Strawberries in February?
This is no place for the horrifying details that led to 143 million pounds of beef being recalled from the market last week. Just the words “143 million pounds of beef” ought to be enough. How did this happen? Not just to the cows, but how did our food supply run so amok?
I think everyone ought to think really hard about the food choices that we make every single day and what making those choices means. Especially if we’re making food choices for other people, like our children.
Most often it’s about ourselves and our bodies. We’re driven by our wants and needs. As simply as, “I’m tired, I need a pick-me-up — this can of soda has 50 milligrams of sodium and 140 calories and no nutritional value, but I want it.”
So what do I do? I’m hungry and overtired; I don’t think I’ve had a soda in the last decade, save the emergency Fresca I had two summers ago (as I’ve written before, that’s another story for another time and certainly not a story for everyone’s ears). I digress, sorry.
But in that state, how am I supposed to come to the conclusion that an apple is what I ought to eat? Thankfully, I have people around me, and I might say out loud, “What should I eat?” Or I might poke around Polly’s or Lori’s office and see whether they’ve got something to nibble on.
This weekend I hunkered down at home to get some work done. On Saturday at around 2 p.m., while I was still in my pajamas, hunger pangs set in, and if I’d had soda in my house I’d have poured one — it would have staved off the immediate need without slowing me down. Luckily I had peanut butter — really good natural stuff. Yes, I did stick the spoon into the jar and eat it like a popsicle, but I have a choice.
Sometimes it’s about season. How about eating strawberries in February? I saw some gorgeous strawberries yesterday — all red and freckled with silly, green, frilly hats. I thought, “Wow, what a nice treat that would be.” But I knew they would disappoint, because they’d been picked a while ago, maybe at some huge agribusiness farm in Chile, and packed, loaded, flown, and trucked to the East Coast. Then sold to a produce distributor, loaded again, then shipped and packed to a Portland, Maine, grocery store, where they were unpacked and put on a shelf in the produce aisle.
I’d rather wait until June, when they’re in season here — I can pick and eat them while they’re still warm. I’ll eat more than my fill and I’ll make jam if I can so that I can have strawberries here, in February, when they’re not in season. I confess I didn’t make any jam last summer, but my neighbor Sarah did, and it was so good that it didn’t last past October. (Note to self: Ask Sarah to make more jam this year, offer to help.) I have a choice.
Or it’s about taste, which often fits into the seasonal argument, but when it comes to say, corn, the less time from stalk to table the better. The natural sugars in corn quickly convert to starch once the corn is cut, so even if you can’t eat it right away, cook it right away. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating an ear of corn in the field, you know it doesn’t even have to be boiled — same with peas. Unless I’m desperate, I won’t even buy corn from a chain supermarket. Do you think it was picked that morning? That week? I have a choice.