SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT HOMEGROWN, A NEW DOCUMENTARY

At first glance, being a foodie and writing a blog can seem quite focused, maybe even a little narrow. It can easily come down to three things: food, recipes, and impressions, and indeed many good food blogs go no further. But food can be a much broader subject, and foodies everywhere should be concerned with how and where their food is grown.  (They should also be concerned with questions about why some people get too much to eat and why some people don’t get enough, but that’s a topic for another time.) Then, from these concerns spring a larger environmental awareness that spirals inward and outward at the same time. Simply and personally put: How do my eating habits affect me, my town, my state, my country, the world? Naturally, energy use, climate change, pollution, and pesticides are woven into these questions as well. It soon becomes clear that food is a complicated subject that touches many areas of life. 

I thought of this as I watched HomeGrown, a documentary about the Dervaes family, who literally took food matters into their own hands and decided to see how much they could grow in their backyard, which was less than a quarter of an acre.  As it turned out, they could grow 6,000 pounds, enough food not only to feed themselves but also to sell to local restaurants. Because the Dervaes family lives in Pasadena, they have a long growing season and can therefore support themselves with the bounty reaped from their urban homestead. But still, long growing season or not, 6,000 pounds from one quarter of an acre is pretty impressive. In addition, the family lives off the grid, using solar panels and an outdoor solar shower. (Again, the outdoor shower is possible because of where they live.) Their urban homestead also has chickens and goats. There is a website (of course!) called Path to Freedom (http://www.pathtofreedom.com/about), where you can learn more about this remarkable family—a father and three adult children, two daughters and a son. HomeGrown, directed by Robert McFalls, has a website as well. (http://www.homegrown-film.com/about.html) If the movie doesn’t come to a theater near you, it will certainly soon be available through Netflix. 

Now, not every family wants to sell food for a living. Nor should they. After all, we need teachers and librarians and social workers and chefs and factory workers and engineers and doctors. The list is long, and it is no more advisable to have a society with mono-careers than it is to have a farm with mono-crops. But do we really need so many clerks working at Wal-Mart and Home Depot and, yes, even L. L. Bean? Consider this statistic, from November’s Down East magazine. “The most common job in Maine isn’t lobsterman or lumberjack, it’s retail sales clerk, followed closely by cashier; there are more people working in either of those professions than all the fisherman, farmers, and forestry workers combined.” No doubt some of those clerks and cashiers love their work, despite the fact that these jobs pay a low wage and often come without benefits. However, when was the last time you saw a clerk or a cashier who looked pleased as punch to be working in that big box store? Not very often, I suspect. 

But what would happen if, in the thousands and thousand of yards across the country, families started growing food instead of lawns? What if they kept a few chickens? Maybe even a goat or two? What if they began making their own bread and began hanging their laundry on a clothesline?  Would it be possible to live on one income rather than two? Or perhaps two part-time jobs? And, correspondingly, would it be possible to get by with one car rather than two? Would there be more dinners cooked from scratch? What would this do to energy consumption? To food distribution? To the high levels of obesity and diabetes? (Hint: How many farmers are fat?) 

I know. This sounds like a hippie-dippie back-to-nature scheme, and in a way I suppose it is. But it is also a radical shift from the system we have now, where we pretty much totally depend on others for the necessities of life. Let me be clear. I am not suggesting we return to the good old days when nearly everyone lived in the country on a small family farm. There are far too many people to make this feasible, and it is good to have time to pursue other interests and hobbies. To grow or make everything a family uses is labor intensive indeed. Yet how free are we, really, in the two-career home where both adults work outside the home all day and come home too frazzled to cook and enjoy being with their children? How free are we when we depend on Wall Street and big business for our well being? I’m just asking. 

I’d like to suggest that if we grew and cooked more of our own food, then we would in fact be freer and more secure than we are now. (Throw in universal health care and affordable higher education, and families would have even more latitude.) I think it is totally appropriate that the Dervaes family called their website “The Path to Freedom.” 

Finally, let me be clear on one other point. To my way of thinking, “The Path to Freedom” does not mean that it is automatically the woman who stays home to grow the food, bake the bread, and hang out the laundry. Men can do these things as well as women, and with freedom comes flexibility and choice. 

HomeGrown is only fifty-two minutes long, but it certainly raises a lot of issues, both on a personal level and on a larger societal level. I highly recommend this film.

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THE NEW YORK TRIP

Well, Clif and I made it “there and back again,” as Bilbo Baggins might say. We love visiting with our daughter, and New York is an exciting city, but it’s oh so tiring for the two country mice from Maine. The drive in and out of Brooklyn is the biggest challenge. The route itself isn’t too bad—it’s fairly straightforward, and our daughter doesn’t live far from the highway—but the traffic is, well, a bit frantic. This makes little things like lane changing and keeping track of where to turn a huge challenge. And a stressful one. But although we had some near misses, we came back with no new dents in the car and only a few more gray hairs. 

The big event on this trip was the Brooklyn Flea Market, or the Flea, as it’s known in the city. Although it’s not too far from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where we’ve been several times, it took us a while to find the Flea, but find it we did. It’s quite the event—150 vendors in an empty lot—and it attracts a big crowd.

The Flea
The Flea

As to be expected with a flea market, there was a fair amount of what we Mainers would call “junk,” stuff like that wonderful speckled vase Aunt May gave you for Christmas thirty years ago. It was ugly then, and it is ugly now. But maybe just maybe someone will decide a speckled vase is exactly the thing they want for that retro look. You never know. And no doubt along with that speckled vase there were other more attractive items. However, as our own house has enough gewgaws to clutter the shelves, nooks, and crannies of several homes, we prudently stayed away from most of the actual flea market fare. 

There were a fair number of crafts people at the Flea, and they sold jewelry—some of it very, very tempting—T-shirts, and art. There was a vendor selling some old book illustrations, and my favorite was of humpback whales with the wonderful caption “Humpback Whales Disporting.” That one almost came home with me. 

But, of course, I was mostly interested in the food. I had, not necessarily in this order, a madeleine (Why ever did Proust make such a fuss over them?); a cannoli, tasty but not as good as the ones in the shop by Dee’s apartment; a sample of some of McClure’s garlic pickles (I bought a jar to bring to our friends Bob and Kate); a bite of Dee’s chocolate scone (too dry), and a nibble of Clif’s “Asia dog” hot dog, a wiener topped with Asian spices (one nibble was definitely enough). For me, the winner of the day was an unexpected candidate, one that I hadn’t really considered when I perused the vendors’ list.  It was a fish taco from Choncho’s Tacos. 

Fish Taco at the Flea
Fish Taco at the Flea

Fish tacos are not common in central Maine, and to this Mainer, who loves fish, they just weren’t that appealing. But as I sat resting on the stone bleachers directly behind Choncho’s Tacos, it seemed to me that it might be worth reconsidering my stance. I watched as fresh fish was dipped in batter and fried to puffy goodness in very small batches. Once out of the hot oil, those golden fish nuggets were placed in a small, soft corn tortilla shell, drizzled with a mayo and yogurt dressing, and then sprinkled with cilantro and shredded red cabbage. It wasn’t long before Clif was sent to wait in the fish taco line. While I limited myself to one, I could have easily eaten two of them, and I will never be indifferent to fish tacos again.

By the time we left the Flea, it was midafternoon, and after spending more time wandering around a very crowded Union Square, we had Thai food for dinner (good, but not great) before heading to a movie at Angelika Film Center. (The movie was Collapse, a documentary about a journalist named Michael Ruppert, who seemed slightly unhinged but nevertheless had it mostly right about peak oil, energy use, and overpopulation.) 

On Sunday, after a bagel breakfast (there’s a shop right around the corner from Dee), we reluctantly said our goodbyes, and headed back to Maine, holding our breaths as we drove on I-278 out of Brooklyn, taking care not to inadvertently zip through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel into lower Manhattan or make any number of wrong turns that would take us from our I-278 lifeline. At times it was a squeaker, but we made it, and there is no lovelier sign to a Mainer than one that reads “I-95 North.” 

We arrived at Bob and Kate’s house at midafternoon, where we had salad, spiced pork sandwiches, and a rich, dense chocolate cake that just might be the chocolate cake that dessert lovers around the world dream about but so seldom get. Was it the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had? Without further testing, it would be hard to say, but it’s certainly in the running. 

From Maine to New York to fish tacos to New Hampshire to sheer chocolate delight. All in all, quite a trip.

TO THE BIG APPLE

This weekend, Clif and I are heading to New York City to visit our eldest daughter, Dee. The primary attraction, of course, is seeing our daughter, and we would go wherever she lived, even if it meant flying, my least favorite way of traveling. (I hate being in the sky. As a Virgo, I am an earthbound creature.) But I can’t deny that New York City is an added bonus. For the food obsessed, it’s the equivalent of hitting the jackpot. Just down the street from where Dee lives, there’s a shop that sells the best cannolis I’ve ever had, with an incredibly crunchy shell stuffed with a creamy filling that hovers on the edge of liquid and solid. So good, so good! There is also a bagel shop and a Chinese takeout that has decent food, much better, in fact, than what you can get in central Maine. All these delights are in one single block in Brooklyn, and there are so many other pearls on the necklace, so to speak that I am positively giddy with anticipation. 

This time, our plan on Saturday is to visit the Brooklyn Flea Market or the Brooklyn Flea, as it is called in the city. (http://brownstoner.com/brooklynflea/)  From their website, here is a description of the Saturday Flea: “The Fort Greene Flea is outdoors at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, on Lafayette Ave. between Clermont and Vanderbilt Ave., and features 150+ vendors of vintage furniture, clothing, collectibles and antiques, as well as new jewelry, art and crafts by local artisans, plus delicious food. It is open from 10am to 5pm—rain or shine—every Saturday.” There is also another Brooklyn Flea, on Sundays, by the famed Brooklyn Bridge, but according to the website, the Flea will soon be heading indoors for the winter. 

I’ve nothing against vintage furniture, clothing, collectables, and antiques, and I readily admit to loving art and crafts by local artisans, but naturally it is the “delicious food” that is the real draw for me. In the New York Times, I’ve read all about the food at the Brooklyn Flea, and I can’t wait to sample some of the offerings from vendors such as Asia Dog, Nunu Chocolates, and Pizza Motto, to name a few. 

Dee’s birthday was last week, and we’ll also be taking her out to dinner—given that we aren’t too stuffed after eating at the Flea. She’s picked a Thai restaurant, always a good choice. I’ve heard a rumor that the restaurant she’s chosen even serves sticky rice, which is not common in Thai restaurants in Maine.

Finally, as if all this weren’t enough, on the way home we will be visiting with our friends Bob and Kate Johnson in New Hampshire, and Kate will be “cooking a pork loin roast with spices that is made to cool and slice for sandwiches with apple butter on one side; mustard on the other; a salad with a homemade dressing; and a chocolate cake …[from] Cook’s Illustrated.” 

My mouth is watering. 

I’ll be reporting on all these delights next week.

HUNTING SEASON BEGINS

In Maine, November is deer hunting season, and for that month we have to wear bright orange whenever we go for a walk, indeed whenever we go out in our own backyard. Our house is tucked into the woods, and our land abuts a rather large watershed that the town owns so that the Narrows Pond, a body of water as big as some lakes, is protected. The watershed is basically acres and acres of undeveloped woods and is home to all sorts of animals—foxes, fishers, stoats, bears, coyotes, and deer. Lots of deer. This, of course, means that we have lots of hunters in those woods in November. Often, we hear gunshots, and occasionally I see a man with a gun walking just beyond our property line. Once, I watched as a deer rushed by, and the fleeing creature was followed by gunfire so loud that I felt as though I was in a war zone. 

In all fairness I must state that not once has a bullet hit our house nor have we ever felt a bullet whiz by us. Nevertheless, I have very mixed feelings about hunting. Even though I am a fifth-generation Mainer and come from a family of hunters, I am on edge the entire month of November. I don’t like the idea of men with guns roaming the woods in back of my house. The woods are thick, visibility is limited, and it would be easy to lose track of where the houses are, especially if a hunter was seized with “deer fever.” I don’t like the sound of gunfire. Every time shots go off, my stomach jumps. I resent having to wear orange in my own backyard, a place where I should feel safe and secure. But I don’t. Not in November, and when I go out to rake leaves, not only do I wear orange but I also bring a radio with me. I have it set on a rock and roll station, and I crank up the volume, figuring that the noise will alert hunters to the fact that they are near a house. I don’t like seeing dead deer on the tops of cars. In short, there is nothing about hunting season that I like. 

And yet… I eat meat, mostly chicken, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t like steak, and I have a zeal for pork that I figure must be encoded in my Franco-American DNA. But I don’t want my meat to resemble an animal in any way—no feathers, no fur, no snouts, no feet. I want my meat clean and packaged. I can’t conceive of ever butchering an animal or tracking one down to shoot it. However, even as I write this, I know it’s not strictly true. Under the right circumstances—motivated by enough hunger—I could probably do it. Fortunately, I am not in a position where I have to kill the animals I eat, so I let others do it for me. They have a name for this sort of attitude, and it begins with H

So who has it right? The one who is willing to kill a deer and deal with hoof, fur, and blood? Or the one who is perfectly happy to eat meat as long as she isn’t reminded where it comes from?  The notion of food, which includes hunting, is fraught with such slippery questions that seem to have no clear answers. 

Someday, my husband, Clif, and I will move, not because of hunting season but because the house is too big for us take care of. However, when we do move, it will be to a village where no hunting is allowed, and I don’t have to on guard for the entire month of November. Until then, I’ll be wearing orange, and I’ll be listening to loud rock and roll on the radio. And counting the days until December comes.

A REMBERANCE RECIPE—SPICY PEANUT SOUP

In my last post, I wrote about my friend Jill and her mother’s handwritten recipe for chili eggs. (Jill had invited us over for brunch, and this was the dish she made.) Jill’s mother passed away several years ago, and Jill spoke of the connection she felt with her mother via the handwritten recipe. 

Reminiscence and connection can take many forms, but it seems to me that a handwritten recipe is an especially lovely way to remember loved ones who have died. And as we approach the Day of the Dead (or All Soul’s Day) on November 1st, this is a very appropriate time to do so. 

This started me thinking about recipes I have received from family and friends who have passed away. Because it is soup season, one of the first recipes that came to mind is one for Spicy Peanut Soup, given to me by my friend Barbara Johnson, who died four years ago at the much-too-young age of sixty-eight. 

At the time of her death, Barbara and I had been friends for about fifteen years. Simply put, we were kindred spirits. We loved  many of the same things—nature, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Jane Austen, England, tea, books, and movies. Even now, when I read or see something that I know would be interesting to her, I want to give her a call. She was a cat fancier, and I am a dog lover, but we somehow managed to reconcile this difference so that it did not affect our friendship. Seriously, though, we were such good friends that we felt completely at ease in each other’s company, so relaxed that we could just be ourselves. As an added bonus, Barbara was a terrific cook, one of the best home cooks I know. She won several cooking competitions, and I was lucky enough to be invited to her home on many occasions for lunch and dinner. 

The following recipe for Spicy Peanut Soup, which I have in Barbara’s handwriting, is at the top of my “favorite soups” list. It is easy to make; the ingredients are inexpensive; and the combination of tangy spices, sweet squash, and peanut butter give it an irresistible taste. Plus, it’s good for you. 

Bon appètit, indeed! 

Spicy Peanut Soup
Serves 4-6, depending on appetite 

4 tablespoons of butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cooked & pureed pumpkin or squash
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne (More can be added to taste)
5 cups water or chicken stock (For a thicker soup, use less liquid, and for a thinner one, add a little more)
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup peanut butter (Crunchy is best)
Salt & pepper to taste
Sour cream and/or croutons for garnish 

Melt butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion. Cover and cook about ten minutes or until onion is translucent. Check to make sure onion does not burn. (The heat might need to be adjusted.) 

Add the water, squash, tomato paste, peanut butter, and spices. Blend to smoothness. Cover and simmer at least 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

A FULL WEEKEND (INCLUDES RECIPE FOR CHILI EGGS)

Last weekend was the kind of weekend I like best—one filled with food, family, and friends. (Yes, I know. Many of my weekends are filled this way.)  To add to the mix, there was also an environmental event on Saturday, and I am as keen about the environment as I am about food. After all, the two are inextricably twined.

On Friday, we met our friends Alice Rohman and Roger Carpentter at the Café de Bangkok in Hallowell. While the food was good, the view was even better. The restaurant sits right next to the Kennebec River, and we were lucky enough to get window seats and watch as night settled over the river. At one point, the light was dark gray, giving the narrow river a moody, even British look. Inside, we discussed books, politics, and movies, but we were very much aware of the river, just outside, and the gathering darkness.

On Saturday, our friend Diane Friese invited Clif and I to her house in Brunswick for lunch. Our daughter Shannon and her fiancé Mike were also invited. We always make this trip with a merry heart, as we know that delectable food will be waiting for us. This time was no exception. The centerpiece was a creamy squash soup, slightly sweet and pleasingly thick. (I am hoping she will give me the recipe.) After the soup came coleslaw, curried vegetables, and a simmered sweet potato and apple mixture. What else could follow this but cookies and tea, always a satisfying ending?

With full stomachs, we walked in the rain to Bowdoin College, about five minutes from Diane’s house. On campus was a 350 event, one of many around the world to be held that day to bring attention to climate change and to how many parts per million of carbon dioxide there should be in the atmosphere—350, of course. (Right now, we are at about 387 and rising.) The rain undoubtedly kept many people away, but since the event was held indoors, this was probably just as well. The room was pretty crowded, and when we formed a “human” 350 so that a picture could be taken, there wasn’t much space to move. Governor Baldacci and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Michael Michaud were there as well as quite a few veterans to offer their perspective. This gave the event a twist that I haven’t often seen at environmental gatherings. That is, climate change is also a security issue for the United States. Our reliance on fossil fuels, one of the prime causes of climate change, also makes us vulnerable to countries that don’t always have our best interests at heart. Also, the weather disruptions will cause famines and migrations, and, as one veteran put it, our military will have to be there to hand out food and water and to help keep some kind of order. I hope these veterans speak up at various events around the state and the country. Many of them have served in Iraq, and they bring real heft to the promotion of alternative energy, one that can’t be easily dismissed by the not-in-my-backyard contingency.

On Sunday morning, we went to Jill Lectka’s house for brunch. We became friends with Jill in a rather unusual way. Our eldest daughter, Dee, moved to New York City when she graduated from college. Her first job was with Macmillan Library Reference, and Jill was Dee’s boss. One day, a few years ago, Dee called and asked, “Guess where my boss Jill is moving?” Naturally, I couldn’t guess. “To Waterville, Maine.” Waterville, Maine? From New York City? Why? “She’s going to work for Thorndike Press in Waterville.” Thorndike, like Macmillan, is owned by Gale, so it made a strange kind of sense. But still. A very, very small world.  As it turned out, Jill moved to Hallowell, Maine, and she has become good friends with our family, even spending Thanksgiving with us.

On Sunday, the weather was warm enough to have drinks—mimosas—on Jill’s porch, which is nearly two stories up and gives the impression of being above the trees. A sort of bird’s eye view. Then in we went for a rich egg casserole she had made. After drinking—we moved on to coffee and tea—and eating until about 2 P. M., we felt very lazy indeed and reluctant to leave. But leave we did, heading home to the dog who had been left alone this weekend far too much for his liking.

DSC08823

Chili Eggs

(This recipe came from Jill’s mother, who passed away several years ago. The recipe was handwritten by her mother, and each time Jill makes this dish, she feels a connection—via the handwriting—to her mother.)

10 eggs
½ cup of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
1 pint of small curd cottage cheese
1 pound of jack cheese, shredded
1 stick of butter, softened
2 four-ounce cans chopped chilies

Beat eggs until light. Combine flour with baking powder and salt. Add to eggs. Add remaining ingredients. Bake in buttered 9 x 13 pan at 350ºF for 35 minutes. Serves ten.

THE USUAL LAWS OF BACKLASH

In the Diner’s Journal blog in the New York Times, Sam Sifton came up with an apt description of the contrarian streak that lurks deep in the hearts of men and women, especially those who are obsessed with food. He wrote about the “usual backlash laws,” in reference to his three-star review of Marea, an “elegant Italianate restaurant Chris Cannon and Michael White opened this spring” in New York City. With tongue somewhat in cheek, Sifton suggested that even though readers who have eaten at Marea “hail its food and drink” and readers who haven’t “wonder what the fuss is about,” the reverse could soon be true. Thus the usual backlash laws.

Those backlash laws can strike unexpectedly, and indeed the term foodie, once used to describe those with a strapping appetite, has now, in some circles, come to have a negative, cliquish connotation, more appropriate for young teens than for adults. So it should come as no surprise that farmers’ markets and local food have also come under the crosshairs, so to speak, of the backlash movement.

Yet I was surprised. How could anyone find fault with Farmer Kev in his small stall in Winthrop, Maine, selling garlic and zinnias and cabbages and the sweetest little squash this side of the Mississippi? Or with any of the other small-time farmers in this state and across the country? These farmers work hard and long and often just barely break even, while contending with bad weather and pests that constantly threaten their crops. (This year, Farmer Kev lost all 250 of his tomato plants to blight.) How could we, the lucky public who reap the fresh, tasty benefits of this labor, have one harsh word to say about farmers’ markets?

Well, there are contrarians who are unable to make the best of anything, and James McWilliams, an historian at Texas State University, seems to be one of those people. In a recent column in the Times, McWilliams criticizes farmers’ markets, insisting they are only for the elite and are therefore not as benign as they might seem. McWilliams states, “[I]f there’s one thing you do not see at the farmers’ market, it’s socio-economic diversity…” In his opinion, the marginalized are even more marginalized because the food at farmers’ markets is too expensive for them, and the rich not only get to eat fresh, local food but also decide what kind of food is offered in a community. This, in turn, trickles down to undermine the middlemen, who benefit from the current system. Without giving any statistics, McWilliams seems to be suggesting that the big box grocery stores are laying off employees because the small-time farmers have so cut into their profits.

How to respond to this? Food justice is a subject dear to my heart, and it is my belief that all people, no exceptions made, deserve nutritious, delicious food. I could therefore write about this subject for many, many pages, and indeed I have for Wolf Moon Journal. But this is a food blog, and accordingly I will keep my comments relatively brief. Or at least try to.

First, in all fairness, it must be noted that there are, in fact, two food Americas—one for the affluent and one for the poor. Poor neighborhoods in inner cities are notorious for having food deserts, places with an abundance of fast food, convenience stores, and liquor stores, but nary a big box grocery store. Farmers’ markets hardly even come into this equation, and what residents of these food deserts long for are honest-to-God grocery stores that offer a variety of food.

Second, it must also be noted that poor people do struggle to feed their families, and they often don’t have enough money to buy good food. Processed food is frequently cheaper and goes further. In addition, much advertising money is spent promoting this food, and only those with the strongest willpower can resist the pull of advertising. Heck, I’m sometimes tempted by those chip and dip ads, and occasionally chips make their way into our house.

Now the counter arguments. How can McWilliams tell the socio-economic status of those who go to farmers’ markets? Is McWilliams so clever that he can tell just by looking at a person what his or her annual income is? Perhaps where he shops, people have stamps on their foreheads, R for the rich and P for the poor. Or maybe the clientele comes to the farmers’ markets in fur coats. I’m being facetious, of course, but I would suggest that gauging a person’s income level is tricky at best, and McWilliams should be careful when passing judgment.

Next comes the question, are farmers’ markets really only affordable to affluent customers? In my experience, the answer is sometimes. When it comes to meat, cheese, jam, and eggs, the prices are frequently higher than they would be at a big box store. (But remember, poor neighborhoods often don’t have big box stores.) However, when it comes to vegetables, the prices at farmers’ markets are usually very competitive. Consider what I bought recently at our local vegetable stand, which will soon be closing for the season. (I know. A vegetable stand is not exactly a farmers’ market, but it’s pretty close. It offers many of the same things for about the same price, albeit under one tiny roof, and the emphasis is on fresh and local.) I bought ten pounds of potatoes, four peppers, two heads of broccoli, carrots, two bunches of lettuce, and one butternut squash for the outrageous price of $14. That’s a lot of food for $14, and all of the food was local.

Finally, all of this discussion about the elitism of farmers’ markets manages to overlook an essential but “inconvenient truth.” That is, the underlying reason for much of the poverty in the United States. The simple fact of the matter is that many of the jobs in this country just don’t pay people enough money for them to easily support themselves, to buy good food. Let me put it another way. The problem isn’t with the cost of vegetables at the farmers’ market. The problem is with low-wage jobs. The man who pumps your gas, the woman who checks out your groceries, the greeter at Walmart—in short, many, many working people—don’t make a living wage. They work for $7 or $8 an hour. Some lucky clerks get $10, but that is still not enough to live comfortably, especially when you consider many of these jobs don’t provide health insurance, and affordable housing is often difficult to find.

Pay people a living wage. Provide affordable health care and housing for all. Then, this discussion about the elitism of farmers’ markets becomes completely irrelevant. But there. It’s much easier to point the finger at farmers rather than reflect on how we, as a society, exploit the labor of poor people. In the end, perhaps the contrarian view is more convenient, more comfortable. One thing is certain; it sure illustrates the dangers of backlash.

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