Going Where There’s No Depression

November 2, 2008

Though you wouldn’t know it from the weather here—November and sixty degrees? This has to just be setting me up for a miserable winter—yesterday was the final day of the Evanston Farmer’s Market, which I’ve attended pretty regularly this fall (after spending the summer saying I’d go but sleeping late and puttering around with a coffee mug instead). I’m really going to miss relatively cheap, delicious, local food. And it’s a fun thing to do on Saturday mornings—makes sure I get out of bed at a reasonable hour, for one thing.

And there really is something about buying produce from the person who grew it—and who cares that you get precisely the right piece for you and how you’re going to use it. I’m not exactly the most personable person early(ish) in the morning when still working on my first cup of coffee, the friend of mine who I go with has no such relationship with caffeine so some of the people there know us—mostly by virtue of her presence. There’s something about having some (thin) connection to where the food is from and who grew makes the experience of cooking and eating it so much more special, I think. It comes from seeing that the primary concern of the person who grew it is that I enjoy the act of eating it, far more than selling it to me.

My dad told a story about how when he ten or twelve, and his grandparents still lived on their farm, all of the grandkids picked chicks to raise and name. I forget what his was named, but there was something distinctively unique about it. So one Sunday, they come over for lunch, and afterwards, my dad goes out back to look for his bird. It’s not there. He asks his grandmother what happened, and she (in his telling) responds bluntly: “You just ate him.” He was ten, so he went and cried for a few minutes. But I think that was when he first realized where food came from, and I’m pretty sure the point of the story was to try and tell my brother and me the same thing.

Yesterday morning, there was this utterly sublime moment shortly before we left, when she needed a picture of a bluegrass threesome for a class project, so we stood nearby, listening to them singing, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”—and I’m a sucker for bluegrass and traditional tunes (or those that are, by now, traditional). It never fails to remind me of home. I stood there holding my bag with vegetables and the season’s last can of apple butter, tapping my foot and half singing-along. In the middle of it all, I had this sense that the answer was a quiet but persistent, “Yes,” one that you’ll miss if you’re not careful.

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