Monday, July 14, 2014

Back... to the Future? Or, As My Brain Turns...

   More often than not, I find myself thinking about food. I know - shocking, right?
It's my livelihood. It's my passion. It's my hobby. It nourishes my mind, my body, and my family, in more than mere nutritional benefit. For as I get older - and yes, I can now admit it - there are certain things that I find are chronically plaguing me as I try to fall asleep at night. Food, and drink too, ruminate in my brain like alfalfa in a cow, causing undue discomfort for a period, but (ultimately I believe), keeping my mind sharp and relevant. A sampling:
  
   Will my daughter remember that I tried to feed her various greens under the guise of spinach, and relish it as an adult, or have I booked her for teen therapy?
    Will America ever get past their corporate food dependence, as I think I see and feel every day?? Can it truly happen? 
   Is this beer/wine/vodka really going to my hips? This never happened in my twenties...
   Was the show "Thirtysomething" as boring as my life can be? I was too young to watch back then. And Netflix doesn't have it on file. So I may only speculate. (Okay, it's not always about food.)

Probiotics for the brain. At least, that's how I need to view this rambling dialogue.
   But mostly, I wonder how, and why, we have become so removed from the sources of our food. I came across an interesting meme on Facebook, that Grand Central of all things net-worthy to share, that featured a pic of carrots, with the words, "Try organic food. Or, as your grandparents called it, food." It tickled my fancy so much, that most of you have probably seen it on one of my FB pages, or on a friend of yours with the same snarky commentary on food culture.
   It makes me think of my great-grandmother, whom I never met simply because of time, but whose 50th anniversary band became my wedding ring, and so inasmuch we are viscerally connected. She was an average height, thick-boned, off-the-boat German lady, who dragged two infants along on the voyage from the Old Country to establish a tiny homestead in Bergen County, NJ (at least, this is how I believe the tale goes). She had chickens who wore spectacles (at least, that's how my father claims it goes), and the finest rhubard in the state. She had my dad and his kid sister hawking veggies at a roadside stand as kids, with a scale that in today's world is a bonafide antique, and proudly hangs in my tiny kitchen.
   Can you imagine - a farm stand in Bergen County, now home to sky-high taxes and condos, parking lots and rowhomes, nary a tree in sight?? But my friends, this is where the Garden State was rooted into the earth, by the toils of centuries of immigrants looking to NOURISH and PROVIDE for their families, in the most natural way - heck, the only way - they knew how. It just was. They didn't take it for granted, they didn't waste a thing, and they sure as hell didn't think twice about putting by for the winter. They found the time, because they had to.

   Was it a simpler existence, as so many strive to "get back to"? As a modern suburban chicken farmer myself, I can't imagine it was. Working for your food is wearying of both mind and body, and seldom generous in its rewards. But the debate then wasn't over whose life was more complicated, or whose time was more precious, or who could afford the 'better food'. I find great irony in the fact that "organic" (i.e., a natural food) is a 'thing' reserved for the wealthy, well-heeled, and elite. Incidentally, those are the people who are most likely to never set foot on a real farm, get their hands dirty, muck a stall.
   Before the second World War, news flash: ALL FOOD WAS ORGANIC! It's a blunt fact of food history that is oft ignored, dismissed, forgotten, even doubted. But for the memory of my great-grandma, and the epic scenes I recreate in my mind, night after sleepless night, about the lushness of her little plot of NJ heaven, her bespectacled chickens and her first generation grandchildren eating raw rhubarb in the midst of tall grasses, I must keep the chatter going.
   And, I will not ever get very much sleep, but I'm kinda okay with that.

Recipes to come next week...

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