Eating Local

October 15, 2009 § Leave a comment

Two weekends ago I went apple picking with my friends. We went to a local farm, picked cold, rosy apples off of a tree and filled gigantic plastic bags with forty pounds of apples before returning home. We washed dust, watermarks and unidentified sticky substances off of our apples in the sink – after all, they had been outside, growing on trees, just hours previous. Then we looked up an apple pie recipe, the first attempt any of us had made at making a pie, and we baked five apple pies. Eating a warm baked apple pie later that night, I wondered if I’d ever eaten a pie that fresh before.

How strange it is that we are so alienated from our food. When you attempt to make dinner and unwrap cellophane-packaged meat, pop a can of soup open or dump a frozen bag of veggies into the microwave, this doesn’t even remotely resemble what cooking and eating used to be.

While sharing this will make me look hopelessly girl scout-like, I have been visiting a former neighbour of mine since I was eleven, and her name is Mrs. Goodale. Mrs. Goodale is halfway through her one hundred and second year, and the way her and her boarder Barum organize their meals and food is simultaneously old fashioned and forward thinking.

In the spring, Mrs. Goodale plants seeds in old yogurt cups in her kitchen, and fosters them into little, tender green plants, before handing them over to Barum who then plants them in their garden and cares for them over the summer. Throughout the summer and early fall, Barum collects their produce, and brings it to Mrs. Goodale who preserves, dries and bakes all of their fruits and vegetables. The other day when I was there she had a sink full of parsley that she was preparing. Then the two of them have a freezer and pantry full of frozen pies and preserved foods for the winter. Quite simply, they plan ahead and they eat locally.

Mrs. Goodale and Barum’s process of meal making is laborious, but it’s becoming more and more a valid option for those who wish to be socially responsible and food-conscious. It is almost impossible to be ignorant to the growing anxieties and obsession society has with food. Companies are promoting their organic or fair trade goods, wrapped in green packaging, but at this point the green movement is so trendy it’s difficult to navigate your way through an industry that hides so many secrets in food. It seems impossible to eat well in a fast-paced society, when there is such a divide between food culture. Everybody eats, yet they eat so differently. And it’s a big divide: on the one had there’s the fast food culture of America with rampant obesity, while simultaneously there’s a revolution brewing spewing all things organic, gluten free, fair trade or vegan. Why are we so drastically divided? It’s obvious that a change is in order.

The Slow Food movement summarizes a lot of this ideology. Slow Food preaches an approach called ecogastronomy that entails a sense of social responsibility to enjoy food and to ensure that others do so. According to slowfood.ca, ecogastronomy “is an attitude that combines a respect and interest in ecogastronomic culture with support for those battling to defend food and agricultural biodiversity around the world. Slow Food stresses the need for taste education as the best defense against poor quality and food adulteration. It is the main way to combat the incursion of fast food into our diets. It helps to safeguard local cuisines, traditional products, vegetable and animal species at risk of extinction. It supports a new model of agriculture, which is less intensive and healthier, founded on the knowledge and know-how of local communities. This is the only type of agriculture able to offer prospects for development to the poorest regions on our planet.”

Fortunately Hamilton has a lot to offer in way of the food revolution. There are dozens of farmer’s markets popping up everywhere; the Hamilton Farmer’s Market, the Maker’s Market, My Dog Joes in Westdale, as well as all of the local farms in Ancaster and Copetown. New this fall term, Mohawk College offers a course called “Eat Locally – The 100 K Menu” with Chef Chris Venhuis of Denninger’s. There is the Hamilton Eat Local Blog with tons of resources and the promotional literature that they have made so much effort to make available to the public, the Hamilton Fruit Tree Project which is a program set up to harvest the fruit from trees in Hamilton backyards and donate the fruit to social service providers.

This weekend my friends and I are going to attempt to make pumpkin pie from real, recently growing pumpkins. We didn’t pick the pumpkins, but we got them from the field of a farm, and one of mine is covered in dirt. I’ll wash it off. It’s a small inconvenience in the search of fresh, real food.

Published in Andy, The Silhouette, Oct. 15, 2009.

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