Where does your food come from? Can you pinpoint the farm, the orchard, the bakery where the food in your home originated? Most of us cannot. The longstanding human tradition of growing and harvesting one’s own food has suffered a slow and gradual death over the course of the last 100 years. Industrialization, urbanization and the growing demand for convenience in a culture that increasingly prefers speed to careful preparation has resulted in detachment – from our surroundings, from each other and from our food. Only those of us who make the considered effort to be conscious of this divide will regain some semblance of that connection.
There are ways to recapture it. There are steps you can take to reverse – at least on a personal level – the effects of our convenience culture. The catch is that it takes effort.
1. Source your food locally: It may sound pretentious, but after an afternoon of careful research, just about anyone can locate at least a few organizations, shops and vendors that prepare and sell local produce in the neighbourhood. Not all of your food has to be organic or local, but knowing that you are supporting farmers and local businesses will not only reconnect you to your immediate surroundings, your enjoyment of the taste and quality of the food will increase.
2. Avoid canned food: The process of canning food is 200 years-old and certainly not everything that comes in a can is terrible. However, the nutrients in canned food are substantially diminished. The flavour, colour and texture may also suffer in the canning process. Canned foods also contain large amounts of sodium to preserve it. Keep things as fresh as possible by buying fruit and vegetables that are in season.
3. Learn how to cook: Yes, I know, more effort! But the rewards will make it worth your while. If you don’t know how to cook, invest in learning. A world of flavor and choice will reveal itself to you! Start by identifying your favourite meals and learn how to make those first. Stock up on a few cookbooks that stress fresh ingredients and simple processes or enroll in a cooking class. Cooking with friends and family is fun and will help you feel supported as you learn your way around the kitchen. With confidence and comfort comes an increased urge for culinary experimentation and adventure! Your palette (and your friends) will thank you!
4. Harvest your own: Two or three times a year, make a point of visiting a farm or an orchard to harvest your own food, whether it’s strawberries in June or apples in September. It’s a great outing and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing exactly where the apples in your pie came from – down to the very branch on the tree! Taking a break from city life and selecting the food you will be eating from its growing plot is an exercise in rejuvenation and comfort. You are also directly supporting the growers.
5. Start a garden: If you become a true harvest junkie, you may want to start your own garden. Any backyard with partial sun can sustain a vegetable garden. No land to call your own? Try your balcony! Tomatoes do very well in pots, as does lettuce and cabbage. No balcony? Find a community garden where you can potentially rent a small plot to plant tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and carrots. Garden with a friend, a neighbor or a group of colleagues if you’d rather not go it alone. FoodShare Ontario has a great list of resources for the province.
Below are photos by Jessica Hodgson, a friend of mine from Ottawa. She and her partner Brendan recently went apple picking at The Orleans Fruit Farm.