Posted by: A Part of the Solution | September 11, 2010

Seasonality

An acquaintance asked me, not too long ago, what my favorite meal was. I asked him ‘when’. He became confused. His favorite meal was the same, all year long–year in and year out. But I feed by seasonality; I like different things best at different times of the year.

I can remember a time when I like the same food best all through the year. My favorite food, from ages eight to twelve, was Baskin and Robbins Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream served in a pointy cone. But now I’m an adult, and one with tastes that vary as the seasons do. In a word, seasonality informs what I want and what I like.

On a second date with a Craigslist denizen, the guy came to my home and made me a dinner of baked salmon and steamed asparagus–he thought cooking for a cook might go a fair way to endearing himself to me. That would have been in the third week of December of 2006. I almost laughed when I saw what he had brought t o prepare for me. Fresh salmon is past its season come winter. Asparagus is in season in December, in the southern hemisphere. Dude cooked the meal well, and I ate it–but it seemed strange to me all the same. Maybe eating seasonally shifts the palate at fundamental levels over time.

I first developed my serious committment to seasonality in food while cooking for Gail’s Vegetarian Catering. My fundamental premise rested on the idea that a vegan caterer is really only as good as the veggies s/he’s serving. And the best way to get great vegetables onto the table is to buy them in season and not do too much to them. For example, I refused to prepare the Heirloom Tomato Platter with Basil Vinaigrette before the third week of July or after the first week of October had ended. If  tomatoes have to travel the continent before they hit the service plate, they just aren’t going to be all that good.

Now more than ever, I’m focused on seasonality in my eating. Partly, I’m motivated by the two acres of truck garden we’re running up here. Partly, I’m motivated by the animals and their cycles of maturation and production (in the case of milk and eggs) or maturation and slaughter (as in the flesh we consume).

Pigs are ‘ready’ in autumn–and I’ll have a crack at enjoying my own pork this year. Except for bacon in the BLTs we’ve been making and the occasional sausage, I don’t really even want any pig meat outside of the cold months. Chickens for eating in a four-season climate are generally a twice a year thing: high summer and mid-fall. Cows are supposed to be at their best, butchering-wise, when the better part of their field greens are over and they’ve had a chance to finish and relax–so right about now would be when. I assume that goats are on the same schedule as lambs. I can hardly wait to find out.

All of this is to say, consider what you’re eating and when you’re eating it. Dining seasonally decreases the carbon-footprint of your meal, even if it’s already organic.

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Responses

  1. Seems a bit elitist. I disagree that the mere transportation of a vegetable or fruit, even cross-continent, makes it not all that good.

    • Given my recent experience with heirloom produce straight from the garden at absolute peak, I have to disagree with you there. The stuff bred to be tough enough to make the transcontinental trip is nothing like lettuce so tender it can barely make the 125 miles from here to DC. Let alone comparing hydroponic tomatoes to tomatoes with skin so delicate it splits if piled three high. This is the opposite of elitist. My point of view doesn’t presuppose an endlessly expanding carbon footprint as an inevitable right, let alone an unavoidable privlege of necessity.

      • Certainly everyone has their own palate sensitivities and their own food preferences. I certainly respect your right to only eat foods “in season” if you so choose. But to make statements like “I refused to prepare the Heirloom Tomato Platter with Basil Vinaigrette before the third week of July or after the first week of October had ended” smacks of elitism, even if that’s when the tomatoes in your area are at their best.

  2. On the delicate subject of locally sourcing foods.

    http://m.assetbar.com/achewood/uuad60lw1

    • That was funny. But I’m still serious about the ‘where’ being key.


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