Fresh Table Experiment, Round #2
*drags over his soapbox*
*taps the mic*
Is this thing on? I’m here all week. Try the swordfish. Don’t forget to tip your waitstaff.
Today marks the start of farmers’ market season.
Which means, it’s time to get a little preachy and pretentious. Hey, at least I know it. And you’re going to suffer through it. Because you love me. And because if you avert your gaze from this blog, that metal collar around your neck will start beeping faster and faster. You have 30 seconds to continue reading. If you fail to reorient your eyes to to my blog post, well, let’s just say that collar is loaded with enough C4 to turn a city bus into an inhalable substance. Mm-hmm. That’s right. Swing those eyes right back over here, pardner. There you go.
I appreciate your loyalty.
Now, let’s talk about food.
The first day of farmers’ market season for me feels like the first day the amusement park opens. This is the ritual: wife and I go. We buy vegetables not from pretentious local buyers, but from people who look like farmers. We pay a lot less than we do at the grocery store, and we buy vegetables that come from a place within ten miles of where we are standing. Then we buy other stuff as we need it: jams from local folk, honey from the local apiary, meats from the local butcher, and so on and so forth. And then we have breakfast. We buy pastries. Or, if he’s there, we say, “Fuck it,” and we buy a sausage sandwich with peppers and onions from the sausage sandwich guy. And then we go and sit on one of the nearby picnic tables and watch the market and read the awesome profanity kids have scrawled into the table’s wood.
This first farmers’ market thereby begins the first day of the Fresh Table Experiment, Round Two.
In case you missed last year’s explanation, I’ll go over it again. The experiment was this: I say “go suck a dick” to the grocery chains and I shop semi-exclusively at local food institutions. Farmers’ markets, yes. Local farms, yes. Local butchers, ayup. Local bakers, sho’ nuff. Now, this has its limits. Some things I can’t buy locally. Honey, yes. Soy sauce, no. Some things I could probably make (chili-garlic sauce), but hell with that, I want my Sriracha. So, those kinds of things I get at chain places because I don’t have much choice.
That means I end up at the grocery store or Target buying food maybe once a month.
The rest is pure locavore behavior.
This isn’t about eating organically, really — “organic” as a term no longer means much thanks to the lobbyists of Big Food.
It’s about eating food. And it’s about supporting the local economy.
When I say, “It’s about eating food,” what I mean is, a lot of the garbage we funnel into our greasy mouths isn’t food, per se. It’s close to food. It’s food-plus. It’s food science. It starts with a food product and then ladles atop it a world of fake flavoring, a swamp of corn-based products, a smattering of sweetness, a heap of preservatives. Now, I’m no “back to nature” type — I love the conveniences of modern life. I’m also not anti-science. And, in fact, science says that eating all this shit is pretty fucking awful for your body.
Sure, High Fructose Corn Syrup is just sugar, right? It’s all good.
Except, maybe, just maybe, because America subsidizes the unholy hell out of corn, that’s what the Big Food Lobby wants you to believe.
Maybe, just maybe, other countries say, “Hey, this shit actually hurts our kids.”
Maybe some say, “Hey, this shit causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”
Could even be that HFCS has the potential to damage the metabolic process and some might conclude, “Wow, this is probably part of the reason we’re all fat and dying from the diabeedus.”
HFCS isn’t the only problem. We’re not just addicted to oil in this country. We’re addicted to fucking corn. (Er, we’re not addicted to having sex with corn. I mean, I guess metaphorically? CORN SEX SO HOT)
Or, hell, look at the ingredient list on any processed foods. Like, say, Cool Whip. Newsflash: you can make your own whipped cream super holy shit easy. You do not need to ingest things that are unpronounceable and flammable. (And you don’t need to ingest sexual lubricants, either, like Polysorbate 60! “More Astroglide with your dessert, sir? Ma’am?”)
To me, the logic behind not eating processed foods is easy: food is good, but food that is made to do things food’s not supposed to do is less than good. The more you put between food and your body, the harder is is for your body to actually process the things it needs to process. Your body is made to eat, digest, process and utilize food. It is not made to eat, digest, process and utilize food science.
You eat at a farmers’ market, you significantly increase the actual food you put into your body.
You eat at the grocery store, you make it a lot harder to do that.
At the farmers’ market, you have no intermediary, no third party. You have that farmer guy. You talk to him. You say, “What the hell is this?” And he says, “I grew it this morning.”
You go to the grocery store, you suffer a lot of separation from you and the food. Shipping. Packing. The store itself. The food conglomerate that produced that food. The food conglomerate that made the science behind that food. Who are you going to ask? You going to ask a question of that mopey, slack-jawed, mule-kicked lackwit who’s forever mopping up the spill from a broken pickle jar? You think he knows jack shit about what’s in those taco shells you just bought? The grocery store is just renting shelf space. They don’t give a rat’s right foot what you put in your body.
Plus, supporting your local economy is a good thing.
I’d much rather give five bucks to a guy who lives down the street or two towns over than some fat-cat food executive playing golf in his lunar colony. Fuck that dick.
In terms of food, I spend less money on farmers’ market expenditures than I do on grocery trips. So, I save money. And, all last summer I felt a helluva lot better. Farmers’ market eating coupled with daily walks lost me about 15 pounds (weight I have almost entirely put back on over the winter despite having a new gym membership that, yes, does get used).
Lighter belly, heavier wallet? Sounds like a check mark in the “win” column.
So, here’s the deal.
Last year, I did this.
This year, I want you to try it.
Even if you don’t go whole hog (pun not intended until now), try it out.
Give the middle finger to your local grocery beast.
Shake hands with a farmer, and buy what the guy is offering, and put that food into your body.
Accept the challenge of seasonal food. Enjoy local-grown meats and veggies and fruits. You want a pie, buy one from a guy who just made it an hour ago. Just try it. See if you feel better.
No moral mandate or anything — unless you have kids, at which point I’d say, have you looked at the stuff you’re putting into your kid’s body? I’m just putting that out there. When you put another life into it, the moral obligation narrows a little, doesn’t it?
I’m gonna be over here doing it. And the other great thing about farmers’ market eating is that I learn a lot of new recipes by necessity — you buy what’s there, you suddenly have to figure out what to do with it. I’ll post the results as I find them. Maybe you’ll care to do the same?
One other mandate.
(You thought you could walk away, didn’t you? Didn’t you hear the collar beeping? Get back here.)
Try new food.
Seriously. We finally found a Vietnamese place in the Lehigh Valley (Little Saigon in Allentown), and there I had the “Pho Deluxe,” a noodle soup with a ton of beef cuts I didn’t recognize (tendon, navel, and something called “omosa”). Well, omosa is tripe. And tripe is intestine. Cow guts.
White, fringy cow guts, cut to look like the noodles in the soup.
Hot damn! Delicious. I once said I’d never really be willing to stomach tripe (pun not intended until now). Never thought I’d try it except, there it was, and I didn’t know what it was, and I put it into my mouth, and it was fantastic. As Bourdain puts it, a “textural Disneyland.” Not chewy, but pleasantly firm, and carrying a subtle beef flavor. Very nicely done, Little Saigon.
See, I’d rather eat fresh cow guts than whipped cream made from sex lube.
I’m just saying.
So, join me in this weird experiment? See how you feel after a couple months.
A couple resources to get you going:
Local Harvest is a really good way to find local markets, butchers, farms, CSAs, etc.
In fact, this whole list from Michael Pollan (whose books you should read) is a nicely comprehensive list to get you going.
Check it out. Try it out.
Don’t make the collar go boom.
*steps off his soapbox*
*heads to the Saucon Valley Farmers’ Market*