Farm to Table

4.19.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut

…in my neighbor’s garden…

Grocery money is an odd sticking point for U.S. citizens, who on average spend a lower proportion of our income on food than people in any other country, or any heretofore in history. In our daily fare, even in school lunches, we broadly justify consumption of tallow-fried animal pulp on the grounds that it’s cheaper than whole grains, fresh vegetables, hormone-free dairy, and such. Whether on school boards or in families, budget keepers may be aware of the health tradeoff but still feel compelled to economize on food – in a manner that would be utterly unacceptable if the health risk involved an unsafe family vehicle or a plume of benzene running through a school basement.
~ Barbara Kingsolver
(Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life)

Our food journey continues… On this leg of it I am reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, an account of her family’s first year of eating deliberately, consuming only food grown, raised and produced locally or on their own farm. We are fast becoming (grain-free) locavores!

Locavore – a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food. Farm-to-table.

One thing I learned from this book is that local farmers may well be growing things organically, but some of them cannot afford the fee to be certified organic. And some things labeled “organic” in the grocery store may be only marginally so, cutting corners and following the letter of the law but not the spirit of it.

And so I’m discovering things about food sources closer to home. One day I happened to notice a restaurant in town called the Oyster Club. I suppose I never gave it a second look because I don’t care for oysters. But when I did, the tagline on the sign, “farm & sea to table,” caught my eye. When I got home I found their website, which states, “the menu, which is written daily, showcases food that travels the shortest distance from ‘farm & sea to table,’ with seasonality and location determining the day’s delicacies. Benefiting from the region’s many local farmers and fisherman, Oyster Club features bounty from the sea, pasture raised beef, local produce and artisanal cheeses.” Cool!

Today I was at our food co-op and started talking with a woman from Firefly Farms and was astonished to learn that they are raising heritage breeds of chickens, pigs and cows. I had just been reading about the importance of preserving heritage breeds… As their website explains, “The fact that these breeds are too difficult for factory farming is, in our view, the first signal that they are good for people.” We bought a frozen Red Ranger chicken from her and I plan to roast it on Monday. (Easter plans at the nursing home with Auntie tomorrow…) We hope to visit the farm this coming week and learn more about their forest raised pigs! Maybe we will soon need to buy a freezer.

Things have been coming along around here as we continue to heal and to pick up the pieces of our lives. There are more good days than bad days now, and we just had a wonderful two-day visit from Tim’s cousin Allegra. We are also looking forward to a trip to visit our kids and celebrate our anniversary in May.

winds of consciousness…

Wilson's Phalarope by Brian Harris/USFWS

wilson’s phalarope by Brian Harris
Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Maine

And it’s a disquieting thought that not even the past is done with, even that continues to change, as if in reality there is only one time, for everything, one time for every purpose under heaven. One single second, one single landscape, in which what happens activates and deactivates what has already happened in endless chain reactions, like the processes that take place in the brain, perhaps, where cells suddenly bloom and die away, all according to the way the winds of consciousness are blowing.
~ Karl Ove Knausgård
(A Time for Everything)

…first day of spring…

Sulamith Wülfing (1901–1989) German Artist & Illustrator

illustration by Sulamith Wülfing

To see the fire that warms you or, better yet, to cut the wood that feeds the fire that warms you; to see the spring where the water bubbles up that slakes your thirst and to dip your pail into it; to see the beams that are the stay of your four walls and the timbers that uphold the roof that shelters you; to be in direct and personal contact with the sources of your material life; to find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to find a quest of wild berries more satisfying than a gift of tropical fruit; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wild flower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.
~ John Burroughs
(John Burroughs’ America: Selections from the Writings of the Naturalist)

Welcome Spring!

an ancient harmony…


“Flux Ropes on the Sun” by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO

I hear beyond the range of sound,
I see beyond the range of sight,
New earths and skies and seas around,
And in my day the sun doth pale his light.

A clear and ancient harmony
Pierces my soul through all its din,
As through its utmost melody, -
Farther behind than they – farther within.

~ Henry David Thoreau

Food Shopping

Ruth Mary Hallock (1876-1945) American Illustrator

illustration by Ruth Mary Hallock

Food – the kind of food we eat and the amount of money we spend on it are hotly debated topics. Because of Tim’s heart disease I’ve been on a quest to find a “diet” that will help his body cope with his compromised state of health. In 2012 we tried a vegan diet and he wound up in the hospital twice that year. In 2013 we switched to a grain-free diet and he has not been hospitalized at all, in spite of being under tremendous stress coping with his brother while he was living with us.

But I’m not writing this to promote any particular way of eating, in fact, my stance is very non-judgmental because I suspect different bodies may need different foods to thrive and avoid disease. One of the most difficult things for me about having Tim’s brother with us for eight and a half months was not that his own diet seemed so unhealthy, but that he never let up on criticizing me for “wasting” so much money on our groceries. I let him cook and eat what he wanted without comment and so wished he would have done the same for me.

I spent a lot of time fuming in my room, meditating, slowly acknowledging my anger and frustration, letting it go, examining with curiosity my beliefs about food.

There is a show on public television I watch all the time called Nature. Because I believe that nature is a great teacher, one day it occurred to me while watching an episode that the chief concern and activity of most animals, who definitely live in the moment, is that of locating and eating food. This thought helped me to see that it is perfectly natural to spend so much time and effort cooking and feeding us well.

The Atlantic, 5 April 2012

This is our story today: It is a story about how spending on food and clothing went from half the family budget in 1900 to less than a fifth in 2000.
~ Derek Thompson
(The Atlantic, April 5, 2012)

It is sobering to see that back in 1900 we considered it normal to spend over 40% of our budget on food! Today the average family spends only 10-15% of its budget on food. And most people complain bitterly about the price of food. We spend more money on fancy “starter castles” and less on nourishing food. Animals will leave their homes and travel to find the food they need to sustain themselves, but we humans demand that our food be delivered to us over great distances and at minimal cost. It seems so lopsided!

So we will continue along our current food path, scouting around for grass-fed beef and wild game, avoiding grains. Paying without questioning higher prices for local and/or organic produce. Knowing that no one has the final answers about food, but feeling much more settled about our choices.