Eat What is Put Before You

So many things go wrong in stories when someone craves something they cannot have. Adam and Eve; Rapunzel’s mother; Aphrodite’s golden apples. (Even that forbidden radish – Rapunzel means radish – is round and red.)

roast potato wedges and stuffed squash

We have a surfeit of apples. We have plenty of turnips (rutabagas if you prefer), onions, potatoes and carrots. All are local. I have beans, beans, and more beans in the freezer, and a few pickled. I had enough radishes at the end of the season to make radish relish. Local food, and while some of it wasn’t magazine photo pretty, there is lots of it. The apples were bought in 30-40 pound bags for $10 a bag, labelled “deer apples,” which are people apples, cooked, and the not so nice ones are goat apples, and a little treat for the chickens to peck at. There is lettuce and tomatoes and oranges, melons and pineapples and celery in the markets, but they have flown in from far away places, and are as expensive and delicate as peacocks at the north pole.

Local supermarkets advertise massive bags of produce from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia as incentives for us to come and buy not only the cheap raw vegetables, but linger long enough for the bakery products, the tiny cups of convenience fruit, the steamed mashed, extruded and lard-coated novelty oven fries. I load the buggy with the raw goods, lots of them, and after paying a pittance compared to the name brand boutique food, heft them into the bed of the pick-up. I sort through them at home, cooking, canning, freezing, saving. My refrigerator is mostly winter produce and flour.

If we ate the way advertised on television or in magazines, we would have no money left for rent. As it is, we get by each month by judicious planning and cooking from scratch. Real scratchy cooking – with the dirt still on. I don’t remember when I filled a grocery buggy (cart or trolley, if you prefer) with the brightly coloured plastic wrapped convenience or gourmet foods. Our generic brands in the biggest supermarket chain are in bright yellow wrappers with black lettering, and that’s as colourful as it gets when I am buying oatmeal or flour.

We eat baked beans and lentil soup, made  out of the jars of dried legumes I keep. Our bread is baked in-house, and often in the wood-burning stove. It’s also the best place for baked beans in the stoneware pot, slowly steamed in their molassy sauce. We don’t get take-out or eat in restaurants; both the budget and my dietary restrictions prohibit that. I don’t miss it, and my taste is for much less salt than is used in commercial cooking.

I used to think that locavore, slow-food eating would be way too expensive – and it was when I had to have fresh cherry tomatoes in January, and lettuce for a salad. That had to come from greenhouses, heated and cosseted, and shipped by special truck to special stores. What did my ancestors eat all winter? Potatoes, turnips, dried beans and oatmeal. Cabbage. Apples.

Sometimes it seems monotonous, especially when it’s toward the end of the month, the bills are paid, and the bank account rattles when shaken with the few coins left. The sustaining part is that we do have food, and we are willing to be satisfied with it. Yes, the last couple of days before the next cheque, we have eggs, potatoes and carrots for a couple of meals, or the closest thing to meat we can manage is some frozen broth heated with a potato and some beans, augmented with homemade noodles, but it is satisfyingly real food.

vegetable meal