The tyranny of fresh food

I heard a technology pundit describe the invention of the canning process as “saving us from the tyranny of fresh food.” He laughed when he said it, but it got me thinking. We’re going through a bit of the tyranny of fresh food in my household, as well as seeing a generation gap, as we used to call them back in the sixties.

Belly Acre Farm is providing us with a bounty of food right now. When nature starts unloading produce on you, sometimes the only thing you can do is grab it and try to stay grateful.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been harvesting more tomatoes and beans than we know how to handle. We’ve canned some, given some away, and eaten all we can hold. Even at that, my compost bin is getting an extra ration of rotten tomatoes every few days.

Watching my three-generation household respond to the plenty, I’m reminded of my childhood. We ate whatever the garden provided. I won’t pretend we didn’t get tired of the same vegetables at every meal, but protests didn’t count for much.

“This isn’t a restaurant,” our parents would say, meaning they weren’t about to take orders for anything that had to be bought when we had enough to feed us growing in the garden. In summer, we had chicken about once a week, a hamburger or two on the weekend, and that was about it for store-bought food. The rest of the time, the rule was, be quiet and eat your vegetables.

At the time, I assumed this practice was based solely on thrift — Dad didn’t want to spend money on extra food.

Today, being the operator of that same garden space, I realize there was a second motivation at work.

When you’ve labored to get things planted, grown, and harvested, a rotten tomato or over-mature ear of corn is a personal defeat as well as a terrible waste.

No wonder Dad would eat green beans and corn every meal all summer and say they were delicious, when we boys were gagging in our same-food boredom.

I understand the look of disappointment when my son-in-law says “what’s for dinner?” and we answer “fresh vegetables from the garden.” (It’s doubly difficult for him — he hates almost all vegetables, even if they are atop a hot pizza.) And I know what my granddaughter says when she says, “I’m tired of green beans.”

Really I do.

But I’ve spent hours planning this garden, digging it, planting and tending it. And I’ve done almost all the harvesting alone this year. This is personal.

So I tend to say,

“This isn’t a restaurant.” But the result is not the same my parents got when I was a captive eater in their house.

The difference now is, my family’s favorite fast food restaurants are nearby, and they do take orders.


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