Monday, 24 August 2009

Wild and windy morning for picking vegetables

I really like being at home. This morning is cold and the wind is blowing and I haven't lit the fire... it's even cold inside, but at least I can get "back to normal."

Of course, I went out to see the broad beans that had just formed on Thursday.
There is plenty to pick.... beetroot, broccoli and heaps of leafy stuff.... but here, on top, the piece de resistance.... three nice broad beans! OK, so not a meal yet, but we'll include them in our dinner tonight. (I resisted the temptation to eat them straight off the bush, without telling anyone that they're there, which is what often happens to the first few beans like this.)
In telling people about these beans, I've had quite a few comments about their lack of interest in broad beans. This has made me think.
Broad beans are not necessarily my all time favourite vegetable, but the first few for the season, when we haven't had them for such a long time, are really lovely. (By the end of the season, I'll be freezing them to add to risotto or the soup next winter.) I suppose this is a bit like people around here who compete to have tomatoes before Christmas day or the wine connoisseurs who gather annually for the first taste of the new vintage (Beaujolais nouveau, anyone?)

This reminds me of a fruit salad that I was offered at an event one day last week. I enjoyed it! It was made of fresh fruit cut evenly into small pieces so that I could fit an assortment of varieties onto the spoon, making every mouthful a combination of tastes that was hard to replicate exactly..... luxurious. Amongst the fruit, and decorating the top, were beautiful big, almost black cherries! Cherries don't grow in Australia at this time of the year. "The Australian cherry season extends from November, in most mainland States, through to late February in Tasmania, with the majority of the crop harvested during December and January in most areas. Fruit supplies are limited during the early and late parts of the season." (Dept of Trade doc.)
So here we are, in August, being served cherries that must have come from somewhere in the northern hemisphere... maybe the west coast of the United States or China (they seem to be getting in on our food market more and more lately.) Another difficulty that I have with this is that there are lovely healthy alternatives for us.... many citrus fruits are in season now, and fresh local options are so much better. It is just that in the back of our minds, somewhere there is the feeling of wishing for those first cherries that appear during a relatively short season. We have been conditioned to anticipate and wait for those cherries... they are special! We are "hanging out" for that first taste of cherries in the summer as Christmas approaches.
Those first cherries are expensive too. There is competition for them when they are still in short supply. I am certain that these cherries in winter, served as a part of my fruit salad, were expensive also. We can be convinced to pay the extra cost of eating fruits like this out of season because they are so special and because we have been trained to anticipate these fruits. Perhaps this is an evolutionary advantage also. The interest in novel and good tasting foods probably increases the likelihood of finding any trace elements, vitamins and amino acids that we need to include in our diets for optimum health. Corporations and advertisers seem to discover any of those evolutionary traits that enable them to manipulate us, even if it's to our long term detriment or loss.
The unintended consequence of this enticement is the extinguishing of that anticipation that enhances the enjoyment of the cherries... or the tomatoes, or the asparagus or even my broad beans!
I don't like the "food miles" or the wasted energy and the push towards a chaotic energy descent option, but even more, I begrudge the pleasure that has been taken from so many of us. No longer the wait for ripe juicy cherries... you can pay the price and have them flown in from across the world.
"Fresh and local" doesn't imply any kind of deprivation.... far from it! There is even more enjoyment when the frisson of anticipation is added to the mix. After all, it even makes broad beans into an anticipated luxury, hard to resist eating straight from the bush without telling anyone.

1 comment:

John L said...

I forgot to tell you. I had the first one.