Eat Local, Be Happy

Written by Beth Marlin Lichter
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If you happen to live close to a regularly scheduled farmers market, consider yourself lucky. This is an opportunity to taste, purchase and then prepare foods fresh from the farm, in all their ripe, nutrient-rich glory. Grab a large bag for your shoulder and some paper money and plan to stroll leisurely from one stall to another. Vendors will happily engage you in small talk regarding the differences between one variety of tomato and another, or offer advice about how to prepare a vegetable you are unfamiliar with. Often, someone else in close proximity will chime in with a recipe of his own.

Shop the way generations of humans have shopped before you; the open market where farmers come to sell their produce and accrue faithful customers. Once you have prepared a meal with ingredients pulled out of the earth or picked from the tree within the past 24 hours, there is no turning back. You will return again and again in Summer for a particular vendor’s wild strawberries and are sad when figs go out of season. Ahhh, but Satsuma oranges, the dainty pitless variety of delicate citrus will soon be filling baskets and meanwhile, apples of various colors and textures, juicy and sweet have achieved elevated status in the pantry. Apples from the supermarket never ever tasted like this!

Your local farm community nearly died off with the emergence of the supermarket and possible shelf lives of a year, for things like boxed cereals and canned goods. Guess what? This is not really food at all, but food-like substances, engineered, designed, packaged to be eaten like food, but without much of a link to what actually comes from the farm. Now, with widely accepted acknowlegement that the typical Mediterranean diet of fresh vegetables, fruit, fish and other healthy protein, is ideal, us Americans are climbing aboard the local farm wagon and heading for the marketplace.
Organics hit the scene hard and schooled us in the virtues of food grown without pesticides, chemical preservatives and hormones. We protested a bit, but now we find large chain markets like Whole Foods, popping up everywhere, extolling the virtues of well, whole foods.
Do a taste test. Buy the best looking peach in your local supermarket. Let it ripen. This will probably take up to a week, as this piece of fruit was probably grown in South America, picked too early, shipped by truck and then by plane and then again by refrigerated truck to the store, where it will sit another week before being bought. How much flavor do you detect? A hint of what a peach should taste like? Now buy one from the farmers market. It will probably ripen within a day. It was picked at the appropriate moment, fully ripened on the tree. It’s as if you have never tasted a real peach before, there is so much zing to it.
Before long, you will find yourself needing to eat like this every single day. Compromising on freshness and flavor will become unacceptable. Supporting locally grown foods, every meal becomes a happy meal.

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