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Devouring a wonderful new book

"How did supermarket vegetables lose their palatability, with so many people right there watching? The Case of the Murdered Flavor was a contract killing, as it turns out, and long-distance travel lies at the heart of the plot. The odd notion of transporting fragile produce dates back to the early twentieth century when a few entrepreneurs tried shipping lettuce and artichokes, iced down in boxcars, from California eastward over the mountains as a midwinter novelty. Some wealthy folks were charmed by the idea of serving out-of-season (and absurdly expensive) produce items to their dinner guests. It remained little more than an expensive party trick until mid-century, when most fruits and vegetables consumed in North America were still being produced on nearby farms....Then fashion and marketing got involved...In just a few decades, the out-of-season vegetable moved from novelty status to such an ordinary item, most North Americans now don't know what out-of-season means."
-from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (p.48)

My goal of going green gradually has changed my way of looking at so many different things, including my househole chores, the food I eat, the hobbies I play in, and the books I read. I finally picked up my copy of this great book by one of my favorite authors (I've read all of her fiction, but this is my first time reading her non-fiction) at the Portland, Oregon Saturday farmer's market. This is really changing my thinking, probably for good. I've long lamented to my husband about the lack of taste in certain fruits and veggies bought from conventional markets, and I'm learning why that is...and why those fruit that are picked well before they are ripe never seem to ripen well, and how 98% of the seeds for our food supply comes from just 6 companies (eesh!), and lots of other super interesting things...this book is chockful of goodness!

Many months ago, my husband and I decided we would like to have some acreage of our own. Not much, just enough. Enough to plant our own garden and as many fruit trees as possible. Enough to be able to learn from our mistakes and try out new things. My foray into composting this year is just the beginning, I hope, of a lifelong learning process. It is exciting to think about. I keep my ears open for hints and tips that will come in handy in the future. We will learn much more about companion plants, ideal crop rotation, and nature's best pesticide (no chemicals please! - I remember a college roommate keeping capfuls of beer near her little herb garden to keep the slugs away...) Maybe I can even learn about canning this year, as we have a nectarine tree that delivers the sweetest nectarines I've ever tasted...almost all at once. When we return to our home after this lovely little trip, we will check to see how much longer until the nectarines are ripe, and I will start planning a canning spree around subsequent summer vacation time.

My interest is especially perked as I read in this lovely book about heirlooms vegetable varieties (there is a lot more than just heirloom tomatoes) - you know how I am about all things history...well, imagine getting to taste history! It's so exciting to think about growing vegetables, living things, that are almost extinct (almost a Jurassic Park quality about it, only more natural) I'm so looking forward to one day growing some heirloom varieties of vegetables, so excited to see how they taste! I told my hubby we would definitely do that someday, but that we should probably get some practice first so we don't waste precious heirloom seeds on our learning curve...

I am so excited to be reading this book, so excited to be learning about the food we eat, about how it's not just important to eat organically, but maybe even just as important (if not more) to eat locally. I am learning about alternative possibilities, and picking up little hints, tips and tricks from neighbors, friends and other blogs.

It is so interesting and wonderful where life leads.


Anonymous said...

you are exactly where I stood when i read this book, probably about two years ago.

i loved it as much as her fiction.

may i recommend the book "Plenty" by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon. it's another great eat local book.

i'm sorry i didn't get back to your comment on my blog the other day. it's been a little hectic and i was very glad to hear from you.

this is a wonderful journey and i'm so happy about all the things i am learning as well about our food supplies.

we canned our first strawberry jam this year and that in itself was worth a million!

good luck with your planting, may you have bountiful success!

leaning apple mama said...

today was the first time i came to your blog...love this post!! i love that book and all other written about food and providing for oneself!! we try to grow as much of our own food as possible!! it is a sweet sweet thing to look at your plate and recognize all the food as your own!

gardenmama said...

So lovely to hear of your journey Genny!
I also enjoyed this book!
I was excited to read about your interest in heirloom gardening!!! For so many important reasons I am in love with heirloom varieties and for one reason like you, is the history behind them. I love thinking about the past generations whose gardens these seeds have come from... the varieties that were available so many many years ago that have been replaced by a fake and cheap 'substitute' not unlike many 'things' of today...
I like to think of heirloom seeds/plants as the 'antiques' of the garden. Have fun in finding the magic from growing from seed!

nicola said...

i have this out from the library just now and hope to read a little during this long weekend, but book time has been slim lately, so i requested it on CD! way to multi-task sewing AND soaking this book in!

Lisa said...

Hi Genny! Check out http://www.seedsavers.org/

I went to their summer conference back in the mid-90s; it was a wonderful trip. Wish I could go again . . . just looked at the website to get the link.

Funny how you live in the city but are doing so much of the gardening, mommying, and simple living I wish I were doing, and I live in a remote Alaskan village but my time is taken up by city management, (primarily utility and fuel management) when I'm not working full time or helping out with the family grocery store selling mostly superfluous stuff (like pop) shipped from way too far away. I miss the woods, and my kids!! Your blog is a reminder that living simply is a state of being independent of where one lives. Thanks for writing.

Michelle said...

Hi Genny!
I'm delighted to hear that you are reading this book (I read it last spring during the bedrest months & couldn't wait to get my hands dirty!)and taking so many steps in keeping these wonderful traditions alive!

Not sure if you got to the chicken section yet, but beware...it's very inspiring (and how we finally got ours :-). We live on less than an acre & have 9 hens, so they really don't require a ton of space. You could get 1 or 2 and have plenty of eggs AND a lot of fun!

Have you ever checked out "Little Homestead in the City?" http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/

What they do is amazing and on less than 1/4 of one acre!

Wishing you many blessings on your journey!!

The Well-Rounded Child said...

Many of us are in the same place you are--wondering how we can live a little greener, be less dependent on big agribusiness to provide for our families, and improve the quality of the foods we eat.

I just watched Killer at Large and The Beautiful Truth, both are documentaries that touch on health and wellness (or the lack thereof!). If you have the time to watch them (I watched them on netflix), I encourage you to do so. My husband and I, as a result of those movies, are embarking upon a mostly vegan diet. It will be an interesting shift for us!