Thursday, August 11, 2011

August light

The tomatoes came from a farm within a stone's throw, the eggplant from our front yard. Our neighbor two homes down gave us the flounder he caught within a couple of miles of here. The basil got plucked from the backyard patch. The peach melomel came from local honey and peaches brewed under our roof a year ago, with help from a local vintner when I ran out of yeast nutrient. I biked over to the Cape May Winery, and he shared what he had.

This is how humans made it before the industrial age, when we depended on this year's sun, this year's crops, and this year's kindness.

Leslie's secret to her cooking in August--keep out of the way of the ingredients.


The sun went as far north as it's going to go, and is now sliding back, picking up momentum day by day. The bees know this, more frantic now as they store their honey. The plants know this, shedding captured calories into the fruit we call vegetables.

Food is good, food is abundant in these parts. We eat, and we put some by.

We'll freeze tomatoes and basil and beans. We'll ferment peaches and blueberries and honey. We'll collect seeds and store them in brown paper bags, in the pantry closet, until the creaking light of February prompts us to start sowing again.


By February, I will be diving into ribonucleic acids and adenosine triphosphates with kids who will be diving into McDonald's as we defrost last summer's pesto. McDonald's is cheap, and McDonald's is, to many, tasty.

A year ago I grew a batch of basil in class, eventually making a batch of pesto. I offered to share it, but my students were shocked I'd eat something we grew in class.

We are so disconnected from our earthy roots that even food has become abstract.

Biology, or any science for that matter, is not abstract. Oh, the models can get a bit wacky, and just about all of them are wrong here or there, but none of them come from thin air. Our hypotheses are human inventions, true, but our conclusions are not--our ideas are weathered by the natural world, by reality, by an uncertain sense of truth.

We eat, we breathe, we shit, we pee--pretty much all animals do. You can get through formal education all the way to a PhD and not have even a vague notion of how life works, how matter is transformed, and energy caught.

August is the month of accounting--the solar feast wanes, do we have enough to survive the winter? For most living things on this part of the world, the answer comes in a slow unraveling, as mitochondria are no longer fed pyruvate, as another life ends beneath the snow, silently, held in ice until the feast resumes in March.

And what do we offer the nascent adult? A diet of DNA, ATP, and ribosomes, a subcellular abstraction that answers nothing that matters to a child just starting to shave.

I hope to fix that....

And while we're at it, food is not energy.
P.S.: Perseids tonight!

1 comment:

Tracy Rosen said...

I'm moving away from processed and towards what I can find around here. I live in farm country what the heck was I doing driving to the market and buying frozen pizza to eat sometime next week?

And I'm finding it's way quicker to prepare the food I've been eating lately, too. Just takes longer to clean up after all of the chopping and peeling :)

Look - I've been writing about it (surprise, surprise)