Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Out of Place

Local. Organic. Seasonal.

These are the father, son and holy ghost of the 'save the world through food' movement, now omnipresent, in the Pacific Northwest.  We get a little haughty about it, a little holier-than-thou at times, in the midst of our trying to do good for our bodies and the planet.  Gasp!  Are those mass-market organic canned tomatoes in your pantry?  Those blueberries are little blue chemical bombs!  Ack!  Were you planning on making me a pesticide smoothie with those??   

I've been following these principles for a few years now, trying like mad to keep my dollars at the farmer's markets and out of Safeway, eating out at restaurants that label every carrot and bean sprout with the local farm that sowed them with care, loving words, soft music, and loads of flowery-smelling manure.  I even, at times, knew the name of the cow from whence my stinky cheese came (Red Darla exhibits some real sophistication for a cow.  Moo.) 

I've been trying to keep the unavoidable melodrama and panic to a minimum (although Mark would probably disagree, as I've been known to hurl slices of major-brand supermarket wheat bread across the kitchen at his HFCS-loving head).  

Alas, I try.  I try to do good while eating well, enjoying food, and keeping my perspective.  It doesn't help that my dining room table is strewn with conscious-eating magazines, organic market fliers, and recipes torn from every local, organic and seasonable publication you can imagine.  It's an occupational hazard, the obsession to vote well with every dollar I spend on food.  Us nutritionists, neurotic as we are, don't always sleep so well some nights.  

But I have learned, after years of extremist experimentation, that raw foods/vegetarian-only/vegan-without-grains/macrobiotic/pesca-ovo-vega-mega-tarianism (all local, organic, and sustainable of course) is not the only answer.  As the buddha says (or as I paraphrase from reading Siddhartha so many years ago) the middle path is the way to go.  The key is finding what your own middle path is, as each person's extremes may be entirely different.  

I'm getting into my own groove these days, finding comfort in my middle path.  It's March here in Seattle, and we're at the point where the new sprouts and buds are crying out from underneath the transient morning snow. The winter vegetables are just about depleted, with no Spring ones yet to take their place.  My fridge has been dutifully filled with carrots and parsnips and big bunches of kale.  The fruit basket is always filled with apples, pears and bananas since they're organic and fair-trade.  The lettuces I cheat on, as my salads hail from down south on the coast, but organic, are all but comfort food to me now.  If I buy meats, I buy them organic and even from the farmers who think organic is just ridiculous - why would anyone do anything but?  A long time ago, farming organic was the only way to do it.

I love my local food, and what abundance we have here in the midst of our rainy, mild Winter.  The clouds have made for grey skies most days.  The sun peeks out, then turns shy and hides behind those clouds once again. We'll have hail, rain, snow and then sunshine all in a single day.  My dinners have turned to brown or pink beans, stewed with vegetables and grains, sometimes squash.  Deep earthy colors, dark tones that fit in with the darkened sky.

But at the market, on a quick trip to our favorite market that always seems to be bursting with color, fruits and flowers - I had to have this.

On a cold rainy day, my body yearned for sunshine, for sweetness, for the memory of sitting outside, breakfasting in Cabo San Lucas and taking a bite of this all covered in lime and sea salt.  The beach breeze blowing through my hair -  the cafe con leche, sipped overlooking the sandy beach.  Spring was getting me all rowdy.  Delicious, sweet, juicy papaya... probably full of toxins and imported from Mexico.  But hey!  This is my middle path... and it's covered in little black seeds and spent wedges of lime.

I sliced this big green papaya right down the middle, spooned out the caviar-like black seeds, and chunked the buttery-melt-in-your-mouth flesh into a mound in my big white china bowl.  Respite from the chill, a bit of color to remind me it still exists in nature among the earthen greens and browns of Winter.  


Regina said...

Me and Matt bought papaya from Kroger (your little sis is poor and lives in the Midwest - no crucifixions please!) and it tasted weird. It has since been quietly degenerating in the fridge drawer. How are those things supposed to taste? Because it did not taste like fruit.

Christine Weiss said...

Oh dear, you two must have encountered the dreaded 'crappy papaya'. Yes, these normally sublime fruits may, on occasion, actually smell like crap. Please do not let your single encounter with this malodorous specimen ruin all future adventures with the papaya! Try seeking out a smaller papaya next time (as I imagine you probably had a large one with orange flesh from mexico??) and ask if the fruit has red flesh. The smaller ones with red flesh usually are better.