Thursday, September 20, 2007
September is well on its way and my garden is still giving forth tomatoes every day. I've also got eggplants, fennel, cabbage, squash (summer and winter this year! A banner year!), potatoes, carrots, chard, kale, and broccoli. Today I made a cold tomato soup--kind of a gazpacho with lime, cumin, and cinnamon. Tomorrow: what to do with the lovely tiny eggplants that squirrels keep taking little nips out of?
Above is a salad grown entirely from my garden this spring.
I don't believe that I can ever become self-sufficient. Unlike some writers who have argued for the locavore movement lately (I'm still really wanting to read Barbara Ehrenreich's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; and there was a really funny feature in New York Magazine by Manny Howard detailing his many failures trying to live off what his yard produced in Brooklyn), I don't think we will solve our many environmental problems by hunkering down by the campfire eating moldy but homegrown turnips through the long Northeastern winters. Every place has its own local food culture, and trading to mutual benefit is never a problem. It's not the 'where' as much as the 'what' and the 'how.' Do I really need to buy apples from Washington when I can get them from New York? No, but if I want pineapple, bananas, or green peppers in the winter, I'm going to have to get them from afar. Is this reasonable? Yes, but it's also reasonable to ask that these things be sustainably farmed and shipped with respect to the environment.
We are social creatures, and we need each other to survive. There is no such thing as truly self-sufficient. Still, my vegetable garden has become central to my life these past few years, changing the way I think about food, and I've gotten better at growing stuff. Mostly, I'm more organized than I was (my first year I had a tomato forest and total chaos! But it was beautiful) and better at spacing plants. I just never believe that such tiny seedlings will grow up into edible veggies. But look, a casserole of roasted garden veggies:
As a result of growing my own vegetables for a small portion of the year, I've come to realize how much sweat labor food takes. (Answer: lots.) From digging and composting to planting, weeding constantly, watering, and harvesting, it's pretty much non-stop work. It's one of the most pleasurable forms of work I know, however, and oh do those tomatoes taste sweet! Even at the farmer's market there aren't such juicy, flavorful tomatoes as I grow. My fav. varieties: Lillian's Yellow heirloom tomatoes, which really don't become ripe until September 1 or so, and Cherokee tomatoes, a dark winey tomato with dark green shoulders. Here is my little plot of earth.
The reason I called this blog "Dish and Dirt" is because I believe that what we 'dish' ultimately relies on the condition of our dirt. In plain terms, what we eat grows on this earth, and its quality depends on the soil. Despite a certain degree of cantankerousness (and the desire to keep eating imported chocolate), I do believe that we could all do a lot more local eating. I try to resist processed foods, foods that have traveled too far to get to me (except for chocolate), and especially foods that have been slapped together and shipped with no thought to quality, care, or health. So let's all get out and enjoy those farmer's markets, apple picking farms, and local honey while it's harvest season.