or, a primer for your first encounter with fresh food/written with brutal honesty and irreverence.
read this before you buy that farm fresh produce. read it again before your spend $6 on a dozen fresh eggs. and read it once more before you cook that grass fed beef.
if you’re a novice at shopping from the farm, don’t go into it expecting a seamless transition from the old status quo. there’s a learning curve for your taste buds, and your pocketbook…so prepare yourself! oh, it’s not that anything bad will happen .. no, it will all be good – very good…. but, it’s different, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
I’d suggest that you start with a strawberry. you’ll know something is different before you even taste it! just position yourself near a fresh strawberry, juicy, warm from the sun, red all the way through …….. the smell of a fresh strawberry will make your mouth water from a good three or four feet away! now that’s different, right? it tastes like you always wished those store bought strawberries would taste. but, what is really different about that succulent strawberry, is that you can only have it at certain times of the year. only when it has just the right amount of sunshine, warm soil and gentle rain to ripen it to that perfect sugary, deliciousness.
hmm, and the eggs ? an egg is an egg, right? ha, oh please. an egg from the farm has a flavor … yes, a real flavor. you might have to start slowly here. even if you’ve been eating a store egg every morning for most all of your life – can you describe its flavor? I thought not. try a farm egg, from a happy chicken. but, don’t be startled by the egg flavor, it comes by it naturally. the taste of a farm egg is as rich as the deep orange color of its yolk. its flavor is robust, like the egg itself, not runny or weak. and just like with that strawberry … you’ll get spoiled. I’m warning you – you won’t be able to go back to your old ways. breakfast will have a whole new appeal. what else is different? well, hey – these eggs are expensive ! and why? well, those chickens are treated well. they’re fed the best grains and bugs, they exercise, live in a nice coop in the best neighborhood, and have personal assistants who are well trained to gather their eggs every day. you have to expect to pay more to support their lifestyle.
if you’re still with me .. let’s take a big step. pastured poultry, and livestock. (meaning chicken and meat) don’t try to separate what you eat from where it came from. you might have been able to do that before… chicken nuggets and tenders, processed and separated …. ah, it’s so easy to imagine that they were just always that shape. but, buy a broiler, from a rancher – and you’ve just bought yourself a chicken that was … a chicken, before you got it. not plumped up, or confined – a pastured broiler was a well fed, healthy bird. knowing your food means knowing it is good food. (if you’re not up to this, go back to fruits and vegetables …) once you can accept this reality, you’ll be more appreciative of the food you eat.
grass fed beef, lamb and pork ? same as chicken, but bigger! these animals eat what they would naturally eat, they live a quiet life, with plenty of exercise, frolicking in the pastures and enjoying the sunshine. without venturing into an ethical minefield, I’ll just say .. if you’re not a meat eater, you may skip this part of the lesson. if you’re following along, keep in mind – the meat you’ve eaten before … the kind that has no history, that begins and ends in a package at the store … it’s predictable, it tastes the same, every time, cookie cutter steaks and chops. but, grass fed tastes unique. grass fed here is a different flavor than grass fed there. why? well, the grass, silly. and the climate, and the water and the terrain. grass fed meat is lean, you have to pay attention when you cook it. oh, now grill-meister, you might be able to grill a steak with your eyes closed and two hands tied behind your back while drinking a brewsky and watching the game ……. but, absentmindedly cooking a grass fed steak will find you sheepishly (no pun intended, bah!) watching your inlaws trying to gnaw their way through a piece of leather, and vowing to never let you do the grilling again. it’s different. practice a bit, you’ll get the hang of it. and the flavor is so worth it.
have I scared you off? oh come now. all of the talk about eating local and shopping farm fresh isn’t just marketing hype. the difference is real. it’s not just in the flavor, the texture or the color of the food. any drawback you might imagine is balanced by so many benefits. benefits to the soil, to the animals, to the waterways, to the landscape, to the economy, to your health …… I don’t need to convince you, you can google all of that. all you really need to become a convert to farm fresh food, is to stand just about three feet away from that juicy red strawberry while the warm sun is shining. I think you’re starting to catch on.
now, try to stretch your mind a bit here, drawing a parallel between two seemingly unrelated topics. remember that hat your grandmother knitted for you, the one with the odd colored stripe where she ran out of navy blue yarn? were you the kid who wore it proudly anyway? or did it get stashed in your backpack as soon as you got to the bus stop, out of sight of your house? … another victim of peer pressure and conformity at the hands of the commercially preened masses pretending at quality in the name of convenience and mall fashion.
either way, I bet you still remember that hat. you might even still have it, in a box in the back of the closet. you can’t seem to part with it. why ? because it was made with love, one stitch at a time …. and even if it was a bit funny looking, you knew there was something very special about it.
farm fresh food has a lot of that same genuine allure. and, just like your grandmother’s knitting, it isn’t solely based in sentimentality. that hat was homemade, you could watch it taking form, from the moment grandma chose the colors from her basket – to the moment it kept your ears warm when you put it on.
its purpose was known from its inception. its progress was guided by caring hands.
yes – it had a funny stripe, and wasn’t the style of the hats in the shop window, but ….. (I’m going to compare your hat to a vegetable now – don’t get confused.) take a trip to the farmers market, look around. you may feel a little out of your element – it’s not what you’re used to. there may be some dirt still clinging to the carrots, the potatoes might be a funny shape, eggs come in blues and browns and greens, the food isn’t in packages, the people who grew the food are right here to tell you how they did it, the sun is shining on you as you shop …….. it’s different. but, you can do it – get your grandmother’s hat out of the closet and put it on !
if you don’t enjoy your first attempt at eating fresh, real food. shame on you. try again. if you need some bolstering up, you’ll find support, shoulders to lean on and listening ears at the BriarPatch Co-op Natural Foods Market, or join the Local Food Coalition email network …. to learn about fresh local food from the privacy of your own home.
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