know its true value. ‘Blah, blah, blah’ hears the teenager: words issuing from a mouth that can’t even wait for the right time to eat tomatoes, but instead consumes tasteless ones all winter to satisfy a craving for everything now.

Over the summer, I sold my extra garden produce to my co-workers. When they sliced up a cucumber, I showed them the cuke is green all the way through. The strawberries and tomatoes are also red throughout. “Notice,” I said, “that they have their full color when ripened on the vine.” Some of my co-workers were amazed because they did not know that fruits and veggies are not supposed to be white in the center. They asked why the produce at the grocery store is not as tasty or colorful as the food from my own garden. Grocery store produce is picked while still unripe, packed into a container, and then heated until it looks ripe on the outside but is not truly ripe. I explained this, and talked about how locally grown and harvested food is actually better nutritionally because it is allowed to ripen and mature before picking.

To be sure, I am an inconsistent locavore. I do not know where my coffee, black tea or whole wheat flour are grown. Raw almonds and peanuts are surely from some naturally warmer climate. I do, however, try to eat “in season” as much as I am able. I find that I produce less trash (no yogurt or milk containers, fewer food wrappers, no plastic veggie bags), have more to compost and eat less non-food (food that looks like food but isn’t really food) by shopping locally.  Being a locavore, for me, is a way to be a good steward of the Earth. Additionally, I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment as I look at my giant garden and my full pantry it rendered. As the fall approaches, I reflect on another year of hard work and feel satisfied that I have spent twelve more months feeding myself with amazing garden-grown, homemade food.

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