I baked two loaves of sourdough rye and gave one to my friend the farmer. In exchange, she gave me two of these celeriac roots and six peppers. I’m inclined to say, “hashtag winning,” but I hate that.
My friend is a farmer who often gifts me with surplus produce and eggs that went unsold at the market that week, as well as berries or stone fruits she’s baked into bars and cakes and breads. She found out she was pregnant in the spring, an appropriate surprise for a farmer who spent several hours a day sewing seeds while new life began to sprout in her. As the late summer harvest brings in heavier and larger fruits like watermelons and eggplants and her abdomen grows, she says she plays “the pregnancy card” more frequently. The men she works with are in their early 20s and are obliging, out of respect, but out of terror, too, she says laughing. I asked her if she’s afraid childbirth. Not really, she said, but she’s afraid of raising a child. Nurturing it, growing it properly. But she’s a farmer who can grow a seed smaller than a fingernail into a tangle of vines and bake bright, sweet fruit into bars and cakes and breads. So I think she’ll do fine.
I love this essay in Oxford American. It’s from April but feels especially timely. I’ve been pickling a lot this summer. Whether its for nostalgia’s sake or because I love both pickles and crafting (and pickle-making feels closer to the practice of knitting than it does to cooking), the sense of authenticity gained in the creation of piquant brine and packing raw vegetables into clear jars is undeniable.
People arrive at these “old timey” traditions having made the trek from so many different places. I grew up on an Air Force base where my single-parent mother prepared casseroles from Cooking Light recipes or turned frozen waffles into breakfast for dinner. There were commercially canned soups and generous shakes of Mrs. Dash on nearly everything. It’s the sort of cooking decried by the Michael Pollans and Michael Ruhlmans, but my mother refused to let us eat McDonalds. She prepared every meal as cash-strapped and exhausted from work as she was with love and commitment to her two daughters. There’s nothing inauthentic about that.
I didn’t know what home canning was until a friend who’d been living in commune-style housing was visiting and knew exactly what to do with the 20-lb box of farm tomatoes I’d picked up for $12 at the farmer’s market. They were from a mid-size farm and most certainly not organic, but they were local and inexpensive and perfect for preserving for the winter months, a perhaps more authentic nod to the traditions of the past. You probably won’t ever catch me canning $4/pound heirloom tomatoes.
I especially love this anecdote, because my husband and I just signed up for an LA Fitness in our neighborhood that should be completed in December. We are both terrified and excited.