The Challenge of Eating Seasonally

Sometimes it is really hard to incorporate change into one’s life.  For those of you who would like to begin to eat locally and seasonally, wether for health, community, or environmental reasons, it is often hard to develop new habits within an ongoing busy lifestyle.  After a day at work, it is often easier to cook something familiar and easy than it is to go to garden or search the grocery store for food that is local.  For those of you who are struggling with this, I offer a few suggestions:

  • I have always been a firm believer in the ‘cold turkey’ approach to change.  Many years ago I decided I did not want more plastic grocery bags.  After forgetting to bring my own bags for a few weeks in a row, I told myself that if I forgot the bags, I did not buy the groceries.  Success!!!  This method works very quickly for me.
  • I try to set myself progressive challenges.  I started with trying to grow my own food, this progressed to finding more ways to use my own food, then finally to making a commitment not to buy vegetables that were not local or seasonal.  At first I tried to make 2-3 meals a week with vegetables that were completely from my garden, then I gradually increased this until I would say that 80-90% of my vegetables are either my own or are local and seasonal
  • Realize that with each challenge, you will find answers.  That is the beauty of the challenge.  If you have a garden, forego the grocery store and it doesn’t take long to find ideas.  Tell your friends that this is what you are doing – I have been given some amazing recipes and ideas from so many people.  If you don’t have a garden, make a trip to the farmer’s market or a local food store, buy what is available, and then make the commitment to using it and not buying something else.  For me, necessity is very often the mother of invention, but in our perhaps overabundant society, one must almost artificially create the necessity.
  • Feel the beauty of being creative, enjoy and bask in your success.   Remember that each success makes you feel better about what you are accomplishing and feeds your ability to create and overcome more challenges.  I tell people that I really try to make this whole exercise into a bit of a game. Have fun with it.

So, here is an example of my process.

It is early July. I have snow peas, green onions, lettuce, and green garlic in the garden.  Beans, cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes are not ready yet.  I like trying new grains and one of the ones that I enjoy is quinoa.  I have some pork in the freezer.  So, before I begin this process, I have no idea what I will create, I just have an idea of what I want to use and what I have in the garden.

So, I cut the pork into small pieces and marinated it for several days in tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and finely chopped green garlic.  (I know the condiments are not local, but it is the refrigerated transport of fruits and vegetables that are the huge environmental killer – I decided long ago that I was not going to martyr myself – just do my part!).  After  3 days, I cooked the pork with all of the marinade.  Then I soaked and cooked about 1 1/2 cups of quinoa.  I washed a head of lettuce and cleaned and chopped some green onions.   Snow peas were harvested, washed, and very lightly steamed.  Put the lettuce in the bottom of a large and pretty bowl. Mix the quinoa with the vegies and add the cooked meat and juices.  Taste, add abit more rice vinegar and some salt and spoon on top of the lettuce.  When my daughter asked if I would make this again, I knew that I had succeeded.

This ‘recipe’ might work with pasta or rice, other kinds of meat, tofu, shell peas or sugar snap peas, beans later in the summer.  Much of what I cook are variations on a theme, after all the garden is somewhat limited – especially when it is very small as mine is.  But it is good, nutritious, pretty economical, and fun to come up with.

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