Alfredo recently got a great deal on some locally grown lamb chops and shoulder roast, so we added it to the menu for the end of this week. We dry-rubbed it and slow-cooked it all day long in a big crock pot, and by the time we had smelled it all day we were more than ready to eat it for dinner! I made rice using the drippings from the lamb as a base, heated up some home-preserved green beans from our garden, and flash-baked some homemade dinner rolls I had bagged up in the freezer. Of course we didn’t keep it to ourselves – we ate the chops with some friends who were helping Alfredo print uniforms for a local basketball league, and we ate the roast another evening with a small group of college students who are involved with us in a benefit dance performance. I enjoyed watching our friends eat heartily of those whole grains, local veggies and free-range meat, and my heart swelled with satisfaction when my husband and children took seconds, and then thirds of everything. When we pushed our plates back, we were all pleasantly full but not stuffed, and I was grateful that I had been able to share from the bounty of the farms in our valley.
There were enough chops left over to use for another dinner for the four of us, and I cut up enough roast to add to our homemade vegetable soup and have stew one evening next week. Oh, and I got 8 cups of broth from the shoulder bones. Never forget the broth! Late Friday evening, while I was putting away leftovers and ladling broth into freezer containers, my mind wandered off into a daydream… about food. I was transported to a church potluck, where a long table full of casseroles, crock pots, and boxes of fried chicken stretched out before me. That image faded, and I found my imaginary self watching people serve themselves at one of our family gatherings at Harmony Center, where pots of vegetables and baskets of bread awaited hungry eaters. And then, before I realized what was happening, I was transported to a restaurant salad bar, then a pizza buffet, and then a school lunch line… and since it was a daydream and not a nightmare, I shook myself and refocused on the knife and cutting board in front of me.
I love puzzles of all sorts, which is probably why I love to interpret dreams and to listen to people talk about their beliefs and experiences. Humans are full of puzzles. As I cut lamb roast into bite-sized pieces for stew, I puzzled over my daydream. When I eat at a salad bar, I leave hungry. When I eat pizza, I leave thirsty. When I eat a school lunch… scratch that, I never eat a school lunch. But other people eat, and enjoy eating those things – probably more so than they would enjoy eating my lamb chops and green beans. Salad and pizza bars are widely popular, and school lunches are served to millions of kids each week. With all the talk these days about the negative effects of artificial ingredients such as MSG, dyes, preservatives, and sweeteners, we’re all more tuned in to the fact that what we eat makes a real difference in our health – both short and long-term. So, why are people still lining up to fill their bodies with things that are killing them? Maybe it’s because “real” food is actually foreign to their taste. I have been fortunate to be able to serve my children homemade and homegrown food most of their lives. Even when we were on the road full time, we made it a point to eat carefully. Whole grains and fresh vegetables are “native” tastes to our family. As a result, though, our kids can rarely order from the children’s menu at a restaurant. They can’t find anything on it that tastes like food to them! is it possible that the food I put on my table is as “foreign” to mainstream society as chicken fingers and uncrustables are to my kids?
This raises questions that I can’t answer in a blog, and I’m well aware that others are deeply involved in research looking into how our society can go about becoming healthier at our tables. That’s very important, and I’m glad efforts are being made to figure those things out. I just want to ask two simple questions, especially if your most recent meal contained any ingredients you can’t identify or pronounce: When is the last time you tried a foreign food? How about giving the land of “real and whole” a visit this week?