When I told Kurt he said, "Okay. Great. Why?" And then he made a joke about me getting further and further off of the grid.
You have to understand, I used to be hip and dangerous.
I have become really interested in our relationship with food. I'm a novice gardener, but I've learned so much about being alive from growing my own vegetables. I've learned about feeding the soil, about tending to living things, coercing and befriending them, making them important.
Everybody knows that food doesn't just magically show up in the store, but somewhere deep down inside, that's the way we feel about it. I know that food needs to be grown and cultivated, but it's still weird when you're the one doing the cultivating and growing.
At first, I didn't trust myself. After picking some spinach from my first successful garden, I held it up to the light and looked at it. Something about it was making me feel nervous and mildly nauseated. It was nothing more than a leaf from a plant, and we're humans. We don't just go around picking leaves off of things and eating them. That's what animals do.
It was funny that growing my own greens was the most natural thing I'd ever done, but it felt decidedly unnatural to be preparing to eat something that I didn't buy in a plastic bag.
I got over that feeling, and now, during the spring, summer and fall, I try to grow and/or buy all of our produce from local farmers.
So, I read Barbara Kingsolver's book about how she and her family spent an entire year eating nothing but what they had grown or purchased locally. There are lots of reasons for eating local food. Local, family owned farms are concerned about their land and practice organic farming methods, even when they haven't shelled out the big bucks to be labeled USDA organic. When you buy something local, it is fresh and full of nutrients. Locally grown produce contains more anti-oxidants, since farmers grow naturally disease resistant strains of vegetables, instead of genetically modifying them to be big producers. Buying local also means that you're not turning gallons of gasoline into pollution by asking that your lettuce travel from California and your tomatoes come the whole way from Mexico. Also, I mean... we all know it's better to give our money to families who live in our communities, than to give it to a shitty, dishonest corporation.
Anyway, you didn't ask for a lecture about buying local. I'm just saying. There are a lot of good reasons.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a little precious for me, to tell you the truth. Barbara and her family are absolute sweethearts. There were many moments in their "year of food life" that made me roll my eyes. For example, Kingsolver's teenaged daughter was craving something sugary, but it was the middle of winter in Virginia. They happened upon some rhubarb at a farmer's market and, whew, the sugar crisis was averted.
While my family would never be able to make it through a whole year of local food life because we're too grumpy and like actual sugar too much... I felt very inspired by the book.
It's weird to think about making your own cheese, isn't it?
It's not weird when people grow food and make jam and bake bread, but for some reason, cheese making seems a little wacky. Like only one of those loose cannon women in a knit cap and a sweatshirt with a wolf on it would want to make cheese.
I decided that's a silly way to think and endeavored to make my own mozzarella.
But, there was something weird for me about the process.
While I long ago learned to stop thinking of produce and grains as magical foods that just showed up in the supermarket, I don't think I'd really gotten it about cheese.
Watching the milk curdle, smelling the sourness of it and then reaching my fingers into the gelatinous lumps to squeeze out the greenish whey... it was all a little too close or real or something. It made me understand cheese as milk in its solid form. All it is, really, is curdled milk that's been heated and kneaded and salted. It's not a fun snack in a little wrapper to grab when Louise complains she's hungry. It's curdled milk that's been squeezed and stretched. It came from somewhere and not all parts of its process were appetizing. Not all parts of its process were even SORT OF appetizing.
It turned out beautifully and it tastes amazing, but I think I'll think about cheese differently, now that I've been introduced to its coming about. Just like fresh, local vegetables became worth more when I learned to grow them... I'll think twice about what I'm really eating and feeding my family when I'm smothering a pizza in big handfuls of supermarket cheese. Maybe I won't even be able to do that, anymore.
It's funny that we spend so much of our time and energy with food, but it's not really considered a philosophical thing. It's not a thinking person's pursuit, it's just stuff we buy and heat up and eat. Or maybe it's more important than that.