A Year Unchained.
A passing idea, a fleeting thought…profoundly changes everything!
I was pretty naïve about what it truly meant to give up my dependence on the grocery store. Like many moms, I visited Kroger or Publix multiple times a week before the challenge began. I wasn’t thoroughly prepared to undertake a year without the grocery store. I didn’t plant a fall garden last year to pull us through the winter months, which seemed to never end, and I didn’t have a freezer stocked with an abundance of food. Those freezing months were by far the hardest. Finding local winter vegetables when farmers were enduring harsh growing conditions was tough…the learning curve was extremely steep. However, I had both feet in with fresh enthusiasm ushered in by a bright new year.
The lessons I’ve learned from gardening, cooking and most of all balancing are tremendous. Why didn’t I plant more onions…more jalapenos….succession plant more?! All invaluable lessons! This simple act of eating locally is now routine. I don’t think of making a heaping salad of crisp, buttery lettuce in summer….I live in Tennessee, where spring rain turns into scorching heat in a matter of weeks leaving lettuce wilted and bitter. I’ve learned to adapt well to this way of eating for my region. I savor the first shoots of asparagus that emerge in spring with unbelievable anticipation. That is how the food that we nourish our bodies with should be enjoyed…in it’s season, at the peak of its freshness…exactly how it was intended to be eaten.
A bright tomato plucked off the vine, still warm from the summer sun, which spills it’s smoky flavor onto fresh bread with homemade mayo is pretty much perfection to me. My mouth is watering, guys! This could never compare to a tomato grown in a greenhouse and harvested while stiff and green in January. There is joy in the anticipation….that concept I completely grasp now, like never before. How did that happen? How did we forget how to eat? How to truly enjoy fresh food? How to wait for the best things? Watching my kids taste the first perfectly ripe strawberry that they just pulled from its vine is one of those special memories I’ll cherish. I watched them savor it in a whole new way. They now know the effort it takes to grow them organically. They know you’ll need netting to keep away the birds. They know that hens LOVE over-ripe strawberries because they talked to the farmer…this was the best part of the journey..
We are driven to reach for easy…fast…efficient, but we bypass the beauty in the slow process. The smell of yeast rising a fresh loaf of bread, the sound that cream makes against a mason jar as it changes from a liquid to a creamy golden butter and cheese….Oh cheese…An undiscovered passion! I would have never uncovered the love of stretching warm cheese between my hands and the satisfaction of homemade mozzarella bubbling on fresh pizza.
So you may be wondering…where do we go from here?
Well, back to the grocery store…in moderation. My previously expansive grocery list won’t return, but there are specific items that we’ve desperately missed and will pick up regularly once again:
In order of importance:
1. Avocados – I’ve dreamed of you…I can’t wait!
2. Bananas – There are no words. I have lived where bananas are pulled off the tree in the hundreds. I miss them!
3. Wild caught Salmon – This was HARD. We used to eat salmon a few times a week. Our first dinner of the new year!
4. Coconut Milk – Nothing makes soup creamy and delicious like coconut milk. Vietnamese curry was a staple meal in our home.
5. Hot Sauce – We plowed through all the jalapenos that I grew with lightening speed. We like it spicy.
I still have a beautiful variety of food growing with our unseasonably warm weather. I’ll still focus on eating what I preserved and what is seasonally growing. I’ll continue to purchase produce/meat/dairy from the local farmers that I know and whose products I love. This has forever changed my view of food and what is necessary. What I didn’t miss this year, processed food…even homemade ketchup is better. Small changes, friends. Grow a few tomato plants this year…add a basil plant…your house will smell unbelievable as those flavors simmer together for sauce in your stockpot. Simple. Attend a farmer’s market during the summer months. Community. Sharing. There is beauty in simple.
I want to inspire you on the dawn of a new year. I’ve placed my food dollars in the hands of those whose backs ache from cultivating, whose fingers are worn and rough…I want that. They deserve that. It is hard work to grow whole, real food. Why do we cheapen that? We should have more local markets, more farmers and more citizens standing up for what they nourish their family with. You should know who grows that unique watermelon that your kids adore. Who tends to the chickens whose eggs make your breakfast complete? Friends, let’s close the loop.
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Let’s make 2016 amazing. Support your local farmer’s. It will change your health and your life!
Please visit the Community Resource Guide for some of my favorite local businesses!
Happy New Year!
The Syner Family