Connection, Food, Human Nature, Human Scale

Top five habits: The all-in foodie

Respect the food!

There is a popular modern slogan that was in part birthed by the slow food crowd. “Farm to Table.” It comes close in describing how we should view food and nutrition. For such an important part of our lives and health, we “farm out” much of the process and products to strangers.

We should be advocates for knowing where our food comes from. If not our own gardens (even herb gardens on the kitchen window sill), then community gardens, farmer’s markets, or community supported agriculture (CSA) ventures. You say that those things don’t exist close to you? And yet we’ll drive thirty miles to the mall for a special purchase or as entertainment. The reason they don’t exist in great numbers is because we haven’t asked for them.

I’m all for small and slow solutions, and since these types of services take time to implement, let’s start asking for them now. It may even be a business opportunity for you; learning the skills now that will allow you to buy land and tools and begin building a clientele.

Something else that we have lost, or are in the process of losing, is the meal time rituals that have been a part of our cultures since time immemorial. The act of planning a meal, getting the ingredients, preparing them, cooking, sharing the food around a table with family and friends is something to be celebrated, not despised. I’m sure that some of your fondest memories are of dinner table conversations. I know some of mine are.

The same people who say that they don’t have time to cook are the same people who sit for an hour with a buzzer in their hand, waiting for a restaurant table. We’re like that when we’re on auto-pilot. One needent slow cook a pot roast for every meal. There are many simple meals with whole food ingredients that can be prepared and served in half an hour completely from scratch. I urge you to give it a try. In doing so, you could also be teaching yourself and even your children and friends a valuable life skill. There are many teens who don’t know a single simple recipe beyond boiling ramen and microwaving pre-packaged faux-food.

Getting into the dinner routine is a simple act of the will, where it isn’t one person’s responsibility to set the table, prepare food, cook, and do dishes. When everyone pitches in and spends time together throughout the process, everything gets done quickly. This is an opportunity for everyone to interact, laugh and talk.

Later, we’ll get into ways that you can get involved locally to promote a more regional food economy, but for now, consider the above. At the least, at every meal, do your best to recreate the food ritual. Meals aren’t only for nutrition, they’re a social act and we should do our part to keep that alive. Don’t eat alone if you can help it, always try to have a healthy meal with friends and conversation.

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Connection, Human Nature

Star (or, a tale of two dogs)

Do you want to know what it feels like to be a hero? I’d gone over to my friend Hank’s house in my pickup truck to get a workbench he’d gifted me for helping him out a couple months ago. After we’d had a couple of micro-brews out of a growler from the biker bar we frequent during big sporting events and on karaoke night, we let his black lab Casey out for a bit of fresh air.

Well, he bolted.

It wasn’t the first time, and probably won’t be the last, but he’d been so damn good for the past few months he’d gotten himself off of probation. His case worker will be by early next week to install an ankle monitor. Just kidding.

But Casey was gone so long one time last year that Hank about gave himself ulcers worrying whether he’d ever make it home. He’d asked for suggestions through social media, but I was so tired from a demanding schedule at the time I didn’t do what I should have done and gone to my friend’s aid and help him look. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

We’d loaded the workbench into my truck and I announced that I wasn’t going anywhere until Casey was back on the leash. We drove around for about an hour before we found the naughty chow hound woofing down an unknown substance from a knocked over trash can in a neighbor’s yard. We coaxed the unrepentant fop into Hank’s van and celebrated by heading over to the St. Paul Tavern for some perfectly seasoned pollock and creamy slaw. Casey got nary a nibble because of his recent truancy.

So as they say, “I told you all of that so I could tell you this…”

On the way back to Hank’s place, we happened upon a border collie loping along next to the road and I noticed it was dragging a chain.

“Pull over, Hank, I think that’s a stray…”

We stopped half on and half off of the road so we didn’t go tumbling into the drainage ditch and I approached the vagrant with calming words. She was shaking but came to me submissively. It was obvious the poor thing hadn’t eaten recently but her fur was still shiny and well groomed – signs she’d been well cared for and loved. I slipped my hand under her chin hoping for the best and wasn’t disappointed.

Leather collar. Shot tag from the vet dangling from an S-hook. And there it was, a brass plate attached to the collar with the owner’s name and phone number. I thumbed the numbers into my mobile phone and after an anxious but excited exchange, we met up back in St. Paul beside the tavern. I asked them what her name was before I hung up, telling them I would speak it to her and calm her down a bit until they arrived.

“Star. Her name is Star”

The owners lived quite a ways out in the country, so it took them a few minutes to get there. I was walking her around the street corner where we’d parked when they pulled up in an SUV. Star recognized the hum of the engine and the gravel popping under the tires before I even realized they were upon us. She started jumping up and down and whimpering as the owner opened her door and walked toward us. I let all the slack out of the chain with the sprung clasp that was still attached to her collar and they collided in a reunion embrace that was emotional enough to make a lumberjack bawl like a sissy girl.

They were in heaven and I was coiling up the chain to hand to the owner, who was so emotionally involved with the reunion that I didn’t even get her name as she thanked me. They got back in the SUV and spit gravel back toward home where I’m sure a big bowl of water, a bowl of her regular food, and more hugs were waiting.

I watched their tail lights get tiny in the distance, but my heart has remained full.

I think that is what it feels like to be a hero to someone. It feels like doing the right thing. That, and enjoying the buzz when things go right.