Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Summer of Plenty

This summer, I have reached a turning point in the way I view food. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where it started. It could have started way back when I became a vegetarian all those years ago. Or maybe when I had a summer job on a farm which opened my eyes to vegetables unheard of. Most probably, it was my purchase of the book Clean Food by Terry Walters. I learned how to cook a meal that I and others would enjoy. I learned what things like Mirin and millet are, how to make every vinagrette imaginable, how many delicious grains and legumes are out there, and how eating with the seasons just makes so much more sense.
You see, I was raised in a house where foods were a combination of canned vegetables, instant rice or pasta, and chicken and pork. Spaghetti sauce was from a can. Homemade soup only ever happened once every three years when Christmas dinner was at our house and there were turkey bones to stew. My mother hated any cooked vegetable possible, except for corn, and therefore vegetables were few and far between in the meals. I have only in the past two years come to appreciate brussel sprouts, tomatoes, green beans, turnips, parsnips, squash, and cooked greens. These new items are things of beauty to me. Nothing in the world can feel like an eggplant when you tap it. There is no site more beautiful when the leaves start to change color than a stall overflowing with squash. The smell of tomatoes and peppers freshly picked from the garden is undeniably good and healthy and an inspiration for every meal.
And so my obsession with food has waxed this summer. Vegetables and fruits were the basis of each and every meal. Everything was obtained by farmer's markets or our own patio garden. The only things we needed to buy at the grocery store this summer was: milk, eggs, butter, flour, yeast, yoghurt, grains, tofu, and sugar. The 'fresh' department of the grocery store was left alone, unless to comment on how pitiful the choice and quality were. As a result, this summer was the first time I was able to comprehend just how wide a variety of fruits and vegetables are available to us fresh and delicious during the growing season. Trips to the Marché Jean Talon and Marché 440 always turned up at least one object of my enthusiasm which I would talk about incessently.
With the newfound joy in food, there comes a stark realisation. The farmer's markets are slowly closing up shop for the winter. The variety of fresh choices I have come to live by is slowly fading away. Winter will bring with it an extremely depressing need to return to grocery stores for my nourishment. Greenhouse tomatoes, peppers from Mexico, lettuce from the states... I will no longer have the option to buy fresh, local food. Instead, there will be shrink-wrapped brocolli and uninspiring bags of carrots. What is a food lover to do?

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