Confessions of a Not-Rich Foodie - PART ONE

I read this article this morning, and have been stewing about it a bit, mostly the comments.  I'll try to keep this short, because it could probably become a novel.  There's this commonly held idea, propagated by so many people, that foodies are all rich elitists.  I get it.  I mean, Micheal Pollan is a big, egghead, academic snob.  I love a lot of his ideas, argue with some of them, and appreciate the way his writing is challenging and not dumbed-down, but I know at the end of the day he lives in a world that's a LOT different than most of us.  But I will argue that not everyone who cares about food, and/or where it comes from, is a yuppie with a large expendable income who is competing with their friends at who is the "greenest".  For me the way I eat and live has been an evolution, and I for one don't think I fit the stereotypes.
I am a foodie because a few years ago I decided to trade having money for having time.  I had a stressful job that I hated, and I gave it up for a low-stress part-time one.  In my favor was a little house with a real kitchen, and a sunny backyard.  And free time.  If I wanted the good but expensive loaves that I liked from the grocery store--the crunchy, European style loaves, I decided I would learn to make them myself.  So armed with library books and improvised baking stones, I figured it out. 

Both my husband and I had played with gardens at various apartments, so having one was a given when we bought our house.  In fact, we got permission to plant a few tomato plants before we even closed.  We didn't think about it as food--beyond the fact that it was a source of cheap tomatoes.  But with more free time (and less money) my garden grew, because gardening really is a cheap proposition.  A garage sale shovel, free compost from the city, and a few dollars in seeds and starter plants, plus labor, is all you need. We gardened organically mainly because we were cheap--pesticides and fertilizer cost money.  It was easier to look up a homemade organic method, or just tolerate a level of imperfection.

So very gradually, I got better at cooking and baking and gardening.  Even poor results were often a lot better than processed foods or grocery store produce.  We started growing more tomatoes than we could eat, and a friend taught me how to can tomatoes and salsa. I didn't necessarily think about replacing my grocery store purchases, it was mainly a frugal desire not to let things go to waste.  And then we got chickens.

The chicken thing started out as kind of a joke--our city passed an ordinance allowing a few backyard hens, and we thought the hubbub about it was hilarious.  But on reading the stories about it, we were intrigued:  As a gardener, the idea of chickens eating up leftover garden waste was appealing--that they exchanged it for fertilizer and eggs was even better.  So we got chickens--not because we wanted to know where our food came from, or because it was trendy, but because we thought it would be fun--and useful. And "free" eggs!  We built a coop ourselves, bought day-old production birds from a hatchery for less than a dollar each, and read a lot of poultry information online. 

I credit the hens with helping me understand how food can be a cycle.  In my backyard, there was suddenly a system that I could see in motion.  Those girls had a way of teaching lessons.  I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about food ethics, but now when I read stories about retired factory hens being dumped at an area landfill (some still alive!) I had a connection to the story that I never had before.  I knew I couldn't buy eggs from those places anymore.  So when winter came and production slowed, I shelled out a few extra bucks and got free range eggs, either at the grocery or at a local market.

to be continued....

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  1. See, evolution. It's just food that was the impetus to change.

    I read the article too (but not the comments) and thought: wow, won't our own oven be fun if I opened it up to cooking with more people? As it is it's just me enslaved to it. I suppose it would be a lot more fun and not such an endurance challenge.

    Then, thanks to you, I started to read the comments. I really don't think people get it. Sure, one of the cooks featured was the wood-pizza tender for 6 years at Chez Panisse but goodness, she's a pizza cooker, just like the ones behind pizza counters everywhere; she simply did it at a more swanky locale. And people kill and cook goats everywhere. And cook bread. Etcetc.

    I think, maybe, it's plain old food that people are beginning to see as the fissure. And maybe that's it: either you enjoy food, or you don't. Either you enjoy preparing it and sharing it, or you don't.

    But I did have to laugh: that toast he described is my morning meal practically every day. The cheese and jam sometimes varies. For me, it's quotidian. For someone else, it's snobbery. Meh. Whatcanyoudo.

    I hope you continue this rant, Ms S!

  2. I'm with El, I don't think people get it. For so many people, food is fuel, nothing more. For me, growing food and cooking is a process that nurtures me and the people I love.

  3. I understand that people aren't in to food. I'm not in to Pro football, but you don't see me blasting fans because the players make millions of dollars and fly in private jets.

    I was quite amused how much their little oven looked like mine. Cob ovens are totally low-budget! The Kiko Denzer book is all about using found materials as much as possible.


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