The other morning before the bus came, my son came over and joined me under the old Spencer apple tree in the front of the yard. As I gathered drops from the ground to feed to the goats and turkeys, he took a stick and carefully plucked off 3 mottled red beauties dangling above us.
“Mom,” he announced breathlessly as burst in the house later that afternoon when the bus dropped him off. “I took those apples to school and Josiah loved them!”
He grinned, reveling in the experiencing of introducing his friend to the sweetness hidden under a scarred, slightly discolored apple. Sweetness he savored having done the work of picking these apples oh so carefully.
See, I’ve been thinking . . .
If you’re inspired by a blog or cooking show, you can pretty easily find any ingredient you need at your local supermarket. We’re inundated with options for how we eat. And as a hardcore foodie, I certainly appreciate the explosion of good food, real food and slow food . . .
Farmers markets have popped up everywhere and people are willing to spend a sizeable part of the paycheck at stores like Whole Foods. There’s a new appreciation of the value of food.
But one crucial ingredient is missing from this food revolution . . .
The Key Ingredient To Real Food Appreciation
We’re still missing one ingredient that really helps food taste exceptional – work.
See food is really part of a simple equation: You work to produce calories . . . and then you burn those calories to work.
I remember first experiencing this equation firsthand when I did my first farming apprenticeship. I distinctly remember squatting there in the pouring rain planting broccoli seedlings in the field. Cold, wet and tired, I came in to eat the simple but hearty farm lunch the farmer’s wife had prepared for us.
It tasted so incredible.
That day I realized that I had recovered an experience fundamental to human existence that I had long been divorced from. That sweet very tight cycle of working hard growing food to sustain yourself.
I look around at the wealth of calories and titillating tastes available to us Americans. And I look at the growing waistlines so many of us struggle with and I know what we’re missing.
Sure we exercise. Sure we all try to eat more healthy.
But most of us have lost that very close relationship with our food where what we put in our mouths has been hard won with our sweat.
How Real Food Appreciation Changes Your Taste
When you work for something, everything tastes that much better.
And when we eat food with this deep enjoyment of what it’s providing us, how we eat changes.
Simple foods become gourmet. But even more importantly, we savor food for more than just its flavor or documented nutritional value. We feel how good it is to eat after all that work.
I swear your body uses the calories with care, extracting every bit of nutrition.
And in turn, when you eat food with this understanding each bite becomes magnified in its value. You don’t just chew and swallow. You really eat it fully and you feel a real satisfaction in just a few bites.
In contrast, when the full value of the food has been lost on us . . . we keep eating – never quite satisfied. Never really tasting the food fully and enjoying its total value.
We eat food with limited appreciation. And it doesn’t nourish us or fill us in the same way anymore.
So we eat and eat and eat. Our tastes no longer connect with the food in the same way. We get excited by new flavors but the deeper, richer nuances are lost on us. And that craving inside all of us to eat food with meaning never quiets.
Now, I’ll acknowledge – not everyone can live the farming life we live. And certainly my family’s life, in comparison to so many people worldwide, is filled with convenience and supermarket purchases.
Nonetheless there are some good places to start:
1. Cook your food.
This may seem basic. But it’s probably the easiest place to start. Stop buying convenience food and eating out so much. Instead start cooking more for yourself and your family. But don’t see this as an added burden. See it as a built-in break from the hyper-info-infused world we’re all living in.
These times you prepare a meal can become islands of being here in the physical world. You become aware of what you’re doing for your life in a very direct way.
Take the time to cook for yourself and you’ll change your relationship to what you eat. You’ll have taking one step closer to placing yourself in that tight cycle of work and nourishment. For all of you home business folks, you’re in a great situation to take full advantage of this.
If you need some help in getting started, check out these two posts:
I also list some great how-to online cooking blogs if you scroll down on my resources page.
2. Grow your food.
I know it’s kind of the wrong season to talk about this. But for me this is very tangible to me right now. With two freezers filled with home-raised meats, a root cellar filled with cabbages, apples, pears and potatoes, a larder filled with dried and canned fruits, herbs and vegetables, squash in the barn, onions and garlic in a corner of my office, two cold frames outside, and several rows of frost-hardy veggies still growing, I’m astonished by how much we can do for ourselves . . . and how rich we are thanks to a little work and the power of good earth outside.
So even though it may be the wrong time of year to start a garden, start thinking about a garden. Imagine the pleasure you’ll feel next Thanksgiving sharing out some food that you grew over the summer. Plant a few herbs in pot near your kitchen window and start ordering some seed catalogs to get you thinking.
Plan on a fruit tree if you have the space. In a few years, you can stock your larder with better-than-organic fruit.
If you’re ready to go a few steps further, start thinking chickens . . . or even a pig.
Whatever your dimensions, put this idea in your head and feed it until the spring.
Need some help in this venture? Check out these posts:
3. Appreciate food.
For years we lived in Brooklyn with no space to grow food. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t still keep that perspective of food’s real value alive inside of me.
I lingered in the farmers markets and helped with a few community gardens.
Go to farmers markets and spend time getting to know the farmers and how they raised the food you’re eating. And when you prepare your food, take a moment to think about how that food got to your kitchen and to your table. Just going through this mental exercise can help wake up your awareness of food’s real value.
These posts might help you out here:
Delicious Hard Work In A Jar
Just this weekend, we finished canning apple sauce. The kids hauled up buckets of apples out of the root cellar, picked from our tree and our elderly neighbor’s trees. Together we washed and chopped. Outside on the wood fire over slate tiles we carefully cooked it down. Working in pairs, we milled the cooked apples and then after reheating, worked a production line of jars, lids and canning baths.
As the sun went down and the coals in the fire burned low, we had a nice table full of apple sauce for the winter.
After dinner of leftover stewed chicken, my kids didn’t ask for ice cream or look for cookies. They couldn’t get enough of this sweet, slightly tart sauce (no sugar added). I smirked as I noted two jars already decimated by the day’s end.
But I also smiled with satisfaction . . . these kids weren’t eager for sweets. They were so excited to have applesauce. And I know with every bite, they savored it all the more because they worked so hard to make it.
For years to come, with work like this that produces food like that, they will have more of instinctive relationship to the full value and deep flavors of food. With that jar of apple sauce, my kids are building a relationship to food that’s not about rules or good and bad. It’s a complex, sophisticated, instinctive relationship that can’t help but foster good health.
What do you think? Have you had some experiences that have helped you truly value food?