Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What Would They Say?

After asking a produce department employee when the okra would be coming in, I received the answer, “It’s always in. We have another shipment tomorrow.” A stupid question on my part – there are no seasons anymore. If our great-grandparents could see our grocery stores today, what would they say?

Would they sit in amazement that we can slice through a plump tomato in January? Would they cringe at the mealy texture and bland flavor? Would their eyes grow wide while walking through the produce department only to find Spanish Clementines, Peruvian sweet onions, and Chilean grapes? Would they laugh at the price on anything labeled as natural?

Would they take in the selection of fish and shellfish with overwhelming awe? Might they wonder why shrimp from Thailand are cheaper than those caught from waters just a few hours away?

Where did we get off track with our food? Was it the interstate system, refrigerated trucks, or the desire to have more, spend more, just in order to hopefully have it all? Was it TV dinners, microwaves, or fast food? Where did the simple concept of eating what is around you, at the time it’s in season, go wrong?

My father, a former farmer, often chuckles at me as I talk about paying $4.00 for an organic tomato or rave about a grass-fed beef farmer. What was his way of life is now chic. I’m sure my grandparents, much less my great-grandparents, would laugh out loud that I stand in line to buy silver queen corn, eggs, and lettuce from farmers near my house. How would they react to the fact that, on occasion, my Volvo can easily be the least-expensive car in the lot of locavores?

Only two generations ago, what came from the farm was the way of life. Pork was salted and put up for winter, milk was from the cow outside, and vegetables were left on the vine until they were ready to eat. If it wasn’t grown on the family farm, or came from a neighbor, it wasn’t eaten. Now, those of us that can afford it, pay a premium for food grown close-by.

We live in a world that we helped to create. Food from other areas of the world is often cheaper than that from home. Finding anything not “made in China” is difficult, to say the least. Eating local, fresher, and better is for the fortunate. What would they say?