by John Lee
You do eat them, don’t you? Your mother always said you should.They were “good for you!” Standing over you in her gingham apron, spatula in hand as you scowled at your plate of Brussels sprouts, you worried about whether you were ever going to get dessert.
What our grandmothers and other forebears plaintively intoned at every evening meal turns out to have been correct. No matter if you thought their reasoning was benighted, it turns out they were prescient. Slightly more than two generations ago, fat, sugar, meat and other, what we consider now staples were a significant treat and the failure to
eat one’s veggies meant going without. Most of America’s children at that time had at least some relationship to food production and some sense that what was served was a precious commodity. However, with the rise of a more industrial (and then, service) economy, our relationship to food cheapened along with the price of food itself. Livestock, for instance, became industrialized to the point that cattle, pigs and poultry have come to bear no more significance in our food-awareness than the ticker tape in a Times Square New Year’s celebration. What had been an occasional treat became an everyday standard on the table. Mealtimes became as meaningful as a stop at the filling station. Most of us are suffering as a result.
The measure of that cheapening and suffering is painfully obvious. Hypertension, heart disease and cholesterol drugs are now dinner table conversation and as widely available as carrots. It is expected that about 75 percent of us will be discussing them with our doctors at some point soon along with a word or two about “losing a little weight.” As it
turns out, an honest doctor will tell you that diet and exercise are more effective deterrents than better-living-through-chemistry and a better diet is one that is principally vegetal. Leafy greens and bright-colored vegetables will go a long way to making our hearts happier, our bodies better functioning.
Recently, food-source anxiety has become pervasive in our culture.We fret constantly about what food scare might come to light next and we have come to expect that, like everything else, someone else is going to do something about it (and that scares us as well). But the recent trends in agriculture slowly have begun to reverse themselves: There are new and increasing opportunities for us to get back to a food economy and celebrate what makes sense for our waistlines and our wallets, and can bring us some peace of mind. Across America, there are increasing numbers of smaller entrepreneurial farms where the art of agriculture is focusing more on quality than quantity, conscience and connection over convenience. In this summer season, how and what we eat can be the crux of the shopping experience and the focus of the family food dialogue.Taking the time to procure your food from reputable markets
that support local farmers, joining a CSA and/or getting to know who grows what in your area are the first steps.
In short, given the season, there is no better time for us to back away from our crapulent and over-scheduled lifestyles. Disregard those TV ads for quick meals for families on the go and let your hair down. It is well-known now that meals produced from fresh produce are more economical and better for you than meals prepared with processed,
well-traveled foods and those laden with meats.
Visit your local farmer’s market or farm stand with the intention of a home-cooked meal from seasonal fresh-market produce firmly fixed in your head. Ask for help! Help with recipes, help with meal preparation, help with the dishes and help with ideas of what the next evening’s meal might look like.Meals should be mindful and nutrition nitid. Our families ought to delight in the dazzling differences in the panoply of fresh produce available at local farm stands, markets and CSAs at this time of year.
French fries and chicken fingers need not be the finger food of choice and if crudités were not so unfortunately named, they might be more widely accepted as part of the daily diet. Despite that Frenchification, raw vegetables are good for you and require almost no preparation. They are “slow” and quick and therein lies the heart of the matter. Making a meal can be a simple choice: crudités or crud, bennies or baddies. “Slow” food or junk food. Choose health or heartburn, economy or misery. Eating well and slowly is a modality that will prolong life by keeping us healthier individually and societally. Eat your veggies!
John Lee is the manager of Allandale Farm (Boston’s last working farm), which specializes in naturally grown local produce. Each summer, John manages an outdoor children’s program on the farm. He writes for local news outlets and is deeply involved with farming and locally grown issues in Massachusetts.