Friday, March 25, 2011

Locavore in the Garden State

Amy Patricia Meade is trolling for WWII recipes, the ones our mothers and grandmothers cooked with to put food on the table every night in the face of rationing, shortages, and complete absence of supermarkets, for her latest "Rosie the Riveter" book. I gave her my mother's recipe for wind pudding, which is easy to remember even after all these years. Not having been around back in the day she finds it hard to imagine the horror of trying to cook under WWII conditions.

Actually, we don't need three-quarters of what we consume these days. Looking back over the decades--the gustatory chemical storm of the fifties (Space Food Sticks! Pop Rocks! Fizzies!), the French butterfat deluge of the sixties (Julia Child's richest recipes. We all made them), the counterculture revolution of the seventies (brown rice and a dirty hot dog), the monied excesses of the eighties (everybody ate out), and so on up to the modern day, when neglecting to put the very finest cooking on the table every night is seen as a moral failure--I suspect we were better off in the forties. Nobody could get fat on gristly mutton. There were only so many ways you could prepare Spam and still manage to gag it down. If you had a yard you grew some vegetables, maybe kept chickens. And since you couldn't go to the store anyway, since there was no gas for the car and no rubber for tires, the groceries, sparse as they were, came to you. Mr. Thompson's delivery boy brought them to the kitchen door in a cardboard box.

Now the thing to do is eat locally. Again, a moral thing. In the thirties and forties if you found food you ate it, and the devil take the hindmost. But now you have to think about every bite. Were the captains of agribusiness mean to this animal before they killed it, cut it up, and offered to sell me its steaks and chops? Is this fish the last of its species, fished into extinction, or was it raised on a poisonous southeast Asian fish farm? Were the migrant workers who picked this vegetable oppressed? Are their children being offered healthcare, citizenship, a decent education? How far was this item shipped, at what cost in fossil fuel and global warming? And so I have joined the local community-supported organic farm.

It seems a little pricey, but what the hell. It's the cost of sleeping soundly at night, free of culinary guilt. When the first crops come in, we will have, oh, I don't know, lettuce enough to feed all the homeless of Lambertville. Not that I'm giving the homeless our lettuce. The homeless don't want perishables. Lettuce enough to crowd out all the beer in the refrigerator, then. And strawberries. The strawberries are really good. In fact, it's all good, or will be if we have suitable weather this year.

And maybe I'll start looking around for good Spam recipes.

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