Food, Glorious Food

I love food.  I love cooking it , I love eating it, I love cookbooks, I love restaurants, I love wandering around in the grocery store looking at food and making plans with it.   (Ok, that last bit sounds dumb: “Yes, artichoke, we will live in the countryside with a small dog named Muffin and you will bring me daisies.”)

But there are so many things to think about.

What is good for you, for example.  There are a lot of conflicting ideas on that one, though most nutrition people seem to agree that green veggies = good and french fries cooked in hydrogenated oils = bad.  I actually think that most of us know deep down what is good for us and what isn’t.  It’s just the follow-through that’s the challenge.  There are a lot of yummy things out there that we really shouldn’t be putting in our mouths.  Not helping matters are the new studies that always seem to come out with counterintuitive “news,” and because some scientist is backing it up and it’s exactly what you wanted to hear, you cling to it.  “Gummy bears have no fat!”  “Red wine is good for your heart!  I can drink all I want!”  “Diet pop has no calories despite being sweeter than anything that exists in nature!”

And then there are ethical issues, which make the health ones look like a piece of cake to figure out.  How far has your food traveled?  Do you know its carbon footprint?  How many pesticides were used on it?  Is the person who grew it going to get cancer because of what was used to grow it?  If so, do you really want to eat it?  Was the person who grew it paid a fair wage?  Is the company who supplied it supporting guerilla warfare in South America?  Is it organic?  Is it local?  Which of those is more important anyway?  If it’s local, have you just taken away the livelihood of some impoverished farmer in Chile?  Was a rain forest decimated to grow this?  Is it genetically modified?  Is that even that bad?  Are there hormones in it that will make your male children grow breasts?  Were animals killed or tortured in the production of this food?  Are your eggs free run, or free range, or cage free, or organic?  Do you even know the difference between those?  Does this restaurant or brand specifically market its unhealthy food to children, starting them on a path to lifelong disordered eating?  Is that your problem?  Is it fair to expect you to pay for ethical food when you can barely afford groceries as it is?  Should you be giving up chocolate, coffee and bananas altogether?*

It’s enough to make you want to give up trying to figure any of it out and just sit in a corner eating ramen noodles.  (Yes, I have done this and no, I am not recommending it.)

Like anything though, you think it through, figure out what makes the most sense to you and do the best you can with the resources and willpower at your disposal.  Me, I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian, which means I eat dairy products and eggs, but no meat or fish.  I try to eat more vegetables than anything else.  I buy free-range eggs, but regular milk.  I look at where things are from and pick the ones that are geographically closer to me.  When I can afford it, I buy organic and I buy fair trade.  Sometimes I slip and buy macaroni in a box with neon orange powdered cheese.  (I’m sad to say I love that stuff.)  I’m not perfect and it’s not a perfect system, but I like to think it’s better than just eating any old thing that comes my way.

But now it is summer.  And with summer comes that ability to eat the way you are meant to eat.  Vegetables and fruits are actually in season.  They taste better; they are fresh; they are cheap; and they came from Langley, or somewhere else you could get to if you drove for an hour.  (Local strawberries have started to appear at the markets here in the last few weeks and my heart is full of joy.  Those zombie things they call strawberries that are available in the winter and that are hard and white on the inside should not be allowed to be called strawberries.)

Better yet, they can come from your own backyard.  Or patio, in my case.

I love this.  I am quite new to gardening.  My old nomadic lifestyle didn’t really support it, but I also have a very short attention span, so remembering to water things regularly is a bit of a challenge.  But last year we grew tomatoes, herbs, chilies and lettuce and it was great.  This year we just have the herbs and tomatoes so far, but that’s ok.  I love my fresh herbs and the tomatoes never cease to stun me with how much better they are than the ones we’re used to.  When I think of a tomato, I think of a thing that is mostly water and that tastes that way.  But suddenly we were growing these things that looked like tomatoes but had a flavour, a strong  and wonderful flavour.

There is something very magical about growing food.  So far our tomatoes haven’t made any actual tomatoes yet, but they’re growing so fast you can almost see the changes day to day.  Very cool.  And when you do get to make a salad or whatever with stuff you’ve grown, there’s this crazy pride in it.  I get pride out of making good food anyway, but when it’s with stuff from our garden, it goes to this whole other level:  ” I made this.  No, I mean I totally made this.”  Because it was this thing you bought that was tiny and looked like grass or something and now it’s real live food.  It’s like magic but better because it’s real and there’s no big union protecting the secrets of how to do it.

Love it.  Summer, you can stay.

* There is a lot of fascinating reading on this stuff.  The following books are fairly current and worth checking out.

The Hundred Mile Diet, Alicia Smith & J.B. Mackinnon;   Animal Vegetable Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver;   The Ethics of What We Eat, Peter Singer;   The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defence of Food, Michael Pollan;   Stuffed and Starved, Raj Patel

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