Slocalite In (Enthused) Training

It all started with the concept of an obese Carla Bruni.

Truly, it did.  The summer I read “French Women Don’t Get Fat” was the beginning of a new philosophy for me–the alien idea of enjoying food.

Not “enjoying food” because it was muscle fuel, or “enjoying food” in a uniquely American binge-all-you-can-eat buffet way.  Not “enjoying food” because you’ve spent the last three months eating only steak, cheddar cheese, and one floret of broccoli since Oprah told you Atkins ruled the universe.french_women

“French Women” was touted as a new kind of “diet book.”  One that didn’t waste space telling you what NOT to eat but rather basked in the plenty and variety of all you actually could eat.  It lauded home-cooking (“It is often so simple”) and taking time to dine (“Always sit down at a table with a full setting.  Eat with friends or with self-enjoyment, never with the television.”)  It was the best-selling clarion call to Americans: We don’t have a food culture here and we need one…badly.

It was the summer I first made leek soup (it was awful as far as leek soups go…but I still loved it because it was such a new taste).  It was the summer I bought an actual, honest-to-goodness eggplant and attempted a ratatouille (beforethe movie was even on the IMDB radar).  It was the summer I went to New York for two reasons 1) to see Wicked on Broadway and 2) to experience the Shangri-La of Farmer’s Marketdom.

Once you drink fresh-squeezed apple juice you will never go back.

Never.

Ever.

I remember standing with Alyssa in the shadow of the Flatiron Building and semi-idiotically yelling, “It Tastes Like An APPLE!  Like a liquid apple in a bottle!”  Alyssa nodded slowly and said, “Yeup…::pointing to the label:: Because it’s apple juice, Pinto…”

…if you’ve tried what I’ve tried…you’d know this feeling of supreme grocery betrayal and fresh-juice ecstasy.

Living in Boston for two years about killed me with glee.  Haymarket, Copley Square.  I saw edibles that came out of Dr. Suess’s deranged dreams.  Dragon-lingerie beans (bright purple with white spots, by the way), “Cheddar” yellow cauliflower, fish three hours out of the ocean…and did you know that people eat zucchini flowers?!

I’ve become an eager acolyte to the Slocal Food movement.  It’s almost embarrassing to be around my hyperactive self.  Slocal is a mix of two already established movements: Slow Food and Local Food.  Slow, meaning “home made”  like…from scratch; and Local, meaning “as fresh as is humanly possible.”  The day I made a pumpkin pie that started as an actual Oregon coast pumpkin was a milestone and I’ve never looked back.

Atticus sometimes eyes me warily when I come home from the library with a stack of books including titles like “Eat Where You Live” and commence devouring it before I even take off my coat.

“Atticus!”  I’ll call from the couch as he boils pasta, “Atticus, I’m going to learn how to forage for edible mushrooms.  Imagine all the mushrooms we could eat out here!”

“Pinto…you don’t even like mushrooms.”

“…I would if I found them myself!”

::pause::

“Atticus!  She says here that we can collect nangoonberries in July!”

“What is a nangoonberry?”

“I have no idea but doesn’t it sound delicious?!”

At that point in the conversation I usually get out of the chair to go coo over my cucumber and cilantro seedlings.

indefensefood_cover_thumbI know I’m not an outlier here.  The rock-star popularity of books by Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food), new grocery aisles dedicated entirely to Organic, the rise of “Whole Foods” and “Trader Joe’s” grocery stores (lament, I lament the loss of my Trader Joe’s), the explosion of community gardens, farms and markets…it all points to something significant:

Yes.  The sudden realization of a generation that cheddar cheese is not supposed to be a neon, asbestos-like powder and the supreme feeling of dupedom this generation feels when coming in contact with real food. You feel like you’ve been shackled in Plato’s cave…or the Matrix. I mean, take a poll and ask Americans where Garlic comes from.  That’ll freak you out.  I mean, do you know?

It freaked me out when I realized I had not the slightest clue in the world until a month ago.  For all the consideration I had done, garlic could have been a chemically processed plastic, a fungus from the fields of Sicily (I could at least guess Mediterannean origin), a tree-ripened fruit, the pit of some unpalatable garlic mango…

I about pulled another Flatiron moment when the speaker matter-of-factly noted that garlic can over-winter because it grows underground.

::ASTONISHED GAPE::

Don’t even get me started on asparagus.animal-vegetable

And thus I found myself on this Earth Day morning gobbling up the witticisms of Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible) and her family’s one-year slocal experiment documented in her (once again)best-selling book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

As Atticus attemped to read Newsweek while eating his oatmeal (bought in bulk, grocery apples and local milk–we’re in hopeful transitions), we repeated our familiar scenario.

From the couch I called, “Atticus!  Let’s make our own CHEESE!!!!

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4 Comments

Filed under Hobbies and Such

4 responses to “Slocalite In (Enthused) Training

  1. LJ

    I am in slight shock and awe to tell you that I just told Adam LAST NIGHT that we should learn to make our own cheese. Pinky swear. It was on the tail end of a conversation on learning to be self-sufficient.

    I think the reasons for that conversation were buoyed up by the following facts:
    Fact: we own our own hand wheat grinder.
    Fact: we shook cream in a jar until it made butter for our date night.
    Fact: we are growing a very small garden in our flower patch.
    Fact: I made him a pumpkin pie with real pumpkin for his birthday. The kisses I got for that…wow.

    Pinto: ::ASTONISHED GAPE!:: Did you know you can make fresh mozzarella in less than an hour?!?! With milk from your GROCERY STORE?!?! I want to get on the cheese making bus with you (you know, since you’re about riding buses now). There’s a whole chapter on making cheese in that Barbara Kingsolver book, by the way.

  2. peregrine

    Love. So much love.

  3. Sherrie

    I made Ratatouille too! (After we saw the movie…the boys thought it was SO cool that we could make it at our house. Although the version I made wasn’t nearly as fancy as Remy’s version.) But, you should have seen me in the produce section staring at the eggplants. Staring, staring, guessing, shrugging, hoping for the best.

    Good luck with all of your fun food adventures! I am going to have to check out these books.

  4. Rachel

    I know where garlic comes from — I planted some (stiff-neck) garlic in my backyard last November. Welcome to the club :-)

    I don’t know if you have such things in middle-of-BEAUTIFUL-surroundings West-coast-dom, but CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a great way to get fresh local produce and support independent small farmers… one resource for finding established CSAs is http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ (they are great for making you discover and USE unique local produce, and usually send out recipes attuned to each week’s seasonal produce)

    Pinto: I have searched and searched and searched for a local CSA! I know there is a planning board for one they hope to begin in 2011, but that means we won’t have fruit trees ready for years after that. There is one 2 1/2 hours away: http://normlehnefarm.com/csa/. Just clicking around their homepage makes my mouth water and I start thinking, “Two and a half…with a good audio book…I’m all over that.” Especially since their share prices are $150 for three months. SCORE! I’m thinking about calling them and asking if they could just bring my weekly box to the local farmers market (which they come to starting in July) and meeting them there, that way we could still do business without a larger carbon footprint that would come if I tried to drive 5 hours for some peppers.

    However, if our little community garden plot works out well, we might be okay without the CSA subscription (even though I really want peaches and nectarines).

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