Kyle and I went to a great dinner and presentation a few nights ago hosted by the local chapter of Slow Food USA. The owners of Five Leaves Farm (our CSA) gave a presentation on their trip to Terra Madre, a worldwide gathering of farmers and food producers dedicated to sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, and high quality food. The dinner was potluck. The assignment was to bring a seasonal dish made with as many local ingredients as possible. Cool – how fun, I thought! It turned out that for someone like me, who is really only peripherally involved in trying to eat local, seasonal foods, this was a much tougher task than expected! The local market that carries lots of local produce in the summer had many products labeled “Made in USA”, but not, “Made in South Carolina”, let alone within a county or two of Richland.  I went home to re-group and take inventory. I have long beans from the CSA in the freezer. I have blueberries in the freezer that we picked this summer. I know that I can get local eggs and I know that I can get local grits. I want to make more of a main dish than a side or dessert because I don’t know how many vegetarian options will be available.  I’ve never made grits. (Obviously, I need to change that.) That leaves eggs. I decided to make deviled eggs seasoned with some of the dried red pepper from the Sweet Briar Community Garden that I was given for Christmas. Not local to South Carolina but certainly within the spirit of the task. 

Making deviled eggs is not as easy as I thought it would be, either! My eggs were too new. I couldn’t get them peeled without gouging out portions of the white.  Now what? I can’t serve eggs that look like this!  Inspiration strikes and the whites get chopped up and mixed with the deviled egg filling. I’ll call it deviled egg salad. A quick stop at the store for organic crackers and we’re off to the dinner.

The presentation was great and the variety of food was unbelievable. Five Leaves Farm had slaughtered a lamb for a lamb stew. Someone else had successfully made deviled eggs.  Another farm brought a blackberry cobbler using preserves they had made from their berries and nuts from the farm. There was an excellent red bean dish with our local grits. I would never have thought to put beans and grits together like that and can’t wait to try it! Someone had come up with potatoes from a local farm and made a big bowl of mashed potatoes. And there was so much more….. This is food! This is community! This is what we are losing…..

I am learning more and more that food is not just about food and progress is not necessarily progress.  I went to the grocery store with my 84-year old aunt recently and she was happily picking out frozen mashed potatoes, frozen macaroni and cheese, and pre-chopped fresh broccoli. Look how lucky you are that you don’t have to slave in the kitchen all day to get good food, she said. We went home and she made me some of her special mashed potatoes… microwaved with the fresh broccoli, and some pre-shredded cheese and garlic sprinkled on top. Yes – it tasted good. It was also loaded with sodium, and bad fats, and ingredients whose names are pronounceable only by scientists. I am conflicted. I suppose I am thankful that she has that choice. I suppose I am thankful that I should have that choice if I really needed it.  I am certainly thankful that for this assignment I could go one mile down the road to pick up mayonnaise and eggs and that I did not have to be completely dependent on what we had grown ourselves and put away this summer.  I am thankful that I have the time to make more things from scratch and that Ben and Kristen are willing to grow good food for me. I am thankful for these choices.  Not everyone has these choices though and if we are not careful, we may lose the ability to make these choices as well.  That is a topic for another time.

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