Friday, August 29, 2008

A lot of people start eating organic food for selfish reasons. I've eaten organic fruits and vegetables pretty much my whole life and it wasn't because I spared a lot of thought about the benefits for the planet. Really it was my mom who sent me down the organics road and she wasn't thinking about Mother Earth either. I'd guess the logic for her was that organic food was healthier for our bodies and would make us more attractive with nicer skin. My mother would probably drink powdered kitten bones stirred into puppy tears if someone told her it would reverse sun damage. She's a lovely woman though.

What the word organic means has changed a lot over the years and if you think about food for a while you realize how many words are used to manipulate our food choices, even words like organic that are supposed to signify something. Natural, healthy, gourmet, traditional, farm fresh. It's someone's job, lots of someones, to place those words in a pleasing fashion across all kinds of packaging so you and I will happily shell out a little extra money for them. And I have to admit they get me all the time. It's because I'm a snob and have been since my mom started feeding me solid foods, bits of fruit that she hoped would turn me into some sort of eternally youthful organic super being who could keep away cancer with a flex of the muscle. I got used to the taste and the smell and the look of it all.

Of course it's the look of things that's most easily manipulated by human hands, we quite excel at it. Packaging I associate with healthy tasty things are covering all sorts of crap and unless I'm very careful I don't always discern the difference between the two until after I leave the store. One answer of course is to eat whole foods, nothing processed or as little processing as possible. Processed items have lots of ingredients and the more ingredients something has the less you can know about what you're eating, the more places these ingredients came from, the more fuel that went into the machines to transport and make them. But, meh, I like cheese puffs. Much to my detriment.

Another solution is don't be taken in. Something has begun to change for me over the last year and I can't say why it's happening or if it'll last. I don't necessarily eat organic for me anymore. Or even eat organic at all if there's a minimally treated option available grown within a few hundred miles instead of Argentina. I don't buy things just because they have nice wrappings (well, there was a recent incident with some cheese wrapped in a leaf but a lesson was learned). Now I'm trying to eat organic and locally for the environment and makes the world a healthier place not just my body. I haven't really tried to do this through a winter yet, so I think a lot of canning is in my near future. We'll see.

Anyway I was in a farmer's market and thinking about all this and how smug I am when I noticed a table covered in little plastic containers. There were pretty labels glued to them and inside were a few stems of Johnny-Jump-Ups. These flowers are edible and very pleasing to the eye and I stopped to look at them and admire how clever this farmer was selling something cheaply produced as Gourmet. They have little nutritional value, aren't filling or even that flavorful but they look great! Cleverness appreciated, I then thought, What A Scam.

Plastic containers? Four dollars? Gourmet flowers? What? Nuts!

There will always be something exhilirating about buying a little special something for yourself, there will always be a need for organic farmers to make money through 'specialty' items. But this particular item is a call to arms (exaggerration). A lot of people could reduce their food costs, get in touch with the cycle of planting and harvest, find a use for compost in their own homes just by growing something on their window sill or fire escape or yard if they're lucky enough to have one. Why not start with flowers? They're easy to grow, pretty, don't require a lot of space and you can put them in drinks, on cakes, make them into candies, put them on spreadable cheese, in salads, and teas. Wont really cut your food costs but maybe adding a decorative element to a meal that was produced by their own hand would inspire people to grow something more challenging the following season and the one after that. First the thing that pleases the eye, then the thing that pleases the body and then the thing that pleases the world. The order should be reversed-World, Body, Eye- but you have to start somewhere. And no plastic containers required!

This is a great list of edible flowers and recipes for them:

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