I wonder if I'd have taken the same 'journey through food' had I not become a farmer. My passion for great food and cooking was established early on in my life. My journey would help me understand that FLAVOR begins with the seeds, the genetics, the roots, the dirt and the hands of a farmer. I would learn that FLAVOR was determined at the beginning of our food origins.
I considered FLAVOR successes the result of experience and creativity in the preparation...all attached to a finished product, say a fine cheese from a family that had been mastering the art for generations. I didn't realize what you begin with, the raw ingredients, could have such an impact on the final result. I thought, and why wouldn't I, that any bright green pepper without blemishes would provide the absolute complexity of any other green pepper anywhere, right?
SlowFood, founded in Italy in 1986 and soon after taking root throughout the US, helped me realize that the integrity of our food was in jeopardy. I became reacquainted with the most basic "ingredients" in my food experiences. I became educated to "organics" and familiar with "local" economies and the benefits of eating local. Farmers Markets were popping up everywhere. My thirst for fresh, local, healthy, juicy, FLAVOR full options became obvious. About the same time I saw the emergence of terms like "heritage" breeds and "heirloom" varieties...FLAVORS surpassed for bigger, prettier, faster growing, and disease resistant options. All these sheep, pigs, cows, and chickens with distinct flavors and natural lean qualities that couldn't keep up with the demands of the factory farm operations, too small, too slow growing, and not domesticated enough....all being replaced. As for our fruits and vegi's that were a little too fragile, or not pretty enough...also being replaced. As for our intimate food experiences, who had the time anymore?
Before now the naive belief that getting food to us faster, making it last longer, have a better shelf life, more of it and cheaper prices had been the perceived solution in our growing society. We were paying a huge price to achieve our goals. FLAVOR was gradually being sacrificed, but how were we to know?
My move to the farm brought the venue for my continued adventure down FLAVOR lane. With fresh vegi's from my garden and other farmers it became more and more apparent, the FLAVOR differences were so obvious. I believe my first mind blowing experience was the almighty tomato. Who doesn't know the difference between a garden fresh, ripened by the sun, hopefully heirloom tomato and a store bought, well traveled, refrigerated alternative? As I walked from my own garden with a spear of asparagus, watching the water flow from the freshly cut end, I realized I felt almost robbed. My ONLY experience with asparagus had been on my plate or in the grocery store with the ends dry and looking like the corrugated threads of cardboard. Walking toward my house that tender spear didn't have a chance, YUM! Even if you could bite into that pale green flesh at a grocery you wouldn't because tender, as we've known it, happened only after cooking. I bought carrots at the farmers market so sweet I'd swear I'd eaten a decadent dessert and lettuce varieties of all kinds, spicy, sweet, crisp and curled, dark green, light and even red. WOW! I was like a child learning the nuances of the very food I'd been so passionately consuming. Everything grabbed my senses. It wasn't until I realized FLAVOR was a choice not a given that I began to really pay attention.
So, whats the most important take away from my journey...we must engage in where our food comes from. I know we are all going through a food revolution of sorts. Those at the most basic end of the spectrum might be questioning buying from the big box stores, while others like me can barely shop in a grocery store at all. As I said I am lucky to have healthful, FLAVORFUL, fresh options mostly outside my door. My hope is at the very least you are all awakened by some morsel of food that makes your mouth water and your tongue dance too. I am more and more convinced we each have to find our way back to REAL SLOW WHOLE Food.
To be continued.......