In the moment

13 Sep

Do you not drink the local milk in your fridge because “that’s for yogurt”?

Do you look at a beautiful basket of CSA tomatoes and sigh because “canning gets so stressful”?

Essentially, do you forget to enjoy the now-ness of seasonal, local eating because you’ve been at it so long that you’ve formed (admittedly well-intentioned) food preservation habits that override the spirit of Locavorism?

If so, you might be me.

That’s why I love being on NOFA-NY staff during the Locavore Challenge.  It’s a lot of work, on our end, to be present at events, publish daily e-mails, remember to post sponsor information on the website, mail out calendars and materials to our generous (and patient) regional partners and helpers.  But it’s so fun to get to see all the new people discovering delicious local foods.  It’s like they’ve been let into a secret club (though obviously our goal is to make it a very un-secret club).  It’s a club I’ve been in a long time, and the newbies remind me about my first bite of a fresh farm tomato.

Have I ever told that story?  If you follow this blog, you’d assume I was always queen of the tomato-eaters.  I was only crowned such about 5 years ago.  I was working on my friend’s farm and I thought I didn’t like tomatoes.  I was 22.  My dad had grown tomatoes (his thing was the yellow pear tomatoes) in our garden, as I’m sure my grandfather had as well.  Yet I never liked them fresh (cooked, sure).  But something about that first-adult-tomato-still-warm-from-the-sun combined with a heck of a lot of not-wanting-to-offend-my-friend-and-employer had me hooked.  I LOVE tomatoes.  Even after picking them in hot plastic high tunnels til I turned yellow-green with sap…I loved them since that summer.

So why am I lately more stressed than happy over an abundance of tomatoes (no offense to my CSA farmers, who are totally rocking it this year)?  It’s because I have, on occasion, forgotten to actually just eat them.  Not eat whatever’s left over from canning.  Not eat because they’ll go bad (they will).  Just eat because I now love tomatoes.  A lot of this is my personality–I tend to want to postpone my enjoyment or finishing something until just the right time.  I don’t want the season, happiness, etc. to end.  Generally, I like this policy.  I eat divine local food year-round (though less during certain months).  But that survival mentality can be problematic if I don’t keep it in check.  I ought not worry so much if I have one less jar of preserved tomatoes this winter, or if I don’t buy extra greens to freeze.  I’m still an okay person doing my best to eat local!  It’s not as if I’ve abandoned eating local by putting a little less food away…I doubt I’ll be relying on fast food or anything like THAT this winter.

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My furry friend says, “No canning tonight, Rachel! Stay out of this pantry and go enjoy life!”

Some people might say “carpe diem.”  We locavores might say “carpe solanum lycopersicum.”  A favorite poet of mine would say “you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”  In any case, this is my thank you for giving new-to-you local, seasonal foods a try and showing your enthusiasm for the Locavore Challenge.  This afternoon I barely bought anything at the farmer’s market–I just went to say hi and get a few salad-bound items.  I love the market because it’s full of newbies and old hands with local eating.  We all come there and form this funky community through a common desire to know our farmers and eat the freshest food we can (and that wasn’t intended to be clever, but I guess I do mean eating the freshest food possible, tonight; but also, preserving the fresh food through canning and eating it later).  I tasted some heirloom tomatoes from a friend/farmer’s table and grinned at the guy tasting next to me, who was trying very hard to remember which sample corresponded to which tomato, testing them all multiple times to decide which he’d buy.  My guess is he’d only buy one or two tomatoes, but take them home and truly savor them.  He might try to get a spouse or child to taste one, and he might be successful.  But in that moment, he was enjoying what seemed a new thing for him, all those colors of glittery goodness on the end of toothpicks. He inspired me.  Instead of feeling like a loser for not buying a bulk quantity of something to put away for winter, I made a different play: I indulged in locally-made ice cream with my food dollars, and saved the rest of that for another day’s canning, pickling or drying adventures.  Today was about today.  I enjoyed every luscious lick of that ice cream, it was truly the perfect mid-fall hot afternoon treat. Tonight I’m canning nothing, but I’ll be drinking an ice-cold glass of tomato juice from what I have here at home–not enough to make sauce or salsa, but just right for juice.  Or I might make gazpacho.  It doesn’t matter, it’s going to be simple, it’s going to rock my world and there won’t be anything but a memory come January!

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One Response to “In the moment”

  1. Brooklyn Locavore September 18, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Sigh…that’s so me. I get produce specifically to preserve. It took me a long time to by green beans (which I love!) again this year because I was scarred from cleaning so many for canning dilly beans!

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