Monday, January 1, 2018

That's a lot of meat!

A young man lived and labored here with us for 10 days and one day we were moving some food around between freezers.  He held the lid of the extra large chest freezer as I sorted something out.  Shayden was 18 and ours was the first farm on his journey west.  "That's a lot of meat!  That's a lot of meat!"   His sincere astonishment helped me reflect on something that I have come to think of as a normal part of my life.  
I know what we are going to eat for the next year. 

This life is so different from what I knew before.  I lived in a particular culture for 36 years and then it seems like I plunged into a different world.  There was no reason to think about what food there would be to eat in 12 months, or 6 months, or even in a week.  It was an unconscious belief that food would be available for purchase at the grocery store and at the restaurant.  
There was a slight shift when I started shopping regularly at farmers markets.  The food available for purchase became more limited due to my personal commitment of buying and eating what I could find at markets.   The “staples” were still purchased at the store under this commitment, things like sugar, crackers, rice, cheese and butter.  This shift also introduced me to the idea of seasonality.  One of the first dishes I made that will always represent a turning point to me involved cooking onions, apples, and potatoes until soft and mashable.  It was delicious, sweet, and very satisfying.  Those three foods were readily available at farm markets in the late fall.  My confidence and enthusiasm for the commitment was growing.  It had turned into a fun and delicious challenge.
Around two vegetable seasons later, I got my first job working as labor on a vegetable-garden style farm.  Working one day a week from 6am to noon meant I took home an entire “share” of vegetables every week.  The share included what was meant for a family to consume, not one person living alone.  This provided another exciting challenge.  Use every bit of it before the next load arrived in my kitchen 7 days later.  This introduced the beloved idea of preserving food for non vegetable season.  I fell in love with freezing.  
This is Wilbur with his mother, over two years ago.    As of today, all of Wilbur now resides in freezer camp.  I don't have words to express my appreciation for the partnership that feeds my family.  
Food has been my favorite hobby since I can remember.  These new ideas about eating what was available locally and seasonally changed my life in significant ways.  Eating out at restaurants and shopping at the grocery store became nearly intolerable for me.  Some of my friends drifted away as we learned that our friendships were largely based on food activities like eating out and cooking together.  They found following a commitment to local, seasonally available foods intolerable.  Diversity is what keeps the world alive and so we stayed with the ideas that felt most comfortable to us and moved on with our lives.   Watching this happen in my life affirmed the idea that I desired a lifestyle instead of a job.  Having a job and hanging out with friends at a pub was something I could let go of.  I had always been the awkward one anyway.  I had fallen in love with the lifestyle of making food the center of my life.  Food the way I choose to experience it.  Food for me had become something to know intimately, to participate in, to revere and commit to.

A satisfying knowing began to settle in and it felt like I was returning home.  A home that felt grounded, secure, true, and familiar in a  saturating way.  
Once again this season, the three chest freezers are completely full and I can still see Shayden's face as I was reminded that this is an extraordinary, abundant life.      

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