I’m taking a brief interlude from “Pomegranate Week” to discuss something that has been on my mind these days.
Above is a picture of a meal my mom makes in Greece ever year, when the snails come out…Spicy Snail Stew with Onions, Tomatoes and Potatoes. It’s not a great picture, but I wanted to share because each of the ingredients are so fresh and compliment one another so beautifully. The snail essence infuses into the vegetables. The liquid reduces into a concentrated medley of veggie-seafood flavor. And this kind of meal applies directly to the subject of my post today- It’s easy, affordable, homey, and an exquisite result of local products.
We are all aware of the recent explosion of the “organic” “local product” “garden to plate” movement. There are different sections in the grocery store for organic products. Chefs in interviews, on cooking shows, and in recipes emphasize using organic this and organic that. Michelle Obama facilitated a White House produce garden. For some, this is an important and essential ideal for our health as a society. For others, it is elitist and impractical.
On food forums, such as Chowhound.com, people debate this topic with pretty feverish passion. When people are tight on money, have less resources in their respective areas, live in colder climates, or are busy working parents with two kids…I can understand how the criticism of processed, packaged foods feels like unfair personal attacks.
I feel so fortunate for the moments sitting on the steps with my great aunt in Karpathos, cracking open fresh almonds. The aroma alone…sigh. Or eating fresh eggs just hatched from my grandparent’s chickens…These pure experiences of ingredients is certainly ideal…
And I am idealistic, but I can be practical. I don’t raise chickens here in Athens. But there are countless recipes that are fast and affordable that do not come out of a box or can. Specialness of food needs to be demystified. It is not just for fine dining and connoisseur cooks. Even for those who do not enjoy the process of cooking, or see food as an afterthought to the course of their day…well, small choices make big differences. And I really do believe much can be achieved more simply that people may think.
No one needs to grow a garden in their small apartment balcony, or take 3 hours to cook a meal, or spend exorbitant amounts of money.
But isn’t it always better to strive for the healthiest options? Isn’t it better to be aware of our choices and the consequences of our choices?
Let each community strive to make this lifestyle more accessible for everyone. We have to start somewhere. Change is never a speedy process.
Here in Greece, we are lucky. It is much more accessible to get our hands on fresh yet inexpensive produce. There is Laiki, the open air market in a different neighborhood each day; In the center of Athens, the Agora is the mecca for food- spices, fruit, veggies, seafood, meat- all extremely fresh; Most neighborhoods are within walking distance of small-business produce markets.
Unlike most places in America, it is actually more affordable to buy from these smaller markets…
Which means we have fewer excuses. Why not support the local sellers of produce? It’s good for our economy and good for our bodies.
There are always better choices based on our respective means and opportunity. We can try to prepare seasonal ingredients which is healthier, affordable and tastier. We can buy frozen instead of canned if it’s not going to be fresh. I definitely boil and freeze the beautiful thin green beans that are only available in spring. Sure, I’d rather eat fresh- but I don’t have time today for grocery shopping, and so this is a better option than a powdered soup. I’m going to sautee some of the green beans with garlic. Choices.
This dialogue is important, and I’m glad it is happening.
What are your thoughts?