Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Syncretic Food Culture - Part 4 - On My Own

“Do you make sandwiches?”
Shortly after I asked, I realized what a stupid question it was.
It was my first week in New York, and I was lured out of my efficiency hotel into a strip mall by a yarn shop. It was situated right next to a deli. I had never been into a real deli before, but at the supermarket, we used to buy fancy rolls and sliced cold-cuts. Then we would take them home and make poor-boys in the oven.
The guys in the deli made a big joke of it, and it was like they were handing out wings, and not the blue cheese and hot sauce variety either.
Once in my own apartment and in charge of my own food choices, I tried many recipes found in my first cookbook, “Recipes for a Small Planet”. My first experiment with soy grits tasted a bit like barfed-up dog food. I made a weekly batch of the granola, and then branched out to various muffin recipes. Upstate New York was dotted with farm stands on the honor system, so in the fall I picked up a bushel of apples and a huge bag of table squash. I joined the local food co-op which offered an additional discount in exchange for extra work hours. My main job was to pick up free-range eggs and fresh milk from local farmers and bring them to the co-op.
One of my favorite jobs was to restock the macrobiotic section. I had never heard of any of these strange foods before, but was intrigued by the large wooden vats of miso and the tofu blocks floating in large plastic buckets. We were the only place in town that carried tofu retail, and we did a pretty high volume on the Saturday mornings I worked there. The macrobiotic way became my new lifestyle, and was really my first formal introduction to eating local foods on purpose. In macrobiotics, it is always better to eat local, both in place (especially latitudinally) and in time. (Of course, it was also OK to eat any kind of food from Japan.) I really warmed up to the idea of eating locally and seasonally, with whole foods. The co-op made it easy for me. All the foods and produce selections were labeled with place of origin, and if they were grown organically or transitionally. I enjoyed making the new signs when we started carrying a new product or vegetable.
When I got to California, macrobiotics didn’t survive the move. Somehow it didn’t seem right to shun certain tropical foods that were growing like weeds in my backyard. What worked in the cold Northeast wasn’t working as well in our Mediterranean climate. I started eating tomatoes, peppers and the citrus fruits that my neighbors gave me. But I never did give up my love of seasonal eating or my favorite comfort food, miso soup.

No comments:

Post a Comment