Friday, April 04, 2008

Slow Food versus Fast Food

I just finished this book, after buying The Art of Simple Food. I had heard of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, but had not really put 2-and-2 together.
After reading the book, I started thinking about "slow food" and how being a locavoire (someone who eats locally grown and produced food) is slowly catching on and for once I seem to be on the edge of a trend. God knows I have never followed any fashion trends!

But something which stands out to me is if fast food is so great (and we can see what it has done to our bodies and yes, I'm guilty also) how come our memories are not tied to fast foods. How many times have you said "that is the best hamburger I'm ever had" and it came from the drive through lane?

My memories of food show that I have been a locavoire most of my life in a small way. Some of my first recollections are standing in my grandfather's back yard. As a child, you could live out there during most of the year and not have to go inside to eat. There were 2 apple and 2 peach trees, a plum tree, a cherry tree (which died when I was young), raspberries, blackberries, green and purple grapes in an arbor. There was a huge garden. At least it looked huge to me, but I understand the lot was only 1 acre in town, so it couldn't have been that large. But there was always corn, tomatoes, beans, peas (field, not green), asparagus (which I have only learned to appreciate as an adult).

I can picture my grandfather cutting up a peach, warm off the tree, so I could eat it. Looking back, I realize that pocket knife was also used to cut up his tobacco and anything else that needed cutting outside, so it's probably a good thing I didn't think about it at the time. But the flavor of that peach, sunshine warm, with the juice running down my throat and often my face is not one you can drive through and ask for "one peach to go, sun temperature and juicy".

I hid out in the grape arbor and feasted on grapes as the summer waned. Ding, my granddad's fox terrier, also ate grapes, as long as I fed them to him. I can remember the grapes being harvested and hung up in long cloth bags and tied to the rafters in the shed to drip down into a galvanized bucket to be made into grape juice and jelly. And the smell. That wonderful grapey smell of real grape juice and the juice being cooked into jelly. At 50, I can still remember how careful you had to be when opening a new jar of jelly and remove the paraffin seal my grandmother used. If you were really careful, you could press down on one side and the other side would flip up and you would pull the whole seal off. Otherwise, it would break and you would be pulling paraffin chips out of the jelly.

And "real" jam and jelly on hot, buttered toast can't be described.
I make jams and jellies to this day. Working with fresh produce, straight from the local farm. Often I have gone to the farm itself to pick the fruit, much like we use to do at my grandparents. My youngest, Texter (as I call her now) loves for me to make jam and jellies because she can give them away to her teachers and watch them fight over it. And she much prefers my jams over store bought. The taste is more intense and it's nice knowing there are no preservatives in them, just fruit, sugar and in some cases, a little pectin.

When was the last time you heard someone raving over a tomato on a drive through burger? But how many hours around the water cooler can you talk about whether you put the first "real" tomato of summer on a sandwich by itself or pair it with bologna. And want to start a real war, ask about mayo versus salad dressing. Lines are drawn over not only the issue of mayo and salad dressing, but what type of mayo....Duke's or Hellman's. But with issue of the real tomato, whether you eat it by itself or on a bologna sandwich, what counts is you have to eat it over the kitchen sink because it is so juicy and drippy.

As much as I love Baskin's Jamocha Almond Fudge ice cream, what I taste and love and remember are the Sunday afternoons where Dad would make homemade ice cream. Almost every weekend during the summer we had a ice cream, usually made with what fruit was in season. Strawberry, followed by peach, mixed with chocolate, black walnut and plain vanilla. Just sugar, milk, eggs and flavorings, usually cooked up the night before and let cool in the fridge overnight before freezing the next day.

Meals in the heat of summer which contained no meat, but where all veggies, green beans, corn (on the cob or creamed), field peas, fresh tomatoes, cornbread, this is what I remember and savor in my mind. This is slow food. This is what you remember.

1 comment:

  1. Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? This post reminds me of her writing. If you haven't read it, I would recommend it!


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