The view from my farm
Updated: Mar 4
Like it was yesterday I recall leaping off the bus and racing home that day. Grandma baked bread on Wednesday. Halfway home my math book dropped from the unmanageable pile of books and binders under my arm. Annoyed, I stopped to pick it up. I checked the papers I’d finished on the bus. They thankfully didn’t take flight in the wind. Everything collected, I tore around the corner. Soon fifty yards short of my house, that truly incredible smell stopped me again. Quite unlike any other. I knew it was true. Fresh bread just came out of the oven.
The backdoor slammed as I stood in the kitchen and caught my breadth. There, on the counter, feet away, were those plump and golden hot loaves. She always let me have a warm end piece.
But grandma stood staring, her smile absent. Today, grandma was a mean old lady. “The bread is still too warm to cut,” she growled, her husky voice heightened by that German accent I loved. “Why don’t you work on your homework until it’s cooled some.” Frustration at denial was incredible. I wondered how could she be so evil? Must I endure that heavenly aroma with no satisfaction? My best plaintive eyes no good, I was dismissed. “Go on now Mike, I have to wash up.”
I’d just settled in behind that old red painted desk. The door to the bedroom cracked open. There was my smiling Grandma and a plate with not one, but two thick pieces of warm bread. The first bite was incredible! As the soft, warm bread melted in my mouth, it released flavor as full and complex as any I’ve encountered since. The moment was magical. I’ve been addicted to fresh baked bread to this day. But now I battle the baker for the end pieces.
Over the ensuing sixty-plus years I discovered that those luscious loaves were but one of a wealth of delights that man has learned to coax from the grains, produce, and meats our forefathers developed. Riches that rendered the necessities of eating and drinking as pleasurable as possible. It’s our good fortune to have such a variety of textures and flavors, created all over the world, an appetizing potpourri. All the world’s treats at our fingertips. I will be eternally grateful to those cooks who went before me, forever.
English cookery author Rosamond Richardson said it this way, “Food…can look beautiful, taste exquisite, smell wonderful, make people feel good, bring them together, inspire romantic feelings…At its most basic, it is fuel for a hungry machine…” His words remind us of the enchantment of food and its necessity – essential for the mind and the body. I find it interesting that, though we can grasp both concepts, in these times of plenty the appreciation of the food we enjoy often seems fleeting. As do those dietary needs doctors and news constantly remind us of. With bewilderment, I find this behavior on the part of many, far more than curious, in that I have never found flavorful and heathy meals the least bit tedious.
Good food stimulates all senses. Not only should the flavors be compelling, the look, the smell, the feel in your mouth, and nutrition should match. When it all comes together, the experience can transcend human perceptions to the spiritual.
In the introduction to her now famous Moosewood Cookbook, Mollie Katzen described her experience as a naïve newcomer to the food she discovered at a new restaurant in San Francisco. “The clientele was hip and fashionable, but I was drawn not by the “scene” but by the food. It was revelatory! Crepes! Curries! Pesto! Stir-Fries! Fresh fruit salads! This stuff was incredible! And the range of colors and textures of all the fresh fruits and vegetables added a visual component, providing a delightful bridge to my artistic impulses.”
But this love of good food is where my story and dilemma begin. How can we keep fresh, healthy and attractive food on our plates while satisfying immense hunger of 7.9 billion of us? Is it possible to continue to feed the world with high quality and sustainably produced food at the prices we have become accustomed to? Or have Americans become so trained by the big food companies and supermarket offerings that they no longer recognize or care about real food? Lastly, will the powerful forces behind food and fuel allow change?
Keep checking dragonspringfarm.com over the next weeks while I give important reasons why you should consider less convenience and more cost for your food. The recent history of food in this country, indeed the world, is complex. The playing field for farmers and consumers has changed drastically since my boyhood and those luscious loaves.