Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Do You Know Where Your Food is Coming From?

I was watching a PBS show, Craft in America, tonight and an artist mentioned that one of the things she loves about the art she creates is knowing where it came from. It’s not something mass produced or made by some anonymous company, it’s something she has made with her own hands, her own skills, and her own love.
That really struck a chord in me. It’s one of the reasons I love cooking and making my own food. It’s why I’m trying new things like making sauerkraut and pickles. It’s because I know where the food is coming from and what has gone into making it. Not just the ingredients, but the skill, the work, and the love.
As a side note, this is also why I very rarely use a food processor. I enjoy using a knife that I have cherished and sharpened over the years to cut my food. I value the skill with my knives that I have developed over time. When I make two gallons of salsa I know how much time and effort has gone into cutting all the ingredients with my own hands and a sharp knife. It makes it taste all the better to me.
We don’t have cable TV. Frankly, I’m too cheap to pay for it. Regular broadcast TV programs bore the hell out of me so with the exception of Star Trek re-runs we tend to watch a lot of PBS. I’ve been seeing quite a few programs that show people getting back to the Earth; people who are growing their own food, in both small farms and urban gardens. These people are keeping alive heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruits that do not do well in commercial settings. They also know where their food is coming from. Big city famous chefs are patronizing farmer’s markets for their restaurant’s dishes and building relationships with small growers in their area. They know where their food is coming from.
Additionally, “carbon footprint” is a popular phrase these days and while I don’t necessarily agree with all its permutations it has to be better for the Earth and us to not use so many trucks and processing plants to get food to our tables.
Do you know where your food is coming from?
When you open a bottle of sauerkraut do you know how it was made? If you think too deeply on this do you get factories and giant stainless steel vats in your mind’s eye and end up putting the jar back on the shelf? Or, do you remember the joy of chopping heads of cabbage and the excitement of seeing and smelling it ferment and turn into something beautiful?
Instead of running down to the fast food place during lunch do you open your lunch cooler and pull out a pickle from your own kitchen?
What, bringing lunch to work isn’t cool?
Maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich isn’t cool but how about if you have a small loaf of artisan bread from the little bakery where the guy behind the counter remembers your name, and you know he’s the one who got into the bakery at 3 o’clock in the morning to make that bread, and you’ve got a couple things from the farmer’s market last weekend to put on the bread, and you’ve got some thin sliced roast pork for that sandwich ($.87 lb on sale and you do have a sharp knife… don’t you?)?
Now you’re not just that strange person who doesn’t go out to eat with everyone else. Now you’re that connoisseur who enjoys making things. Now you’re the craftsperson who cherishes skills and good tastes. Now your workmates are wishing they were on your small invite list for those little dinners you put together.

Now you know where your food is coming from.

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