Goals Change, the Old Orthorexic Mare Ain’t What She Used to Be
Darn kids, give them a camera and of course they like to take photos of you when you’re not aware. I’m fair game I suppose, and since I don’t really look at the back of my head much, if at all, I was a little surprised to see I still had a fair bit of dark hair. I would like to think that I am a little wiser after all these years of gardening and larder stuffing. Each year I’m a little more satisfied with our food supply. Not worrying as much about food and how I store it as I used to be, and learning that being obsessed with clean food has a name, Orthorexia. You can read about it here. I’m probably in denial, but seeing these cool, vintage photos that I absolutely love, start to circulate on the interwebs really opened my eyes to how much my goals have changed in the last 15 years or so.
I love these old photos, but being someone who grew up with a fruit room exactly like these, I can see that the items while representative of the prowess of the makers, were staged for the photos, Gram’s Instagrams if you will. Food Styling for pantry nerds. Apples and cut rhubarb and potatoes exposed to the light? Onions, squash and possibly celery down in the corner? All those things would be present at a farm home, but most likely kept in different areas for the longest possible storage. Gramma knew dark was the name of the game for potato storage, a thing I failed to pick up on when my old burlap bags gave up the ghost, I used modern white plastic burlap bags like I use for my dahlia bulbs, and guess what? I ruined my potatoes, they turned green in the root cellar from the whiteness of the bags. Lesson learned, pay attention to detail.
This is our fruit room, or actually one side of it, and I have actually seen it stuffed to the gills before with home canned goods from the garden and orchard. I’ve even stuffed it a few times myself. Those old root cellar photos used to be my goal, now I can see them as historical photos showing what was happening then, not what I need to do now.
These days, the shelves hold more empty jars than full. We have changed the way we eat and garden. I still can a few things, but not near what I used to do. We just have lost all desire for canned fruit, except chunky applesauce. Ditto for most canned vegetables, but I still really like canned tomatoes in all their forms. I grew up with the idea you planted your garden and then you canned or froze everything you could harvest in long marathon canning sessions to put that sunlight in a jar for the dark days. Necessity, and much better than going to the store for sure. But these days, some things have changed or at least they have for us.
I think where the orthorexia comes in, is in the form of over-correction. Depending on who you talk to they will tell you that you must eat the way they do. Raw, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, omnivore, gluten-free, fermented, fresh, etc. I get the proselytizing about probiotics, but you have to realize we eat a lot of raw food and dirt each day already, we drink untreated spring water, and I get the avoidance of factory farming of animals. So we’ve preferred to take a moderate approach, and keep some of the old and the new ways of larder stocking. As much as I would like to erase plastic from my life, it’s nigh impossible to completely erase plastic in some form in the food storage arena.
I think if you go back through my blog you will find posts about making 10 gallons of sauerkraut at a time. That is how I learned to do it. Grow it, shred it, salt it, pack it, and you’re done. Sometimes unlearning one thing means you learn something new, or change what you’re doing a bit. Sauerkraut is a live food, what you put in the crock in November surely tastes much different than what you pull out in April… . The single most important thing about all these styles of eating and preserving? You and most of the household must like the product, no matter how good you believe it is for you or your family, if they don’t like it, it’s a wasted effort. None of us like lacto-fermented cucumbers, no matter how much brow beating we endure, we just don’t like them. So we move on. And we make and eat vinegar pickles, and we enjoy them, down to the very last piece in the jar. That is what makes all the work worth it.
So now I try each year to make some kraut out of fall cabbages, but smaller amounts, and just relax and enjoy smothered cabbage as a vegetable side dish. Succession planting of different types of cabbage that mature at different time allows us some freedom from the old way of putting up.
People change the way they eat because they grow weary of eating the same thing. By expanding my gardening season I can expand my pantry too. I know too some of you are thinking yeah, easy for you to say, you live in zone 8, so I say read some Eliot Coleman, he lives in Maine, same parallel as here but a much colder gardening zone. “Well, then ignore what I have to say and go with what works for you.” -Eliot Coleman His four season gardening techniques are not to be sneezed at no matter what zone you garden in. I would venture it’s more the idea of gardening year round that turns off lots of folks, more than their climate limitations. Many make a greenhouse work for them in cold climates, with added row cover they fashion a greenhouse within a greenhouse ala Coleman and his four season farm.
Now in February maybe I am tired of cooking and eating smothered cabbage, and if I planned my winter garden and planted it in late summer or early fall, and the weather cooperated, I can make fresh kraut now with fresh cabbage, carrots and stored garlic, instead of dreading the 10 gallon slog through the October kraut.
Gardeners are gamblers for sure. I know the supermarket is a sure bet, but seeds are cheap and I have learned for sure that if I don’t plant something, it is guaranteed I won’t be harvesting anything. So I plant. Sometimes the stars are aligned and we have great abundance, some times the fare is meager due to pests and weather, but it is there, and still a good alternative if you have just a little bit of space to devote to winter gardening.
I can’t say growing your own food will be guaranteed to be cheaper, many times it’s not. The labor and space required for growing, and drying down dried beans or corn for cornmeal may seem silly when you can just go to the store and purchase these items. And maybe a little orthorexia is in order, after all we should fear some things, but we shouldn’t paint ourselves into a corner either.
I hope the yearning for a full pantry like those depicted in the vintage photos never goes away, but rather the full pantry just takes on a different look.