By Emery Styron, River Hills Traveler
My wife stopped at our backyard garden Saturday afternoon, noticed the green onions were about eight inches tall, and pulled six or eight out of the ground to go with supper.
That got me thinking about the way we eat these days. The onions were savory and delicious and the only thing on the table that night that didn’t pass through way too many hands and processes on the way to our stomachs.
This morning, I had a simple breakfast: Granola from a bag inside a box, cranberry juice from a plastic bottle, yogurt from a plastic container with a foil seal and an orange. There was a pile of waste when I finished. Only the orange peels were biodegradable. Had I eaten at a fast-food restaurant there would have been a paper bag, napkin, plastic tableware, etc. to dispose of, too.
Things have gotten way to complicated. It’s so much more tasty and satisfying to pull an onion out of the ground, wash it off and eat it than to buy a bag of them at the store, not knowing what they’ve been fertilized or sprayed with, or how many hands have touched them, or how much petroleum it took to produce them.
We’ve gotten too far from those basics in our thinking and in the way our food is produced. Many people don’t associate chicken nuggets with walking, squawking birds or hambugers with bawling, ornery cattle. Nuggets are a manufactured, chickenish product made from birds that may have never set foot or beak on real soil. Burgers and steaks, despite their more rugged image, come mostly from confined feeding operations. Processed food tastes even worse when you think about how it is produced.
How do we get back to the basics? Hunting or fishing is one way. You kill an animal and you eat what you can. What you can’t eat you return to the soil or leave for other animals. There will be some packaging, storage, transportation, etc., but those can be minimized if you do your hunting and fishing close to home.
Foraging is another way. This is the time of year when morel-hunters enjoy nature’s bounty. I have good memories of taking my wife blackberry-picking in southwest Missouri years ago when she was nine-months pregnant. We drove the car close up against the loaded roadside bushes near Shoal Creek and she filled her lap with luscious berries.
Gardening also shortens the food chain and feels good. I don’t know why I feel so proud of a crop of tomatoes or onions. I only watch. Nature does most of the work.
There’s no trip to the store. No plastic bag to recycle. No preservatives or pesticides to worry about unless you put them on yourself. There are weeds to pull and bugs to pick off, but that’s part of the fun.
Next best thing is to buy at a farmer’s market or hook up with a local farmer whose practices you know.
Those are some of my thoughts on food. What are you eating and thinking?