thinking about food

We’re not really too much for desserts, but do make an exception when Ontario peaches come in. We do the same when the Ontario grown Ida Red apples are available later in the season. Yesterday, I made the above pie from a basket of Ontario freestone peaches that Don brought home on Tuesday evening. How nice it is to have good, ripe peaches, unlike the weird things that are sold in the stores in winter. I’m sometimes tempted to buy a couple of the imported ones, but am almost always disappointed as they’re tasteless and seem to go from rock hard and unripe, to bruised and rotten in the space of a couple of days.

In our part of Ontario, the next few weeks are the peak of the season as far as fruit and vegetables are concerned. Locally grown tomatoes, squash, corn, carrots, potatoes, and other vegetables are suddenly flooding the local markets. It’s too bad that our growing season isn’t just a little longer and stretched out as it’s nice to be able to enjoy fresh grown produce from our own garden, or those of local farmers.

I’ve been thinking about food quite a bit lately. Perhaps it’s because so many food items have increased greatly in price over the past few months — in synch with the rise in fuel costs. Just recently, I was reading that farmers are also having trouble finding pickers and people to drive field crop equipment due to changes in immigration laws and work visas in the U.S. Add to that the sudden death of honeybees used to pollinate many crops, and it’s no great surprise that prices are climbing. As consumers, we tend not to think about how each change impacts the food supply until we see prices rising, or certain fruits or vegetables suddenly becoming unavailable.

A couple of other things have also got me thinking about food. Just recently, I’ve been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver (I read bits and pieces of several books at a time, so my reading is something of a work in progress). The first couple of chapters will definitely make you think about the relationship between food, energy, gas, land, and population. By some coincidence, right about the time I was reading those chapters, a friend at 2020 Oregon, sent me a link to Watch Your (Fo)odometer, an animated short video by Molly Schwartz. If you haven’t seen it, take a look if you’ve got a good net connection.

For many of us, buying local year round is not easy or entirely possible. However, we can try to grow or buy local produce whenever possible. We can also try to freeze what we can, or look for foods that were grown and processed as close to home as possible. It’s also a good idea to try to reduce energy costs when cooking our food. Yesterday was a “baking day” here, so I had three different things baking in the oven together. I try to plan things out and do that as much as possible so that the oven is fully utilized.

By the way, on the subject of food and community, here are a couple of posts that may be of interest to you:

* At Via Negativa, Dave writes about Singing in the Bog.

* At Body, Soul, and Spirit, Ruth provides an end of July update on her goal of using more locally produced foods.

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16 Responses to “thinking about food”

  1. Wren Says:

    Pie here, cake at PF – great day for desserts.

  2. Mark Says:

    Georgia used to be known as the peach state, but that title has passed to South Carolina. There used to be peach orchards in many places around Rome, in NW Georgia, including the very mountaintop where we now live. The terraces can still be seen if you do a little bushwhacking off the road. I can remember going to a pick-your-own orchard when I was a little boy. There wasn’t much better or itchier than picking and eating peaches right off the tree. Now almost any we get are grown far away and developed mainly for their suitability for being shipped those long distances. The sweet, fragile varieties don’t ship well, and the local orchards are gone, so good peaches are rare. That’s what ‘s called “progress.”

  3. Cathy Says:

    I just bought locally grown peaches. They won’t make it into a beautiful pie like yours, Bev – but I’ll enjoy wiping the juice off my chin.

  4. Dave Says:

    Thanks for the link. This is the height of fresh produce season here in PA, too, and as always we go crazy and get everything in sight. Things like zucchini and eggplant we pretty much don’t eat the rest of the year. (The peaches we freeze and add to fruit mixtures throughout the winter. We freeze a lot of local fruit, including blueberries.)

    For baking, we use a countertop toaster oven (don’t have a microwave) on an almost daily basis. It accommodates a couple small loaf pans or up to a 3-quart casserole dish at a time, and uses much less electricity than a full-sized oven. Also doesn’t heat the kitchen up as much on hot summer days.

  5. pohanginapete Says:

    Oh man! Can you email me a piece of that pie, Bev?

  6. Ruth Says:

    Looks like a picnic Bev. No better place to eat than outside in the summer. Thanks for mentioning my post. You have been an influence in changes we have made over the past year in what we eat and where we get it from.

  7. kay Says:

    I ate a homegrown peach today for lunch. Juicy. Mmmmm.

  8. bev Says:

    Wren – That’s funny! I don’t think PF or I write about food very often, so an interesting coincidence!

    Mark – Is the decline of peach growing in Georgia tied to changes in the weather, or does it have more to do with the state of agriculture — people giving up on farming due to the difficulty to make a living?
    I know just what you mean about the difference between produce grown to be consumed soon, and that which is grown for shipment. There really is no comparison in taste and texture. It’s been so long since many people have had food that really tasted good (real), that most probably don’t know the difference. That is another theme in Kingsolver’s book – how the variety of produce has been steadily lost until we are now just left with a handful of commercial varieties.

    Cathy – I love fresh peaches for eating too. I had to stop and eat a few slices while I was making the pie yesterday! We’ll get at least 2 or 3 more baskets this week so that I can put them in the freezer for use this coming winter.-

    Dave – This is such a great time of the year for stocking up on fruit and vegetables for the freezer or preserves. The blueberries must be terrific down there.
    We have a toaster oven too and use it in a similar way to what you’ve described. I keep trying to think of ways to reduce energy consumption and some of it must be working as the electrical bill that arrived today had about the lowest kWh that we’ve ever had for this time of the year. Now, if I could just do something about cutting down more in winter!

    Hi Pete! I was thinking that I wished there was some way that I could slices of this pie around to a few people! If I figure out a method, you’ll be on the list! (-:

    Ruth – We eat outdoors quite a bit in summer – either out in the new fire garden, or on our screened in porch. It’s so much nicer than sitting indoors. I think it’s great that you’re documenting your effort to buy more local. We manage to do so much of the time, but we do break down and buy some imported fresh fruit and vegetables in winter. Being vegetarians, we’ve found that it’s difficult to stick with only winter vegetables for several months. However, I do change my style of cooking in winter — more soups made from beans, root vegetables and the like. It’s an ongoing effort.

  9. bev Says:

    kay – I wish we could grow peaches here, but we’re just a bit on the cold side. However, at least we can get peaches grown not all that far from out area. They sure taste nice, but probably nowhere near as good as a peach from your own garden!!

  10. robin andrea Says:

    That’s a fantastic looking piece of peach pie, bev. Yum. I don’t know what to make of store-bought peaches anymore. Seems whenever we buy them now they go through the exact decline you describe. I remember delicious, juicy peaches but the stuff that hits the markets are just not the same. We’re freezing veggies and fruit as fast as we can pick these days.

  11. Mark Says:

    Bev, I think the decline of peach orcharrds, at least in our area, has more to do with changing economic conditions than climate. We’re growing in population, and that means agricultural land is getting so valuable many owners can’t resist the sellout. I see this dramatically illustrated in Huntsville, Ala, where I work in a business park that is still being developed. There is a cotton field right across the street from a big, new biotech building. In the distance you can see the Saturn V rocket display at the Space and Rocket Center. In the long run, the cotton field is going to lose.

  12. DougT Says:

    I love fresh peaches at this time of year. My favorites are Red Havens. I’m thinking that if I jump in my car right now, I could be in Ontario by about suppertime. So save a piece for me. It really looks wonderful.

  13. bev Says:

    robin – We’ve been enjoying this yummy pie. I’m going to ask Don to stop and pick up a couple of more baskets of peaches for another pie and to freeze. I can imagine just how buzy you’ve been doing up vegetables and fruit!

    Mark – Thanks for writing a bit more on this topic. I had wondered if it might be related to a change in land use. Up here, the average age of farmers is something like 50 or a bit more. A lot of those folks are selling off their farms and retiring. Younger people either aren’t interested or can’t afford to purchase property and get started out. That’s not good for the family farm as we know it. I’m afraid we’re going to be doomed to large operations that are run on such a scale that rock hard unripe peaches are about all we can expect to see. Very disheartening.

    Doug – Well, this pie is almost gone, but there will probably be another one or two to follow, so you can probably make it! (-:

  14. marcia bonta Says:

    Peaches are my favorite non-berry fruit. Another book you may or may not have read yet is Michael Pollan’s THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA.

  15. Larry Ayers Says:

    Thank the Chinese for domesticating peaches! Next to peaches, my favorite fruit is the largest native North American fruit: the paw paw. Their taste is like a meld of mango, banana and peach. Do they grow up in your area?

  16. bev Says:

    marcia – Thans for mentioning The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I shall have to put it on reserve from out local library.

    Larry – I just love peaches too — and Ida Red apples. We don’t have paw paws up here and I’ve never even tasted one. I should see if I can find some at one of the larger fruit and vegetable markets in the city.