When Food Becomes More Than Just Food

For most of my post-college life I’ve been into eating healthy, whole-foods. Granted, I’m not perfect and fully admit I enjoy things like fries and pizza, but I’ve tried to purchase natural and organic foods as much as possible.

Several years ago I remember reading an interview with Alicia Silverstone in a magazine (can’t remember which one) and she was talking about eating seasonally.

I rolled my eyes and thought 2 things:
1. Is she for real? She must only eat squash for 5 months of the year. Blech, I need variety!
2. This is probably easy for her because she’s a celebrity and most likely has a personal chef.

{Kilpatrick Family Farm’s Gords and Squash}

Fast forward to now and I can’t imagine eating things like fresh tomatoes or strawberries in February. I know I have to be patient and just wait until they are ready in their proper season and I will enjoy them then, when they taste their absolute best. Do I miss them in the winter? Of course, but eating them in the summer sun, knowing that moment is fleeting, makes the enjoyment so much better.

But you probably already know this.

What has surprised me, more than just getting so comfortable with seasonal eating, is that I actually realize the seasons now! Crazy right? (To be fair, much of my youth was spent in Phoenix where our seasons are “Face of the Sun” or “Hmmm….maybe I should throw on a hoodie.”)

Of course, I realize the noticeable temperature difference, or the fact that winter makes me want to sleep like a grizzly and summer makes me want to run barefoot on grass. However, there are so many other things, important things, I never noticed or realized before.

{Milking one of Chuck Curtiss’ cows at Willow Marsh Farm}

For instance, my whole life I never gave much thought to the foods present at this time of year. Easter brings with it eggs, ham, and lamb. I just assumed this was because of tradition that has been passed from one generation to the next for reasons that never seemed important. In the 2 years that I’ve grown hyper-aware of local food systems I now understand these things are traditions, but for a very important reason.

In the springtime, when days grow longer, chickens begin laying again. Pigs are slaughtered. Lambs are birthed. Ah yes, so this is where all those Easter foods come from! Seriously, how did it take me so long to figure this one out? Even Halloween, my most favorite of holidays, is much more significant to me now when I think of those pumpkins and gourds. I mean, we certainly can’t carve a spooky face on bell pepper; that would be preposterous.

It’s the same for winter foods. All of those root crops and squashes are harvested in fall, and are blessed with the ability to be stored during those cold months when nothing will grow. Those heavy, starchy foods are the perfect accompaniment to those blustery, dark days. Same goes for crisp cucumbers that are enjoyed on the hot, busy days of summer.

{Summer Bounty Pizza: topped w/ homemade pesto, summer squash, red onions, heirloom tomatoes, and homemade garlic confit, and Sweet Spring Farm cheese}

Local food has taught me more than I could ever imagine. Going to the Saratoga market began as a fun Saturday outing, and now its an integral part of my life. What it’s taught me and shown me have truly changed how I look at my life as a whole. The fact I can actually recognize the significance of seasons and appreciate them with great fervor makes me giddy. This is why I am so passionate about teaching others about eating locally and understanding seasonal eating. It really can be more than just food, if you let it.


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Kimberly says:

    Yes! It’s been a funny change for me, too. I learned so much from the organic farm close by as I spent so much time there one year that it all began to make sense. And I haven’t bought a tomato since the farmers market last fall. Now we have our own farm and can’t wait to dig in!

  2. Jax says:

    Taking apart in a CSA kinda forces me into eating seasonally, and I love it. A tomato in February *bleck*, but the wait makes it that much sweeter. I hope to can or preserve a lot more seasonal goodies this year to enjoy off-season.

  3. That pizza looks amazing. Can’t wait until our tomatoes and basil start growing!

  4. Kris says:

    Great post! I felt the same way, when I started hearing about the 100 mile diet and such. I’m far from perfect with my eating habits now, but eating local, in-season produce is much easier than I initially thought.
    (And, I love your descriptions of the seasons – I’m definitely ready to run barefoot on the grass.)

  5. Erika T. says:

    Thank you for all the nice comments. I’m certainly no where close to being as strictly local as someone like Joel Salatin is, but I’m definitely a lot better than I was 2 years ago. Sadly, my crippling coffee addiction is not eco-friendly at all.

    I’m thinking of doing a 1 week market only eating challenge this summer so stay tuned for that.

  6. Missy says:

    Jax yes can! and freeze! The last few nights we have been going through our tomatoes and it feels so good when we are soo very anxious to get things growing to enjoy last years harvest!
    Erika I am super excited to see your 1 week market challenge! Great place for folks to start! We have been talking about it in our home as well and are actually going to be canning our harvest a bit more processed this year so we have spagetti sauces and pestos etc. all done and prepared so that temptation to pick up store bought things on the fly does not come into play! Great read 🙂 I just this blog recent. and am enjoying following along!

  7. Erika says:

    Missy, glad you found us! 🙂

  8. dear erika, please invite me over to your house and make me that pizza. i will totes help whilst felix and jack reunite/wrestle/share/fight.

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