Thursday, July 15, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: Food and Place

Janet here: While visiting Rachel and the divine Miss M! last week, I was amazed by more than just the newest Reynolds — hard as that is to believe. I was blown away by the supermarkets.

Now I've been to California before. I remember my father eagerly taking me to the local supermarket chain when they lived in Sunnyvale 20 years ago and, like a kid in a candy store, exclaiming over the size of the lemons! The freshness of the lettuce! The variety of plums! At the time, he and my mother had just moved from Maine, which wasn't exactly known for its fresh produce after, say, September. This was an era in which asparagus were really only available in the spring because that's the way things rolled. Now you can get asparagus practically year-round — not necessarily tasty asparagus but asparagus nonetheless. At the time, while I enjoyed a good melon as much as my dad, I wasn't quite as impressed as he was. I was, after all, 28 and, um, stupid the way 28-year-olds can be.

Now, though, the variety and general quality of the food around Berkeley completely blew my mind. I am used to buying most fruits, apples excepted, at least a few days in advance of when I would actually like to eat them because that's when they'll actually be ripe. Eating in the summer months, when more fresh produce is available, is obviously better all around in the Northeast, but when the fall comes, it's back to eating stewed tomatoes for another 9 months until real vine-ripened tomatoes are available. Those faux tomatoes supermarkets try to claim are ripe are just not and are virtually without taste.

So I found myself thinking about how differently I would eat if I lived someplace where fresh fruit and veggies were basically available all year. I also thought about how this availability and general insistence by a large percentage of the population that of course this is the way their food will be even impacts what kinds of meats and dairy products are available. Virtually none of the meats were pre-packaged as they are in the Northeast and the percentage of meats, poultry and fish that were natural, i.e. hormone/antibiotic-free, free range, organic, wild vs. farm-raised for fish, etc., was much higher than where I regularly shop.

It also got me thinking about class and food. This access to food like this is much more about what you can pay for in the Northeast than I think it is in the Berkeley area. (I say this without having done much research but I've got a hunch I'm right.)

What does all this mean? I'm not sure, but I left California feeling a little bit like I've got a raw deal in the Northeast and feeling a little annoyed that locavore living and eating isn't easier for us all. I'm certain we would all be the healthier for it.

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