not that of the mere gourmet. People who know the garden
in which their vegetables have grown and know that the garden
is healthy will remember the beauty of the growing plants,
perhaps in the dewy first light of morning when gardens are
at their best. Such a memory involves itself with the food
and is one of the pleasures of eating.
~Wendell Berry, The Pleasures of Eating
|Pruning the apple tress is always a big winter job|
The meaning of food and the pleasure of eating is indeed being enlarged for my family, as Wendell Berry suggests. As we garden our plot, raise animals for meat and eggs, and faithfully prune our berries and fruit trees each winter, our understanding and appreciation of what sits before us on our plates is tangible. Each time we gather at the table for dinner or Sunday brunch, we list all the ingredients in the meal that we grew ourselves – a very satisfying exercise.
Recently I made a double-batch of stew in the crockpot and truly everything – beef, tomatoes, tomato sauce, corn, potatoes, carrots, and green beans – were grown by us. And the deeper we get into this life, the more “home-grown” our meals are becoming. I am growing more food, but also becoming better at tailoring our meals to use what we have available to us. This also means that we eat much more seasonally. Elisabeth solemnly savored the last bite of tomato in her soup last night because she thought it likely to be the last she’ll taste until next summer, as our tomatoes are just about finished for the year. Our eating has developed a rhythm, which has in turn increased our enjoyment and expectation. Knowing we won’t just go buy a tomato at the store in February, makes us savor what is before us and in the dead of winter creates a slight longing for summer.
(And then maybe in the middle of summer we might even regret what we wished for.)
Even our activity during summer becomes a rhythm, as our time is spent harvesting and processing food for the coming year.
In June we eat strawberries by the bowl, freeze trays and trays of berries, and make marionberry gelato.
Spring peas are abundant and incorporated into many dishes.
In July the first batch of canning occurs.
We will enjoy marionberry syrup and raspberry sauce on our waffles and french toast for the coming year.
I also start to worry that I’m not going to have much of a tomato crop this year.
By August, each person is required to eat one cucumber per day, a task they relish. (I’m sorry, that pun was at first unintentional, but I love it too much to change it now.)
Tomatoes are going crazy and I cannot believe I have been worried.
They become tomato sauce, pizza sauce, marinara, chopped tomatoes, and salsa.
September and October are apple months. Everyone knows they will be eating an apple a day,
apple dutch-babies on Sundays,
There will be dried apples and pears and fruit leather to last months.
The winter squash and pumpkins are brought into the garage to cure before storing.
These are the simple rhythms we’ve fallen into. And while the details change from year to year, the basic tenants of the season remain the same: sowing and reaping, hard work and great satisfaction. I often have thoughts of, “Why are we doing this again?” – particularly during canning season. But after a healthy round of debate in my head, I always reach the same conclusion: this is the life God has led us to and I cannot imagine not doing it. He put this dream in our hearts and is giving us joy as we live it out. It is work, but not burden. And best of all, He is growing us through it, strengthening our faith, and giving us fresh ways to understand Him through these natural rhythms and seasons He has created for us to live by.
And then on my more stubborn days when doubt lingers, a peak into my pantry reminds me that it is all worth it.