Monday, November 12, 2012

Food Is My Life

                            Food is my life. 

Luciano Pavarotti quote

That is how I answered the question “what is your connection to food?”  when it was my turn to speak to a group of folks gathered for a meeting about LOCAL food.

 The entire group chuckled a little half-heartedly.

I don’t think they realized I was serious. Really serious.

For the past 15 years, I have spent at least a portion of EVERYsingle day thinking about, growing, harvesting, and/or producing some sort of food product as we prepare for the weekly Market.

 I have baked well over TWENTY THOUSAND of loaves of bread and harvested quite literally tons of vegetables...not to mention feeding animals, hand-milking cows, aiding in births, processing of broilers and the occasional egg gathering. 

That list above does NOT include the labor of feeding my family for all those years.

Our attempt at a quasi-self-sufficient lifestyle meant we did a great deal of canning and freezing fruits and vegetables for winter use. For years I milked at least one cow in order to have dairy products which then meant I spent a great deal of time churning butter and sometimes making cheese. Those were just MY responsibilities…the Boss and our daughters all had their own set of chores, because on the farm, EVERYBODY works! Most of our daily chores have always had something to do with food.

Over the years, I’ve served on food committees, done a little catering, cooked for more covered dish events than I care to count, made cookies by the hundreds (thousands?), and fed the Boss’ friends and co-workers on numerous occasions.  Once, I was even referred to as “the dessert goddess” by a silly boy who REALLY wanted more brownies or cookies….

I read cookbooks like novels, peruse seed catalogs religiously, and search out the foodie magazines for entertainment.

Yeah, food really IS my life.

I don’t recall the exact moment that I realized the importance of food. Or considered my connection to it.

It may have been the fact that food was the highlight of visits to the old folks and always included a big meal and care packages to take back home.

Perhaps it was planting that first seed, watching it grow, and harvesting the bounty.

Maybe it was the huge garden we worked in as children.

It could have been watching Julia Child's French Chef cooking show…reading through cookbooks because I had read every other book in the house…looking at all the pretty food pictures in Southern Living magazine…or just being hungry…I really don’t know.

I have written before about the the Power of Food. Growing up in the South, food has a place of importance, perhaps a place of reverence, unsurpassed in other parts of the world.  To be counted a good cook is a badge of honor.  To receive a time-honored recipe, a high compliment. To have others search you out as a reference…the ultimate accolade. Those have always been my goals.  I was touched when my mother-in-law gave me her recipes, and I feel a sense of accomplishment when the food I prepare meets with high praise. …and when one of my daughters calls to find out how MAMA made it…I know I have succeeded.

Quality ingredients are crucial.  Personally, I think home-grown is best.  Vegetables straight from the backyard certainly cannot be beat when it comes to freshness! To this end, The Boss and I have nearly always had a garden. You can read THIS.When the subtle nuances of quality and freshness began to dawn on us, our gardening endeavors began to take on a life of their own. 

At some point, an understanding of seasonality came into play.  We finally began to understand that there were reasons that stuff just tasted better at certain times of the year.  Now, we don’t mind (too much) waiting ALL winter and spring in anticipation of a fresh squash, tomato, or beans….because it is SO worth it. We have learned untold amounts about production over the years, most of it through trial and error.

Today, my involvement with food continues, becoming a little more complex with each passing season.

Our Market participation is driven by the ability to direct-market our products.  This demands a serious commitment to production and processing.  We actually eat the things we sell.  I read, research and make new recipes on a constant basis. The Boss is a willing and out-spoken recipe taste-tester-critic.

Customer education is an ongoing challenge.  We talk with folks on a wide range of topics all relating to food. To this end, the Boss and I find that a lot of our conversations revolve around "food issues" that are in the news.

When I blog, I try to include snippets of information that will help readers and customers learn a little more about what they are putting on their plates. I post pretty food pictures on Facebook and have recipes for our Market customers.

In retrospect,  I think my comment was really worthy of more than a few half-hearted chuckles…

There is no denying it…

               FOOD IS OUR LIFE!

                                                                                                ...and that's just fine by me.

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