Friday, November 25, 2011

Old style vegetables

I like the idea of local produce.  There is an appeal to buying fresh vegetables that have not been trucked halfway across the world and regularly Wendy and I order one of the many 'weekly fresh produce box' offers that are available throughout Toronto.  We never end up sticking with them though because the convenience of the modern grocery store is just so appealing compared to the old way of just taking whatever you can get.

Back in the Good Ole Days people were used to just eating turnips for a few months straight.  They probably weren't a big fan of it but when you have experienced simply not having enough food at all in bad years you can't be too upset about endless turnips.  In bean season they would eat beans, in apple season they would eat apples.  Not exactly convenient but it was the only way to stay alive.  The weekly food box harkens back to that style of eating in that they ship us random stuff and we just have to figure out something to do with it.  A full bag of carrots every week?  I guess I better snack on carrot sticks.  Huge head of lettuce?  Salad, I suppose.  Zucchini?  Maybe the internet has some recipe that uses zucchini.  Now and again this just adds some creativity to cooking but when all of my vegetables come this way I get irritable.  What if I want to make my sausage/veggie/eggie mash and they didn't send the correct ingredients?  What if I want to make a homemade pizza but instead I have to find some way to use whatever it is I have in the fridge?

Cry me a river, I know, I know.  My life is so hard.  ;)

I am so used to the modern grocery store it feels utterly alien to *have* to use a particular ingredient.  Normally I just go to the grocery store every day to buy what I need to make dinner and have very little food in the house.  I buy exactly as many potatoes as I want to cut up into fries, precisely one green pepper for my 'ragu' and two bananas at a time.  This is actually remarkably efficient because I waste virtually nothing when I shop this way and I get exactly what I want.  Though I try to use all the vegetables in the box I end up tossing things out inevitably - I never want to use as much lettuce as they send and eventually the parade of carrots overwhelms me.  Wendy calls my use of carrots 'oppressive' normally so dialing up my usage even more seems problematic!

Strangely I actually have no idea what is cheaper.  My instincts in this case are driven by environmentalism and plain old waste aversion.  I like the idea of local food but I am driven mad by wasting food.  (At restaurants I eat everybody's leftovers, just leaving food to be thrown out is abhorrent.)  Hell, I don't even necessarily know that the grocery store food isn't sourced from the same local farmers as the food box food so I am not even sure I am helping anything at all by buying the box.  I figure my mom would tell me that getting the box is a good thing because it forces me to get out of my rut, experiment and try new things when unexpected foods arrive in my kitchen.  Cook new things you say?  That sounds suspiciously like 'doing things' and I certainly don't enjoy that!

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  1. At our grocery stores there's usually a sign saying where the produce originated. Maybe it's a law?? Although "product of Ontario" doesn't tell you if it's local, you know it probably came from southern Ontario at least. (Northern Ontario = rocks, trees, lakes, muskeg). I'm sure you waste a lot less by buying just what you need each day. The only way to feel at all good about discarding produce is to compost it for the garden next year. And you won't be doing that. And I haven't lately either since I try not to draw in bears.

  2. I found a similar problem with our csa box this year (sometimes hard to use what they specifically gave us, plus my food issues make some things interesting). My folks use one where instead of a box, you get points that you use to pick out which foods you want each week. I could find out details for you if you want a compromise of still getting the local foods while not going purely random.