Mama, where does our food come from?

I might spend more time thinking about that question than most.

It crossed my mind recently when I tapped into my inner freegan and tried to recalibrate my weekend food plan accordingly.

On the American spectrum of salary I am well beyond surviving and approaching comfortable. But, like everyone else when I want something (land for an orchard), I have to, at least, be conscientious and probably make some sacrifices to get it. Given that I spend most of my timing thinking (and now writing) about food, it probably comes as no surprise that a fair chunk of my disposable income goes toward eating out, curious ingredients, great wine and other flights of gastronomic fancy.

I decided recently that I wanted to cook more and eat out less and try to salt away some extra dollars toward my long-term goal this way. For me this means practicing meal realism. Assessing what and where I am actually going to eat on any given day for any given meal. I’ve gotten good at knowing that I often eat out on Fridays. And if I have even a tentative plan with a friend I know I’m likely to eat out at that time regardless. So I shopped on Thursday knowing I was going to make bread and that I was unlikely to be eating dinner at home possibly through Monday. I marked the mental calendar for a disciplined farmer’s market run on  Saturday with specific recipes in mind. I had a plan. And then someone brought us homemade pasteles and Vietnamese egg rolls.

Free food is rarely a bad thing. It has its own appeal based on its cost. And it often exceeds expectations (which were lowered by the cost). I’ve eaten enough bad cookies at conferences to understand this and I actually tend to resist free food unless it is something I really want. Homemade pasteles and Vietnamese egg rolls are something I really want. Just writing this is making remember the welcoming smell, the perfect crunch, the unique flavors that I do not often work with, and it is hard not go heat up another one (or two). I have no regrets about bringing home the offered goodies, but I did gain three savory meals worth of entrée that I don’t necessarily have open slots for between now and when the food goes bad. What’s a girl to do? Thinking this through made me realize there has been a hole in my food realism: fate!

Yes, I understand the whole idea of planning on fate is an oxymoron, but I have years of history to back me up. People feed me –sometimes even going so far as to put the food in my mouth. Going to see friends or family at their homes or a party usually means I will be sent home with leftovers. And I should have known better today.

So, yes, ultimately our food grows on trees and comes from animals. And when we run out of it in these modern times, many of us acquire more at a market of some sort. And my abundance is a great problem to have. However, today was my reminder that when I am trying to budget and plan my food week I need to consider all the possibilities: grocery, farmer’s markets, restaurants, and generous hospitality. If I’m wrong and luck does not bless my larder some weeks, better small wants than large wastes.

Where does your food come from?


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