Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I like dirty food.

Years and years ago I held a joint party for my two oldest kids 3rd and 2nd birthday. At the time, I was part of an organic CSA and had been delivered a box of food I was using to make a salad for our guests. I remember this distinctly as a turning point in my food views. I can still recall the tiny rectangular kitchen that had the best pantry I've ever used and the worst lighting, the little window that overlooked the front stoop and the pass through on the opposite side which housed a bar sink for no apparent reason. Out of every apartment I lived in I think I liked that one the best.

My mom was helping me get dishes ready while everyone mingled and the little kids played on the back screened porch in a blow up pool. It was a hot Florida June and the lettuces were huge. I took the romaine out of the box and a bug scurried out from under the bright green leaves.

The reaction from my mother was seared into my brain then and there. "Ewwww! There's a bug in it!" At that moment I realized that I had been conditioned to approve only sterilized food. Food that was ladened with pesticides and herbicides; fungacides and chemical fertlizers. Any of the above chemicals damaging cells to the point that smaller life forms died. Slowly poisioning our larger bodies. I remember replying along the lines of "Why would I want to eat food that would kill other things that ate it?"

My mother grew up on a piece of land in the sticks of New Hampshire that had an adjoining plot of fruits and vegetables. I grew up there too. As a child I would walk the field with my grandmother, gorge myself of sunkissed raspberries and sneak peeks into the dug out cold cellar -where I was not allowed- that held the secret delights of my grandma's canned foods. Then there was that time when my grandpa hung a gutted buck in the backyard. The contrast of crimson slashed through the downy brown I will never forget. The fur swayed in the night air as he hung by his back legs. I consoled the mounted deer head in the livingroom later, promising that I'd free him one day.

Our food came from the land. She grew up with the dirt, sweat and blood of farm life. I wonder when it become a purified experience for her? For me?

Lately, I've been finding that innocuous scene from a kitchen past rolling through my head. Such a short, simple phrase has had an enormous impact on my life and I find myself uttering the same question I gave in reply:

Why would I want to consume a food that would kill something else that ate it?

Every time I silently answer myself, I don't. And I can't fathom why anyone else would either.

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