Move Often, and Eat Local

Finally, after a good three weeks of slowly walking through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. This is perhaps the slowest I’ve waded through a book since I started on my massive reading spree this year. I read a chapter at a time, a day at a time. I stopped and read another book in the middle, but I think it was more to let me process what I’d read than it was me trying to get away from the book, as my actions might indicate. I really enjoy the chronological procession of the book’s narrative, starting in April and tracing the natural cycle of food growth and harvest over the course of the year. Delicious sounding recipes are thrown in, and Kingsolver’s prose reads the way a full-bodied ice cream tastes: smooth and filling, even with just a small amount.

Kingsolver’s argument is essentially that we should try to consume foods that are grown locally, organically, and in season. Doing this reduces the amount of gas it takes, supports local growers instead of corporations, and gives you food that tastes much, much better than that which you can find in the grocery store. My mom’s counterpoint to this is that she really enjoys eating bananas. Funny, as that’s a food that Kingsolver explicitly discusses having to give up as part of this lifestyle.

I fully support the ideology behind this book, but I stand with my mom too. I love experimenting with cooking and baking and that means that I will go down to Safeway and buy what they have because it is an ingredient in a recipe I’d like to try. This year I’ve paid more attention to what foods are ripe at what time of the year, and the dishes that can be cooked with them. I’m getting used to flavors of the season, and I’m gardening with the kids at work. I miss my family’s garden, and look forward to going home and tasting ripe tomatoes, corn, peaches, and more this summer. For now, I’m still sitting under a rain cloud in Washington.

Funny thing, though, is that I keep moving around. Every year I’m in a different city, a different living situation, a different work place. Local is a relative term when I don’t have a home base of my own. I’ve traveled here from California, so what does it matter to me if the food I eat has also made that journey? I know it’s faulty logic, but I think part of what drives the “Eat Local, Buy Local” movement is the idea of relationships sustained over time with people who sell at farmers markets and who are dependable with the produce they offer. With my mobile lifestyle, I don’t really have the time to develop these sorts of relationships, and I don’t have much of a sense of customer loyalty. Plus, I must admit, price comes before taste a lot of the time. I can see shifts in my thinking, and this book will probably influence some of those shifts as time continues, but for now I’m going to look forward to eating out of my parents’ garden. Until then, I will buy both Washington apples and California strawberries. Strawberries are too delicious to let go; I’m sorry Ms. Kingsolver, you’ve got a believer in me, but not a follower.