March 15, 2009

Read Your Food

Some of my sweetest memories come from food fresh out of a field, fresh off the vine. My Grammy in her loose cotton house dresses, her cheap plastic flip flops, a handkerchief wrapped around her curlers, holding a basket in a tangle of green vines while she picks lima beans for supper. She fixed them with a strip of salt pork, kernels of fresh corn, tablespoons of sugar and the broth, whatever that magical juice was. Whatever it was, it didn't come from a shelf, it seemed to come from her hands, from her mind and it is gone along with her. I can still taste it, it was a Mayhew staple and a Mayhew treat, all at once and always.

I can also taste that yellow squash, my mother would send me to the fields to gather when we spent our summers living on my great grandparents farm. Sometimes she'd boil it quickly and then melt cheese over it with plenty of salt and pepper. Sometimes she'd slice it into rounds and fry it until the edges and the seeds turned almost black in some spots. More salt and pepper. I'd be sent back out to give the goats the scraps.

There are also plenty of cantalopes in my past. I liked them cold, but I wasn't above walking out to the field in my bare toes and yanking a hot one right off the sticky vine and carrying it back to the house, knocking the dirt off, slicing it right down the middle and scooping out the seeds into the compost bucket. I carried it, my edible bowl, into the living room where I'd slurp large pieces gouged out with a big old spoon of my great grandmother's. I am sure that juice ran down my chin and dripped onto my great grandfather's ancient chair. Then I'd go back for the other half. Later, whenever I'd see cantalope served in narrow wedges or cubed, I'd truly wonder: who eats cantalope like that?

Meat and fish, no different. I remember going to Jenkin's fish market down near the Delaware Bay in Newport. The market was no different than one of my great grandfather's many small "out-buildings," old. Beams showing. Rickety. Concrete floors. There were buckets and boxes and tubs full of weak fish, blue fish, crabs, clams and more. My mom would pick out dinner and we'd step out into the sun with our purchase wrapped in paper. There was also the butcher who lived way down the winding road past the county library. We'd go there and pick up our organically fed 1/4 of a steer. All wrapped in brown paper and labeled with a scribble. Pork, we often purchased at the pork store on Kings Highway. You'd park across the street in a small lot and funnel across with all the others. You'd walk down a small sidewalk path to the door of an old garage long since made into a pork butcher shop. The line hugged the wall and it was long, but there was enough to do. Watch the butchers expertly slam, cut, wrap. Stare at the giant pigs hanging from the ceiling. Chat with the other customers, usually grinning at the strange place from yesteryear.  Breathe in that porky ham scent.

There was a butcher downtown when I was little too. There was a meat counter and low square tables holding vegetables and fruits. The only things I remember in a box, carton or bag were Animal Crackers, but I suppose there were others. I've never given it much thought, all the food I ate as a child that was not labeled, manufactured, boxed, not to mention altered and invented. We even crabbed sometimes for dinner and you had to find the little tab which opened its back all by yourself, there were no arrows or instructions. No explanation of what the heck all that yellow foamy stuff was or those spongy feathery "lung" things. You just went at it. Oh, and then there was the time my dad cut off the chicken's heads, a nightmare in our nighties for sure, but valuable nonetheless.

Today in my cupboard I found 4 things. Frozen spanakopita, frozen pot pie, Rice Krispies and granola. Really, fixing and eating these things is infinitely easier than getting a row boat, putting out traps, figuring the tides, cleaning, cooking and eating crabs, but looking at the boxes you wouldn't think so.

Remove plastic wrap.

Bake in its own aluminum tray.

Made on equipment shared with eggs and tree nuts. Facility processes fish and shellfish.

stabilizers

contains sulfites

Spanakopita.

Pot pie:

inspired by Grandma

Let stand 5 min. in microwave. CAREFULLY remove as CARTON AND PRODUCT WILL BE HOT.

One 10 0z. chicken pot pie provides 1.0 oz. equivalent meat, 4 servings of bread alternate and 1/8 cup of vegetable for Child Nutrition Meal Pattern Requirements. (Use of this logo and statement authorized by the Food and Nutrition Service, USDA 5-05)

And on a bag of berries. A simple 12 oz of mixed berries.

Antioxidant Blend

Each serving of DOLE Wildly Nutritious Antioxidant Blen provides an ORAC Value of 6000, which is double the industry standard for effective antioxidant activity.

Thawing Instructions Room Temperature: Pour desired amount on plate, spread evely, and defrost for approximately 30 minutes, or until thawed.

And on a box of cereal from Trader Joe's.

Here's a flavor and texture combination that will have your taste buds totally tantalized. TJ's Just the Clusters Ginger, Almond & Cashews are crunchy, granola-like clusters made from wholesome grains, rolled oats, real crystallized ginger, almonds and cashews. You can eat them as you would any cereal in a bowl with milk, or by the handful right out of the box. They make a great snack and are ideal for taking along on those long weekend hikes. And of course, Just the Clusters are made without any preservatives, artificial flavor or colors.

{When my parents made their giant batches of granola and we'd walk through the kitchen with the pans of it cooling all over, my dad would simply say, "This is grown-up food. Children are not allowed to eat it." He loved reverse psychology, it humored him.}

On a box of Kellogg's Rice Krispies we are told:

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All those words, instructions, stories, advertisements, warnings, explanations, ingredients...we're talking about food! I wish food came without words again. Written, at least. I love the written word but I fail to see what it has to do with nourishment and I can only imagine it somehow diminishes it.

I could still go to the pork place on Kings Highway and I could still get fresh vegetables at the local farm markets and I could still order organic meat if I want and I could still go crabbing if there are any left in the bay, but who has the time with all the reading I have to do!

Since 1859, The Eight O'Clock Coffee Company has been dedicated to bringing you the freshest whole bean coffees. At Eight O'Clock Coffee, we select only high quality 100% Arabica.........

2 comments:

rosemary said...

It was a simpler time...my dad had a garden in our yard...zucchini, corn, Chinese beans, radishes. My mom made her own noodles, ravioli and sauces...she stewed fresh tomatoes and made jam. We had left overs every other night or they became slumgullion....a stew. We had fried tegs and aters (spelled correctly) for dinner or pancakes from my mom's recipe. The first "fast food" I remember was fish stix....I hate fish to this day. My mom always wore an apron too.

KimP said...

And it's never as good, either, is it?