Our short but delicious local strawberry season usually begins around Father's Day in June each year and ends by Canada Day, the first of July. The imported strawberries available throughout the year from Mexico and California cannot compare to the juicy flavour of a fresh picked, sun ripened berry. In my opinion, they cannot be improved upon with the addition of sugar or cream. My friend and co-worker, Lisa, brought me my first local strawberries from her family's farm. She had taken two vacation days from the hospital to help with weeding and harvesting the field of strawberries. Two years ago she had invested a lot of time planting a large strawberry patch with her mother and other family members and they now have an abundant harvest.
Everyone should be friends with at least one farmer. Farming has become distanced from the aisles of the supermarket and often local farm foods are not available at the large grocery chains.
Lisa has made me aware of the hard work involved every day in farming. Her parents are my age and the years of labour have taken a physical toll on them. She has three brothers and three sisters, with one brother expressing an interest in running the farm. Large families really are a help in sharing the workload. Lisa still feels her responsibility to help out even though she lives and works an hour's drive away from the farm. Last fall we had so much rain that the farmers had difficulty harvesting the corn. Lisa's father couldn't get his machinery on the fields until the end of November and the quality of the crop was diminished by mould and rot.
I am currently reading a book called The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. It explores the industrial food chain which creates many of our foods that are unrecognizable from their original form. The pastoral, or organic food chain and the hunter-gatherer food chain are also described. This may sound like heavy reading, but it is well written and very interesting. The author, Michael Pollan writes,
"Many people today seem perfectly content eating at the end of the industrial food chain, without a thought in the world; this book is probably not for them. There are things in it that will ruin their appetites. But in the end this is a book about the pleasures of eating, the kinds of pleasure that are only deepened by knowing."
Recently I was helping one of my patients fill out her menu sheets for the following week. I was reading the meal choices to her and she told me emphatically that she never ate fruits or vegetables. She wouldn't even drink fruit juice. I was not surprised by her long list of health problems. Her diet consisted of bread, meat, potatoes (well that is one vegetable) and sweets.
Would you be delighted with a basket of just picked strawberries or other fresh produce? Or do your tastes run to the processed and packaged offerings that are so abundantly available in our shops and fast food outlets?