Saturday, April 24, 2010

The distance of food

The question of "what is enough" comes to mind more and more as I live in France. Back home, I have family who live in fabulously large homes and take vacations that are even bigger. Buying food is like a bulk purchase expedition where the smallest of packages would very likely pass for "family size" in France. Believe me, I think the American way is the best and most fruitful in all ways. Except, sometimes, I wonder to what extent we sometimes miss what food really tastes like in the ease of accessing it.

The recent volcanic eruption in Iceland reminded me oddly enough of this. It strangely brought my walk in Spain on the Camino de Santiago back to mind. How easy travel is these days vs walking the earth or travelling by boat. The 100 or so kilometers that I walked in Spain seemed and indeed was very gruelling at times. Confronting the elements, the terrain and my own limitations showed me exactly what the word "distance" meant. It was a strange and almost annoying feeling to have boarded a bus afterward, to go back to where we started to catch the train, and realize that what took us four days on foot, took us about 45 minutes by bus.

I think the same is true for food. That is to say, we forget what it takes to produce food and what consuming food really is about when it comes wrapped in plastic, artificially refrigerated and easily obtained for very little money. Again, that is preferable to struggling and starving and anyone who tells you otherwise are full of garbage. Yet, when was the last time we though about the time it takes to grow a head of lettuce? Or how that rice that only costs about a dollar a box is actually grown?  Or the egg...the humble egg...if one kept hens and cultivated them, fed them, kept them healthy, defended them against the foxes, one might have, I dare say, a bit more respect for the humble egg.

Food, like travelling, it done at top speed these days. A volcano can bring it to a screeching halt and help us to remember the meaning of time, distance and how easy we really have it these days. So, savor and appreciate your food. Take the time to remember where it comes from. How long it takes to grow and be appreciative of how easy it really is to obtain. And grow some yourself, even if just a small planter of herbs on your windowsill. You will feel much more connected and appreciative of what you have. It's a good feeling. Bon appetit!