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Volume 16, Issue 45 - November 6 - November 12, 2008
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Bay Reflections

Thanksgiving for Eating Well

For 26 weeks, we’ve feasted on fresh, local food

by Margaret Tearman

The first freeze arrived October 31, hours before the dawn of the Day of the Dead.

The growing season has ended, leaving me looking for a way to continue to eat locally, seasonally and organically, a mission I began last spring.

For the past 26 weeks, our CSA farm provided us with organic, local produce. Sorting through our weekly box was like Christmas: What goodies did we get?

And we got plenty: familiar veggies like salad greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, beans and cauliflower. I was also introduced to strangers: beet greens, snow eggplant, Asian braising mix and baby bok choy.

Adding to our CSA booty, I shopped farm stands and markets for local melons, berries, peaches and whatever else caught my eye.

I raided friend’s fig trees and happily accepted tomatoes and peppers from neighbors with too-big gardens.

It wasn’t always easy to plan meals around seasonal food. After years of shopping in huge chain stores and buying whatever sounded good, I was challenged to plan meals around what was in season now. Out of necessity sprang creative recipes. Most were delicious; others not so.

It was a new way of eating, but one we enthusiastically adopted.

As much as we loved the bounty from the fields, I had to shop beyond our CSA share and farm stands. We needed dairy and protein.

We ate little meat, as I refused to buy corn-fed, drugged-up, mass-butchered meat. Whole Foods sells free range, antibiotic-free meat, but none of their helpful employees could guarantee it is locally raised.

I was in a chain market, buying non-food staples, when I glimpsed the baby back ribs. Oh, yum, my stomach growled. I looked around for familiar faces. Seeing nobody who could rat on me, I grabbed the contraband and threw it into my cart. The crushing guilt hit immediately.

I put the ribs back on the shelf. Then I thought, we’ve earned this cheat, and tossed them back into my cart. It went on like that for several minutes — in the cart, back out, in again — until a fellow shopper interrupted my rhythmic guilt trip: Excuse me, but what in the hell are you doing?

Buying those ribs was like cheating on a diet that had, until then, been going swimmingly.

Laughing, the man chided me to Do it lady. Do it. Do it for your family.

I did.

Unloading groceries in the privacy of our kitchen, my protein starved husband let out a yelp of joy when he spied those little piggy ribs.

Since then, I have found, with the help of like-minded friends, several Maryland farmers who raise grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef, pork and poultry, satisfying our need for animal protein.

I’ve also joined an organic co-op headquartered in southeastern Virginia, from which I buy bulk Amish cheese, butter, chicken and basics like unbleached sugar, flour and dried fruit. My order is delivered monthly to Dunkirk.

We have not forsaken everything outside of our 100-mile radius. I continue to buy — guilt free — staples like coffee beans, olive oil, vanilla, citrus juice, rice — and tequila. I also buy national brand organic milk and cream rather than direct from dairy farmers, but only because I haven’t found any within reasonable distance.

Of course these items will be available through winter, but fresh fruit and vegetables will not.

To prepare for winter, I froze beans, squash, peppers and tomatoes. I made jam from peaches and figs. I pickled beets and dried herbs.

I preserved a lot, but I fear not enough to carry us to spring. My husband fears scurvy as he visualizes scant meals, lean on nutrition.

I don’t know what I’ll do when my reserves are gone. But I do know the challenges have paid off. Nothing can beat the taste and nutrition of food fresh from a chemical-free field. We are already anticipating freshly picked spring lettuce, juicy tomatoes and sweet summer peaches. We will have a hard time accepting anything less.

But winter is long, and my tune may change.

Check back with me in the spring and I’ll let you know how we did.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.