Sunday, January 6, 2008

Convenient Food

One of the complaints a lot of folks have with trying to eat more local foods is that it's time consuming. People not only want their food cheap, they want to buy it fast and easy. Not just convenience foods -- food obtained conveniently.

We're used to going into the supermarket, finding everything we need (and being irritated if they're out of something), wheeling up one aisle and down the next loading up our carts, stopping at a register (and being irritated if there's a line) and being home putting packages away an hour after we pulled into the supermarket parking lot. And much of the food purchased can be put on the table with minimal effort -- it's already halfway prepared for us.

At the farmers' market, which for most people will be further away than the supermarket, we have to look at all the vendors. Some may have one or two things we want, some others. Sometimes we have to backtrack because the vendor we always buy our eggs from doesn't have them this week and we'd skipped the eggs at a previous stall. Sometimes we have to make a change in plan on the fly -- there's no spinach, but there's kale. Some of the things we were hoping to find may be in short supply or not there at all and we won't get any. We have to pay several different vendors, and sometimes that means waiting while the farmer has a conversation with someone else. Buying from a farmer requires having a conversation ourselves, and that takes time. Sometimes we make more than one trip to the car. And much of the food we bring home still needs at least a bit of thought and work to turn it into an actual meal. It can feel like a time-consuming way to feed ourselves if we've gotten used to doing it the supermarket way and our meal-planning skills are rusty.

A lot of folks say they don't have time to shop this way. But a lot of those same folks probably think nothing of spending three hours at the mall looking for a pair of shoes. I'd much rather shop for food than shoes, so a trip to the farmers' market doesn't seem like time poorly spent to me.

And to each his own. Every one of us has to decide for ourselves what is important to us and what's worth doing. We all have busy lives in our own ways. But when someone tells me they'd love to feed their family like I feed mine but don't have the time to shop for real food, I'll tell them that's because they haven't discovered how much fun shopping for real food can be.


Audrey said...

Amen, sister!

As my husband & I get more of our food from farmers markets, we've turned to our mothers' cookbooks, which call for a much wider variety of ingredients than today's do. In these old-school cookbooks like Julia Child's the word "marketing" is used as a verb, to describe the act of going to the markets and picking the freshest produce and meats. A contrast with today's use of the word "marketing": the practice of selling more stuff to the consumer.

valereee said...

Audrey, I'm with you! I've been collecting those little booklet-style cookbooks put out as fundraisers by women's organizations from 1950 and before. Not surprisingly, the recipes tend to be very seasonal. It's fun to look through them.

Renee said...

I'm old enough to remember that my Mom called it "marketing" -- before giant supermarkets were the norm. Shopping at a farmer's market is like being in Paris -- separate stops for bread, eggs, sausage, and then deciding which vegetables look best from which farmer. So, yes, it does take more time to shop and to prepare. If food is just fuel, that maybe doesn't make sense. But it's been fun to learn again how to eat seasonally. And fresh food does taste good enough to be worth the time.

valereee said...

Renee, and I'm having a lot of fun trying to remove as many bar codes from my pantry as possible, too.