I’m pretty tired of food rules, so I won’t be following many on this trip. I’m just setting off with the basic premise that plants and animals constitute potential human food sources, and if they are grown, raised or foraged within about 100 km of where I am, I will consider them “home grown” or “local” choices.
If I want to add condiments or supplement, I will, but I’m going to explore what is readily available first. I’ll consider chemicals “additives” to the food, and will steer clear of them when I can- because chemicals are not raised or grown in Canada!
I’m pretty sure it will be challenging, opening myself up to experience “local” in whatever way it presents itself. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been attempting to control, moderate and master various “ways” of eating. Sometimes for weight control, sometimes for health, occasionally due to spiritual ideas or ethical issues, often in response to waves of addictive eating behaviours. Let’s add peer pressure, boredom and social etiquette just for fun. Rarely, interestingly, for pure enjoyment.
Today I’m remembering that food choices are like clothes I can wear and take off. I know this, of course, from having had an extensive food wardrobe over the years. I can’t help but wonder if that is part of the anxiety I now find myself experiencing around food. It’s just now occurring to me that I’m a serial food monogamist!
It seems like a legitimate way to live. But I quietly worry that maybe I just can’t settle into peace with food because I’m not capable of committing myself to a loving, long-term relationship with it. Maybe I’m shallow! I’m horrified to realize most of my food relationships have hallmarks of a seriously impaired relationship: Unrealistic expectations. Assumptions. Lack of communication. Thoughtlessness (bordering on emotional neglect) alternating with bouts of obsessive neediness. Long periods where we don’t talk. Times when I can’t seem to stop talking. A tendency to be attracted to certain bad boys.
I probably just end up breaking up with my food routines because I don’t want them to break up with me first!
But this local food journey feels different. Instead of simply buying food, I’m going to enter into a sort of courtship with it. That’s right. Like dating. Taking parental advice, I’m going to ask questions of it. Where did you grow up? Who raised you? What values were you surrounded by in your youth? Who are you related to? What’s your cultural background? Do you have siblings? Cousins?
And at the end of our date, I am going to ask myself questions. How did I feel in it’s company? Do we have enough in common to warrant a second date? How does my tummy feel? Am I left craving more, or was our time together satisfying?
I don’t normally date animals, but might consider it, seeing as my relationship issues seem to persist with or without it. I’ll just have to cross that barnyard when I come to it. I’m staying open.
So, I’d like to introduce you to Hastings and Prince Edward Counties. That’s where we are now, and where we will be for the next week or two.
They are two distinct counties, but both have deep rural roots. I have history in both. Prince Edward County is actually an island, joined to “mainland Ontario” by four bridges. It is comprised of a number of small rural communities, the largest being Picton, with approximately 4,500 souls.
“The County” as it is locally referred to, is home to the world’s largest fresh- water sand dunes at Sandbanks Provincial Park on Lake Ontario. This region is also emerging as an important wine-making area and boasts awesome food and beverage festivals through the year, such as “Maple in the County” and “Taste.”
My formative years were spent in an old farmhouse here, where my earliest local food memories were cooked up. We didn’t farm, but many a lazy summer day were spent playing hide-and- seek in the neighbour’s barn and racing through corn fields. My family tended a 1/4 acre garden and we had a root cellar. When I was 10, we moved to Hasting’s County, where I finished middle and high school; farm food was never far away. After much moving about, I returned to Prince Edward County to offer my own children some formative rural roots of their own.
But I will turn to food memories tomorrow!
Today I will take you on my first food-run. Because I’ve been distracted with social events, I didn’t do any really serious food exploration, but chose two familiar places known for local food choices for my first food shopping: Campbell’s Orchards and the Belleville Farmers’ Market.
I went, simply seeking food that didn’t contain ingredients, but was an ingredient. Food grown by people whose doors I could, hypothetically, knock on. Which I might just be inspired to do, as this caravan rolls on.
Campbell’s stores many local apples from last year’s harvest, showcase a variety of local farm produce, and also make apple cider and an array of pickles and jams.They also have an in-house bakery. I was thrilled to find a local quinoa and I’m going to experiment with a local spelt flour.
The Saturday Market in Belleville yields my next little stash. It took my friend and I nearly an hour to meander our way through the early-season stalls, connecting to folks we knew, and some we didn’t. The mood was festive. There was palpable food-pride.
This expedition to the market leaves a trail of stories connecting my onions to my parsley, and a mental collage of local faces who have done the work required to fill my basket.
Today I simply followed my bliss. Deep greens, bright reds and a smiling face behind my shallots. And sure enough, it tasted like bliss.
Specifically, bliss in the form of an all-local aspargus, spinach and tomato Fritatta. Cooked up out the back of the van, while Pippa sunned herself, watching me. It seemed a fitting Saturday brunch offering to my dear friends, who didn’t seem to mind having a nomad parked in their field for a couple days.