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The Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs of Conscious Eating

New column focuses on seasonal fare.

You can learn just about all you’d want to know about a person’s relationship with food by stepping into her or his kitchen. If the stove and counters are mostly cleared off and crumb-free, if there are dishes drying somewhere beside the sink, and you see no sign of a spatula, colander, or nearly-depleted vessel of olive oil, you can pretty well assume there’s an outside source of nourishment sustaining this someone. To be sure, you can always open up the fridge.

The kitchen I reside in is not so tidy. It currently features an unwashed cast iron skillet, an assortment of peculiar-looking tomatoes, dishtowels tossed here and there, a bucket of blueberries, and a teetering tower of cutting boards, bowls, and kitchen tools set to dry in a dish-rack. This is a farm kitchen, and its scenery changes right along with the seasons. Whatever edible wonders are growing outside will ultimately make their way into this space and onto our plates.

At this time of year, in particular, my kitchen is both a blessing and a curse. It has the tendency to hold me hostage while I feebly attempt to utilize excessive amounts of things like squash and basil. (I am, in fact, stringing and snapping beans right now as I think of what to type next.) There are spring beets, turnips and green garlic still waiting to be washed and consumed, and though we managed to make several jars of sauerkraut, there are at least a dozen more heads of cabbage in the barn fridge. In a nutshell, there’s always work to be done.

It's not always easy for our children, either. My son, for instance, doesn’t have lettuce for his sandwiches because, well, it’s too hot for lettuce now and his mother cannot bear to purchase any from the store when she was looking out over a field full of the stuff mere weeks ago. If the kids want eggs for breakfast and there are none inside, they may have to make a trek to the coop. And there will be no strawberry shortcake in February unless our greenhouse berries wow us as they did two years ago and pop out mid-winter. A farm kitchen is, like it or not, as much about principles as it is about peas.

Fortunately for us, much of the Athens community understands this and thus supports local farms such as ours. Many of you are also avid gardeners. Since it can be a challenge to know just what to do with the goodies that end up in your sink, and since I’ll be in the kitchen anyway, I thought I’d share with you whatever I’m cooking up as inspiration.

If your kitchen looks much like what I described in the first paragraph and you’re not completely content with keeping it that way (in other words, you want to use it), I hope you’ll revisit this column, because I have plenty of food for thought to share, as well. As an introduction to the hows and whys of eating seasonally and locally, get your hands on a copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” It is truly a must-read, and a gem of a book, at that.

Next week: What to do with all that basil.

Becky June 17, 2011 at 03:18 PM
Your lettuce comment made me laugh. I've been sending lettuce-free sandwiches to day camp and trying to convince myself to buy some. I'll stay tuned - and if you have any advice on finding time to pick all the blueberries, please share!
Jenn June 17, 2011 at 03:42 PM
Who needs lettuce this time of year when there are cucumbers! And a million varieties of cabbage salad to be made. And the first few tomatoes ripening on the vines. As long as I leave a few cherry tomatoes on the plant for my daughter to hunt out, she's happy. This time of year is heaven!
Meg Dure June 17, 2011 at 09:28 PM
This will be a wonderful column Lisa. I sighed with relief when I surveyed my kitchen...plenty of evidence I'm planning to have a supper party night for Patch staffers! My frozen pesto cubes I saved from last season's bumper crop, my dough board filled with flour for baby bisquettes for appetizers, a glass of parsley and ears of corn ready to strip! Can't wait to meet you and Geoff
Lisa Lewis June 18, 2011 at 12:19 PM
Thanks Meg! Looking forward to meeting you, as well. See you tonite!
Lisa Lewis June 18, 2011 at 12:20 PM
:-)
Leigh Hewett June 19, 2011 at 03:08 AM
I am So looking forward to reading this column!
Leigh Hewett June 19, 2011 at 03:09 AM
Such an amazing meal, Meg. I could feel the love that you put into the food with every wonderful bite. Thank you!
Patty Freeman-Lynde July 07, 2011 at 02:55 PM
I enjoyed reading this and hope to see more--although I know it's hard to find time. Our squash mainly succumbed to borers, in spite of lots of Dipel. But we have chard and tomatoes. We are cutting back on carbs these days, and I am not sure what to do with the tomatoes any more. Not tomato sauce for pasta or pizza. Not salsa for chips.

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