Sunday, April 24, 2011

In search of local food

I finished reading 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' and the first thing I did afterwards was ordering my own copy (used). I just need to have this book in my library. It was the most educating book I have ever read. It does not just inspire one to think but to get out and do things differently.
So, on Friday morning we set off to the farmer's market in search of local food for our Easter dinner. This is what we came home with:

Free range eggs (there was a dozen in the box, but by the time I took the picture the missing ones had already gone into our breakfast and into the hot cross buns I made). I amused the farmer by asking if her chickens are truly free range, eating bugs and worms and such. ;-) Farm raised chicken (thighs), fresh asparagus and strawberries. Everything together cost $ 15.-. In an ideal world I would be able to go out and buy everything else I need in organic form or from fair trade organizations, but right now that would stretch our budget just a bit too much. But I am sure over time I will be able to do so more and more. It is also a question of what is actually available here.

I was thinking a lot about what has been said in the book and I realized that when and where I grew up I did indeed know where our food came from. Back then we did not have supermarkets. There was one self-serve grocery store in our neighborhood that was owned by a family. But there was a permanent farmer's market, lots of butchers, a wonderful drug store, stores that sold only dairy products, bakeries, my favorite store, that sold nothing but pickles of all kind and fresh sauerkraut and several grocery stores that sold everything else one needed. Oh, and not to forget - the candy stores. There was also a fishmonger with live fish in a big tank who also sold poultry and game. My mom used to help out there before Christmas when everyone used to buy carp for Christmas Eve. The chickens still had the head and feet attached and the innards were still intact. I learned how to remove them without popping the gall bladder. I also got to watch my mom skinning rabbits.
We even had a dairy in our neighborhood that processed milk and also produced frozen vegetables. I remember the truckloads of fresh spinach being brought in and the smell when it was processed. Every province in Austria has its own dairy where the milk produced in that province is being processed (as in made in cheese, yogurt, sour cream, etc. not into convenience food).
I grew up during the 60s and 70s and there was very little convenience or processed food available. We had canned beans, peas and other vegetables, frozen vegetables and powdered soup. Later came the instant mashed potatoes and dumpling mixes. And we only ate out on special occasions or on vacation.
Vienna sits in the middle of a big agricultural area and we learned about farming in school. We visited dairies and breweries on field trips and I had relatives living in the country. Whenever we visited them we got close up and personal with farm life. I guess I was lucky. But back then everything seemed to be smaller and closer together than it is now. By the time we left Austria in 2005 all of the small stores I remember from my childhood were gone, replaced by supermarket chains and convenience food and fast food restaurants had sprouted like mushrooms after a rain. So, whenever people ask me if I miss Vienna I say yes, but the Vienna I miss was gone long before I left.
Del and I talked about changing our eating and shopping habits and we agreed that we will give it a try. I am up to the challenge to do my best with what I have. The garden is planted and will hopefully do better this year than last and what we don't grow we will buy from the farmer's market and we will learn new skills. Del is very eager to learn how to make his own sausages and I am thinking about making cheese. One is never too old to learn something new.
On to new adventures.


Anonymous said...

Hi Maria,

I've also read that book, but awhile ago, I'm going to have to re read it. Let me know how you make out with cheese making, its something I've wanted to do but haven't.


Monika said...

How did I not know that you are from Austria?! We left a little earlier than you did.
I agree with you, when I was little you ate what you had from local farmers, what you had in your own veggie garden and there was a small convenience store nearby to buy the rest. My grandparents on both sides were farmers, so I got to hold the chicken to be slaughtered for dinner, and I got to dig for potatoes, and all the rest. We only have a farmers market here from May to October. But I'm buying organic when it makes sense whenever I can.

Tracey said...

That book changed the way I think about food too. Granted, we grow, raise or hunt most of what we eat, but once I finished reading AVM, I didn't even want to step into a supermarket!Good luck on your garden and if you need sausage recipes let me know. Happy Easter.