Thursday, August 11, 2011

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

First, I want to remind everyone of my 300th Post Giveaway Celebration that's going on right now- don't forget to enter to win your choice of infinity scarf & flower set or flower hair clips! 3 winners! Very few entries, so your chances are good!

As I mentioned before, I have been reading a book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. The premise of the book is that the author and her family moved from Arizona to Virginia in a quest to consume only food that is locally grown. If possible, they grow or raise it themselves. If not, they should at least know the name of the person who did, and be able to drive to their farm within 30 minutes.

I always thought I was pretty smart about my food. I try to eat healthy- big on fruits and veggies around here, not too much meat- and I know where my food comes from. Well, I know in the sense that I know that apples don't magically just appear on shelves at the supermarket- they grow on trees (like MINE!). The chicken in my crockpot was once a living, clucking animal, and somewhere a wheat field was mown down to make my crackers. I'm okay with all of that.

What I didn't consider, however, is the point that Barbara Kingsolver is making in her book: lettuce doesn't grow in Virginia in January. Which means if I want to have a salad on New Year's Day (always good to kick off the new year with a healthy start) the lettuce I purchased in the store had to come from someplace where it's springtime- or at least feels like springtime. And last time I checked, that ain't the Midatlantic coast in January.

So yes, it grew on a farm, but what farm? How much gasoline was required to ship that head of lettuce from Springland to my grocery store? Could we maybe make a better choice for our planet by forgoing well-traveled lettuce and stick with more seasonal vegetables? Kingsolver writes, "Transporting a single calorie of a perishable fresh fruit from California to New York takes about 87 calories worth of fuel. That's as efficient as driving from Philadelphia to Annapolis, and back, in order to walk three miles on a treadmill in a Maryland gym."

In her book, Kingsolver recognizes that in order to embrace the "locavore" diet, she and her family would have to be very aware of the seasons and the produce that comes with them. No more peaches in April, no more strawberries in February. But in so doing, she discovered a few things:
  1. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. When it's not there, it just makes you even more excited when it's finally time!
  2. Real fresh is different from grocery store fresh. Ever eaten a strawberry straight from the plant? You know what I mean!
  3. If you can't have what you love, you love what you have. Kingsolver and her family have discovered incredible recipes using only seasonal ingredients that they never would have enjoyed otherwise.
Kingsolver's daughter wrote,
"The first step, shopping, is actually easier. When you peruse the farmers' market for fresh produce, the options are clear. You don't miss what's not there, either, like Skittles placed at a third-grader's eye level at checkout. No wailing kids or annoying tabloids ( Brangelina really over?!). Just wonderful, fresh things to eat.

When I saw giant boxes of strawberries piled on the tailgate of a farmer's truck, I didn't waste ten seconds asking myself the questions I would mull over in a conventional grocery: "Hmm, do I really want berries today? Are these overpriced? Are they going to mold the minute I get them home?" I power-walked past other meandering shoppers and bought a bucket load."
(She had been waiting for those strawberries all winter long!)

Ahh, the joy of the farmer's market. The funny thing is, there are so many people who assume that a farmer's market is pricey, but in truth I've always found farmer's market prices to be quite comparable to that of the grocery stores, if not better. Plus, you know for a fact that you're getting something fresh and, most likely, miles tastier than anything in the supermarket produce department.

On Saturday I stopped by the farmer's market in Ashland, VA to pick up something to take to a family gathering. I found a good sized "passport melon" (cross between a cantaloupe and a honeydew) for $2 and bought a half dozen pears for another $2. The pears were sold to me by a very kind elderly gentleman who insisted that I take a bite of one before I bought any. I had one bite and I was hooked. The sweetness was incredible. Little Boo swiped it from me and by the time I wrestled it out of her little hand all that was left was about a nickel-sized piece of pear flesh with five seeds stuck in it. Not sure where the stem went. Hmm...

My farmers' market shopping experience was lovely. I got to chat with the people who grew the food I was about to eat, and there was even a musician there serenading the shoppers with live music. Little Boo was free to run around in the grass while kind shoppers and vendors laughed at her silly antics. It was a nice day and all in all, I felt happy to be there.

So I've decided to try. I can't go totally locavore like the Kingsolver family, but I can try to choose fruits & veggies that are in season and I can try to be more conscious about exactly where my food is coming from, and attempt to make better choices according to my knowledge.
I am also going to try to think of my garden as more of an important food source for our family and not just a nice hobby. I am one of those people who hear about others harvesting their pole beans and I think, Pole beans? When did you plant those? Am I supposed to be planting something now? I recently did some research so that I can stay more on top of this stuff, and I went to the Virginia Cooperative Extension website and discovered this fabulous Vegetable Planting Guide. It gives you nice little formula to figure out when to plant what- you just fill it in on the handy dandy chart!

I am also very fortunate to have a brother who was smart enough to marry a wonderful woman who is a walking green thumb. She blessed me with this bounty from their garden, her kitchen, and their chickens.

That's a dozen free-range organic chicken eggs, 3 zucchini muffins (okay, there were more, but we had them for breakfast!), yellow squash, zucchini, and some kind of strange long purple beans that she says are really tasty. That's a whole meal right there!

After I had gathered the eggs my 7-year-old son looked at a chicken, then at the basket of eggs. He pointed at the chicken, then to the eggs and asked in a worried whisper, "Mom, does he KNOW?"

I laughed. Yes, Monkey, she knows. And so do I. :-)


  1. So I have to know, where is the farmer's market in Ashland? The pears sound delicious!

  2. Because I'm a bum and don't read your blog nearly as often as I should (because I'm, like, a blog addict...), I've been perusing old posts. Love this one, and I hope you're still going at it! Good stuff. (she says as she eats candy corn. can't win 'em all...).


Comments make me happy. Nice to know I'm not just sitting here talking to myself. So, thank you!

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