By Matthew Jose, Owner, Big City Farms CSA
One thing that I have noticed over the past few years is how little time I take to prepare elaborate meals during the summer months – I simply don’t have the time or the energy and, oftentimes, sandwiches become my default meal of choice. This is one reason why I have felt particularly fortunate these past few weeks to be invited and participate in wonderful meals with friends and acquaintances. Some of the gatherings have been quite small, with just a few close friends. Others have been larger affairs where I seem to know perhaps half of the folks attending. It was at one of these larger, pitch-in events that something was said that continues to crop up in my mind, even weeks after the fact.
My son and I, along with two close friends, had driven to another friend’s family farm where her parents still lived and still raised a relatively small number of cows. We were there for a large dinner that included a few local chefs we’ve worked with, as well as their families, and other assorted folks. Needless to say, we were looking forward to a brief respite in the country, surrounded by good food. Once we arrived, everyone was soon busy – either prepping items for dinner or exploring the pastures and trying to find the cows. Eventually, everything was ready and we gathered around a collection of mismatched tables, covered with bowls and platters of delicious-looking food. Before we began eating, the unassuming patriarch of the family, the man who now spent much of his time gardening and looking after his beloved cows, rose to offer a toast. He mentioned how happy he was that we could all be there, and reminded us of the importance of enjoying food in the company of good friends. Soon after, we began passing around the food, helping ourselves, and began the meandering and lovely experience of long summer dinners.
The thing that stuck with me was that this gentleman, who is an active participant in his own food sources, did not even mention the notion and importance of ‘local’ food. Instead, he emphasized the experience of eating with friends, of preparing and enjoying foods that we each offer to our community with pride and love. I couldn’t tell if he felt like the ‘local-ness’ of the food was inevitable or an afterthought, but I appreciated his viewpoint. Within our small world of local food producers and advocates, we tend to think of the food’s origin as the end-all, be-all. We ignore the other steps that naturally accompany that experience – preparing and sharing that food (with ourselves or in the company of others). And those steps are just as vital and filled with possibilities (probably more so) as going to a farmers’ market or picking up a CSA share. It is in those moments that the majority of us (those who do not necessarily grow their own food) have a chance to demonstrate what joyful eating can look like – what lessons it can impart to other generations, and how it can honor ourselves and our community.
Your financial support and your willingness to engage in this local food arrangement are much-appreciated. Even more so, though, I hope that all of you are able to enjoy many meals this year – by yourself, with friends, or simply with acquaintances. Whether it is with our produce, food from other farms, or food from far away matters little. It is that act of preparation and sharing that, in my opinion, takes precedence. For with those experiences, ties can be renewed – to the land, ourselves, and our communities.