Tonight was the first time this late-autumn that I’ve needed my pantry. Well, “needed” may be too strong a word. The fact is that I was plain lazy. Haven’t made it to a farmers’ market for a couple of weeks and the CSA weekly share is over. Aside from a bunch of leeks, I had no vegetables in my crisper drawers as of tonight. I could have walked to the Park Slope Food Coop and dealt with the after-work crowd lines, because the coop still offers late-season fresh produce from a few local farms. But it’s dark outside, and cold, and I’m still walking slower than normal in my post-surgery leg brace. So I ain’t gonna.
Hello, Pantry. This is one of those times I am really, really grateful for my hobby-become-lifestyle of canning and freezing during the peak of the harvest season. Do I dig into a jar of ratatouille to serve over pasta, or maybe a salad of pickled beets and dilly beans? Tonight I decided to leave the home-canned goods alone and dove into the freezer. My freezer is so stuffed full at this time of year in prep for winter that even though I have a list of what’s in there I can’t get at most of it without the entire contents tumbling onto the floor at my feet.
Tonight it’s going to be bell pepper halves stuffed with a chorizo sausage and chard mixture, all of it drawing on ingredients I have in the freezer. I also have some fresh mozzarella from local, pastured cow’s milk that I picked up while I was visiting friends in Williamsburg, Mass. for Thanksgiving. Some of that will get melted on top.
On a different note, this past week I noticed a couple more signs that the local foods movement is gaining public awareness. Bill Moyer’s interviewed Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food) on PBS, and a curious piece of mail arrived in my mail box. The mail was from All-America Selections, a horticultural company that in the past has sent me ornamental plants such as new kinds of hydrangeas to try out. Their letter this time began with “Based on recent financial difficulties, it is easy to predict that people will be growing their own food this winter and next spring. whether grown in containers or garden soil, vegetable seed and bedding plant consumption will increase. We need to encourage this trend with practical advice, such as ‘It is as easy to grow a tomato as it is to grow a petunia or marigold.'”
The letter continues with an advertisement for vegetable varieties they are hoping to sell. Well, why not? Michael Pollan mentioned in his interview with Bill Moyers last week that during World War II Eleanor Roosevelt had part of the white house lawn torn up and converted into a “victory garden” a.k.a. vegetable garden. I teach classes at NYBG and BBG on how to grow food even if you don’t have a garden (in community gardens as well as on roof tops, fire escapes, windowsills, and indoors) and attendance has been especially good this year. There is no food more local than what you just picked at home.
Will everyone jump on the homegrown bandwagon? Of course not. Are there a lot of urbanites who might? Yes. Could that make a significant difference economically and environmentally? Yes.
Near the end of WWII, home gardens accounted for nearly 40% of the produce in the U.S.
Do you have a window? A plant pot? Let’s talk…
Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith