More Lessons from Food

One of the values that we definitely gained from last year’s food sourcing experience is a very great reverence for our food. While I wouldn’t exactly say that we had limited food, it is accurate to say that the project put in place certain parameters within which we acquired the foods we ate, and as such, ruining an aspect of a meal through improper preparation was a much bigger deal than it would have been otherwise; we couldn’t just go buy replacement ingredients, for example, any time we liked. If we burned something—or oversalted something, or dropped something—we were out of luck until the next time we could meet up with the farmer to get more—and that’s assuming the farmer even had more the next time we saw him or her. Eating locally and seasonally meant that we could only get that which was currently being produced and sold at market.

We deeply appreciated the opportunity to become much more grateful for what we had available to us. The challenge provided sharper clarity for us around the food security issues experienced by so many. Historically, it had been relatively easy to pay little heed to droughts and floods and early freezes and blights and countless other challenges faced by those who produce our food. During the challenge, considering that some of the foods we would normally have been able to incorporate into our meals were not making it to market because of prolonged inclement weather, it was far more apparent just how challenging it often is to coax food from the earth … and why it is so critically important to do what we can to protect the earth. Viewed from the perspective that to care for the earth is to care for ourselves, it seems so fundamentally obvious an idea that it’s difficult to surmise how we as a species ever managed to stray from it to begin with.

Every day is a gift … every bite is a gift.

Visiting farms and becoming acquainted with the families who run them and gaining a greater appreciation for their operation can be an eye-opening and even life-changing experience, and that was another truly transformative component of the challenge. I can say for certain that, as a result of this years-long journey of exploring and seeking out greater insight into the origins of the food we eat and the manner in which it arrives on our plates, I have grown infinitely closer to nature and to that which nourishes us. We have developed unique friendships and widespread camaraderie with many people we would otherwise not likely have had the grand opportunity to meet. We feel appreciably more grateful for good food and for our ability to acquire it from the amazing people who coax it from their environment.

Something else that was particularly fun and adventurous about the challenge was that we found that our process for food planning and preparation was entirely flipped on its head; where we traditionally planned a dinner menu or a variety of meals, wrote a shopping list, and then went out to stores in search of the necessary ingredients, we found ourselves anticipatorily scoping out our choices at a wide variety of farmers’ markets, collecting what struck our fancy, merrily lugging home our booty, and planning meals around what we’d selected. It broadened our horizons, stretched our creativity, and gave us a sense of humor and a greater sense of spontaneity. What sometimes felt akin to drudgery in the past simply became a happy culinary adventure. We learned a great deal—about what grows around here, about what’s in season at what time of year, about what some farmers recommend we do with certain ingredients. We tried foods like kohlrabi, chantrelle mushrooms, honeycomb, wild ginger and wild leek, and sour cherries that we’d never seen anywhere before, and as such, we had the incredible opportunity to introduce new options into our diet.

Still hungry? The next course is coming up soon …