Wednesday, 23 March 2016

There Must Be Food for the Soul.

Smith A, MacKinnon JB. 2007. The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. Toronto (ONT): Vintage Canada. p. 149-262.

Three essential rules to follow when making ice cream.

Rule #1: Don’t Cook Angry

“Sorry,” my brother says, elbowing me by accident as he reaches for the kitchen shears sitting across from me.

I swing my arm down to crack the egg in my hand. The shell shatters, puncturing the yolk in the process. I watch as whites, yolk, and egg shell combine in my bowl.

“No problem,” I grit my teeth and silently rage.

Rule #2: Don’t Get Distracted

I place the pot with the ice cream custard base onto the stove. During this stage, I have to be very careful not to cook it too quickly or the eggs in it will heat up too fast and scramble. Then I stand there at the stove, whisking, making sure the mixture never comes to a boil.

“Meow,” my cat, Morpheus, threads his way in between my legs.

“Hey kitty, are you hungry?” He flops onto his back and starts to purr. I reach down and pet him, cooing as he wriggles around on the floor. Suddenly a blob of custard splatters onto the floor beside my cat. I shoot up, panicking, and quickly shut the gas burner off.

I look at my now lumpy mixture of ice cream base.

“Ah crap.”

Rule #3: If Your Mother Suggests Something, Take Her Advice

“Wouldn’t it be easier just to use the juicer?” My mother asks me as I stuff some cherries into the food processer.

“Mom, the recipe says puree, not juice.” I roll my eyes as I flip the processor’s switch on. The machine comes to life with a whir and dices the cherries into lumpy pieces. I add the cherry puree to my chilled custard (strained of all egg pieces, of course). Then I pour the whole mix into my ice cream maker. In half an hour, I’ll have ice cream.

The ice cream maker stops. I take the lid off of it to look at my frozen confection. My heart sinks.

It was brown.

Pureeing the cherries didn’t release enough juices to turn the mixture into the pale pink I was hoping for. My mother looks at me, raising a delicate eyebrow. She opens her mouth to speak.

“-don’t.” I cut her off, “Just don’t.”

Making new food is always an adventure for me. I love to cook and most of the time what I cook ends up being pretty tasty. That’s not always the case with confections like ice cream. Confections are probably one of the things I will never master. I can’t count the number of times I’ve burnt my candy/caramel, burnt my hand, or burnt the stove whenever I try to make sweet things (not including cakes or cookies of course). So, when my second attempt at making ice cream was a success I felt a sense of accomplishment. I think that’s what Alisa Smith felt when she successfully made her first soup as well.

I finish my blogging journey of the relationship of plants and people in a full circle. Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon welcomed me back to the 100 Mile Diet just as they began their hardest months of local eating. I had last left the couple back in October just as the winter months began to set in.

I admit, I felt a little worried for the two of them because they would soon be saying goodbye to fresh fruit and vegetables as the farmer’s markets closed and their gardens withered in the cold. Smith and MacKinnon did not have an easy start to winter eating. Preserving corn in the wee hours of the morning did little to help preserve their wits. I could feel in Smith and MacKinnon’s writing how strained their relationship was becoming due to this experiment. It made me feel quite uncomfortable to read about it.

 The turning point, much to my relief, finally came when they found their coveted wheat farmer. As Dorothy Day once said, food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul. I full heartedly believe that bread is the food of the soul. What is more comforting than a freshly baked loaf of bread? And crackers! And pancakes! I was overjoyed when Smith and MacKinnon found this staple to hold them out throughout the winter. I pity the people on gluten free diets. I just love food too much to even attempt one.

Despite my happy feelings for the now happy couple, something dark lingered in the back of my mind. It came to a forefront when Smith sat down for a precooked dinner with her grandmother. What will the future of our food look like? Will there ever come a day in some dystopian future where preparing food yourself is unheard of? Will everything you eat come prepackaged at the supermarket? Will the thought of local eating fade away as some fanciful fad? It’s a terrifying thought.

I feel like just in the last few years I’ve begun to see more and more prepackaged vegetables. Of all things, vegetables! I don’t even remember when romaine lettuce started to come already prepared to use in a bag. When did that happen? I can finally see the importance of the 100 Mile Diet. This wasn’t just an experiment about local eating, this was a statement about our current way of eating.

We’ve lost connection with our food.

I feel like people today are too content with following other people’s advice about food. I feel like there’s too many people following food fads just because they are popular. I feel that people have become too passive with their food. We just don’t care anymore and because we don’t care anymore, it’s become too easy for corporations to pervert our food. I fell that this submissive attitude is the root of our problems.

At the beginning of this experiment I was skeptical about local eating. I am happy to say, that my attitude has changed. I am not saying that I will insist to my parent that we should only eat local food. I am saying that I will become more active with what I choose to eat, and yes, part of that includes trying to eat locally.
Today is March 23. Spring has just begun. Tulips are slowly pushing their way out of the soil. My future goals: go to the farmer’s market and cook a locally sourced meal for my family.

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