Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Mouthful

I have taken some photos lately, of various happenings... flowers on my currants and Jacob's ladder, seeds on the pasqueflower... but I haven't felt like writing about them, really. But today, a momentous occasion occurred. I ate my first fresh, local vegetable of the 2010 growing season.

At my house, the past several months have been filled with frozen or canned vegetables or vegetable-based dishes from 2009's growing season. And, yes, I have kept a few carrots in the fridge that, used sparingly, lasted until about 2 weeks ago. And I'm not saying I haven't had any fresh fruits or vegetables in that time. The rules in my house are pretty strict, but I don't hold others to them, and I have eaten at restaurants and as a guest of family and friends who served fresh produce. And it was delicious, but it wasn't local. Those of you out there who eat seasonally know that nothing quite compares.

It's not just the taste, or the smug knowledge I'm eating things that are good for the planet, my health and the local economy. It is, perhaps, partly the connection that comes from knowing the true inputs, both in terms of resources and time/care, that went into the food. But it's mostly the anticipation, the rhythm of it, the rightness of having things be different at different times of the year, of having treats and also times of relative deprivation. (No disrespect to people who are actually deprived of food...) Someone once asked me... we'll, I'll start earlier in the conversation, they asked what my favorite fruit was, and I answered... Strawberries, no peaches. Raspberries. Maybe cantaloupe... The real answer is, it depends on what month of the year it is. So the follow-up question was, "If you like strawberries, why do you purposefully deprive yourself of them for 11 months?" The answer is complicated if you don't understand, and simple if you do. First, those things you buy at the supermarket aren't my favorite fruit, they don't taste that great and they don't feel right and they just aren't the sweet little flavor-packs I love. Second, when, after 11 months, I get my strawberry, the first one, sun-warmed and almost sparkling, I will enjoy it more that anyone has ever enjoyed a strawberry in the history of the world. And eventually, inevitably, a week or two later, I will eat so many at one time that the acid burns my stomach but before I get tired of strawberries, they'll be no more. But I'll be OK. It will be time for peaches. And now every month has a taste, as well as a temperature and a scent in the air, a dominant color and birdsong.

So this morning, in the rain, we went to the farmer's market, which began just a few weeks ago after winter hiatus. When it opens in April, it is mostly vendors of meat and cheese, wine or canned goods or some other gourmet prepared item or craft. Getting my bread and cheese there has been treat enough, but today there also was asparagus. Tender stalks, not very long and most not very fat, purple at the top. I cut them into inch-long pieces, sautéed them with garlic and dried herbs in olive oil and white wine, tossed it with pasta and topped it all with Parmesan cheese. Very simple, very delicious.

And with that, it starts. We get our first CSA share in less than 2 weeks. Life changes and today was the start of it.

Another thing... this was the first year I canned food. Canning means I am not limited by the capacity of my freezers, and it also means I eat slightly less from those freezers. I am NOT finished with what I made. I eat jam, for example, with breakfast every single day (when there isn't fresh fruit). I have not held back on my jam consumption. I gave jam away for the holidays. I still have like 40 jars of jam (although the first fruit isn't for almost 2 months, but still.) Point is, I may have overdone it last year. Not sure how I am going to handle this...

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