One of the things I’ve found myself talking about lately, when asked about my local foods diet, is that it is grounded in community. It’s impossible to eat alone now (even when I do) because I’ve become friendly with so many of the people who grow my food. Even a solitary work night meal feels encircled by an extended “family” of people who contributed to the meal: that is Farmer Ted’s kale on my plate, Nancy’s lamb, the bread was made with Don’s locally grown and milled flour.
But nothing beats actually sitting down to eat with people you care about. In a recent interview on Bill Moyers, Michael Pollan commented that yes, a local diet does require an investment of time, but that food is so important it deserves more than ten minutes shoved into our busy schedules here and there.
What follows is a guest post written by my friend, Miriam Kresh. Miriam is a wonderful cook, forager, and home winemaker who lives in Israel and has a fascinating blog, Israeli Kitchen. I hope you enjoy her beautifully written post as much as I did. I also wish you many wonderful meals this holiday season, whether they are shared with family and friends, or spent appreciating the farmers who grew your food (or both!):
By Miriam Kresh
“It smells good in here,” said a visiting friend.
“I baked applesauce muffins. Here, take one, they’re still warm.”
Her eyes brightened. She chose a muffin with an especially thick cinnamon crumble topping, and took a bite. A look of pleasure spread over her face, and she said, “Where do you find time to do these things?”
I know what she wanted me to say: “I stayed up till late to bake; I baked for stress therapy; I baked at the expense of doing more important things.” But I couldn’t say any of that, because home cooking is one of the more important things.
When people I care for eat my food, they also satisfy a less conscious hunger, one that lives in all of us â€“ the hunger to feel loved. How much am I willing to invest in love? Well, at least the ten minutes it takes to mix up a batch of muffins.
My mother cooked the savory foods of her Latin childhood all her life, and I’ve been eating them all of mine. With the food came her taste and verve, her interest in living and eating well, her sense of color and texture and fun. It was all cooked into dinner. It was an ingredient in the family fare, mixed in with talk, quarrels, jokes. Those dinners glow with the patina of family memories now.
Tonight, having guests, I cooked one of Mom’s recipes, a sumptuous arroz con pollo â€“garlic-scented, saffron-yellow rice, encircling tender pieces of chicken and decorated with green olives. We ate, we poured out wine. Eventually the evening wound up. The guests left, shaking hands and repeating thanks. We washed the dishes, and I took one last look around the kitchen before turning off the light. No one was thinking of food anymore.
Was that all? No. There was more to dinner than that. I know that sometime later in life, someone who ate at my table will look back with nostalgia and say how delicious the meal was, how the room seemed to fill with good cheer as the big platter passed from hand to hand. My food, like my mother’s, will have taken the shape of memories, and memories, being light, travel far into the future.
Simple as a muffin, elaborate as a Latin feast. Even scrambled eggs and toast are special when served by loving hands. Food equals love and memories, you know: some of the important things.
Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith (a local foods memoir and cookbook that would make a great gift…hint, hint)