It seems oddly familiar to be living out in the country. Yes, I was raised in the suburbs of Chicago, but I spent my summers up north of there in Door County Wisconsin. I spent my days playing in the woods or digging in the sand on the beach. We had no television or telephone for years. There were no large grocery stores nearby, just a little country store in town. We didn’t fully understand how truly fortunate we were to be feasting on local meats and produce. I remember regular trips to the fruit/vegetable stand along the highway. We ate what was in season, not because it was trendy, but because it was all that was available. Our beef, pork and chicken came from Viola’s store in our little town of Jacksonport. Her husband would butcher (yes, I said butcher, not “process” which is the newer, more politically correct way of saying it) the cows and then bring them to town to age in what was at one time a gas station. I clearly remember putting my face to the glass garage doors and being horrified by the hunks of meat hanging to age. As grossed out as I was, I still savored every bite of the sirloin steak that was purchased and brought home in white paper wrapping.
So that was my introduction to “real” food. I have realized, though, that over the years, I have become desensitized to pure flavors. I’ve grown accustomed to the watered down, tasteless produce that is available in most grocery stores. I am also used to eating produce out of season……berries in the dead of winter, summer squash in March.
During our first year of growing our own crops and I did a 180. My taste buds have been thrown back in time to when a strawberry really tasted like a strawberry; deep red in color, with the sweetest juice that runs down your chin. Early this past summer, Steve, who has never been a big fan of berries, could be found picking strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries right from the bush and popping them in his mouth. Heavenly.
Walking out to the fields with my basket in hand, I feel a sense of history and wholesomeness. I am walking out, like so many generations before me, to gather the bounty that has grown from the seeds we put into the soil. I know that there are no pesticides or other chemicals to wash off before eating. And as I sit down to yet another meal of colorful fruits and vegetables I feel proud and nostalgic. I created the feast from start to finish. I wonder if those who occupied this land hundreds of years ago felt the same way.