Food is such a huge part of defining our culture. It also has much to do with how we structure our economy. If you eat fast food or convenience foods often, you’re voting to support one kind of culture.
I have a peculiar way of dealing with stress: I cook.
Last week involved a lot of long hours, so when the weekend arrived, I fled to my kitchen sanctuary where I began cooking like a great-grandma.
I have always found spending time in the kitchen soothing, and back in the days when I didn’t work outside the home, I made absolutely everything from scratch, partly because we couldn’t afford any other option.
Nowadays, I cook for other reasons. While I’m lucky to have time to boil a pot of pasta during the week, I love to do everything the old-fashion way on weekends: whole wheat French bread, vegetarian vegetable soup for the vegetarian in the house, vegetable beef soup for the carnivore, cultured butter (a 36-hour undertaking) to go on the bread, Greek yogurt and mozzarella cheese –– it took 30 minutes to make the cheese and form it into an artful braid, and then it took two skinny teenage boys less than five minutes to finish the entire pound.
Who makes cheese these days? Who makes slow-rise bread, making extra effort to steam it as it bakes to get as close as possible to a European crust? Who, for that matter, even bothers to make soup? Don’t I have better ways to spend my time than chopping veggies and rolling out noodles?
Actually, no. I firmly believe that we have lost more than the ability to feed ourselves. We have handed to large food corporations far too much power to decide what we will eat, and it’s a very sorry thing for us. Food is such a huge part of defining our culture. It also has much to do with how we structure our economy.
If you eat fast food or convenience foods often, you’re voting to support one kind of culture and a particular segment of our economy. When you buy basic ingredients and make a dish that’s traditional in your family, you are supporting quite a different kind of culture and quite a different part of our economy.
I bought the milk I used to make my home-crafted dairy goods from a regional organic dairy via a local farmers market. I got the potatoes that went into the soup from the same place. The eggs I cooked for breakfast and boiled for a salad came from free-range chickens raised not far from here. I would buy more locally produced foods if I could find them.
There are slow-food and local-food movements afoot. While I can’t manage to cook the slow way during the week, I do what I can when I can.
It’s my hope that as more people recognize the value of cutting our consumption of oil by eating local foods in season, rather than living on food shipped in from around the world, it will be financially worthwhile to more area farmers to expand their local offerings.
I’ll do my part to support them as much as I can, especially when more items are available during the summer. It’s good for the local economy, good for the environment, good for my health and good for my stress levels. How often can you make a choice that does all those things and tastes good, as well? You may or may not feel like taking up cheese making, but you could start buying cheese made locally.
It isn’t only about the stress relief. I also enjoy feeding good food to those I love, and I enjoy the creative aspect. Anne Morrow Lindbergh famously said, “When I cannot write a poem, I bake biscuits and feel just as pleased.”
Would that I could offer each reader one of my biscuits made light by the addition of my secret ingredient (don’t tell, it’s yogurt), but you get this column instead.
Editor Michelle Teheux may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.