Last year, I wrote in lazy locavore hangover about how I couldn't get inspired to cook or do the work of food preservation for the coming winter. Cooking usually feels like a creative outlet for me, and preparing/preserving/eating local organic food feels like a spiritual practice. But last spring and summer, something was missing in all of that. For the first time in as long as I could remember, food felt like a chore.
As the winter winds down and I remember that lethargy, I am surprised to realize that somehow, I still pulled it off. We ate well this winter. In jars we had the usual suspects: apple and tomato sauces, peaches, pears and green beans among other things. We also had some new foods like pickled beets (they were delicious!), pickled peppers (yum!), and BBQ sauce (Yuck. It needed some serious doctoring out of the jar).
In the freezer we had various roasts, a few racks of ribs, a little ground meat, a lot of breakfast sausage, half of a lamb, and over 20 whole chickens.
I don't know why, but for me, there is something obscene about all those birds. When I layered them on the shelves with packages of wings, legs and thighs last fall, I couldn't help but wonder if the birds minded sharing space with so many packages of parts. I had this gruesome flash of how I'd feel packed into a room surrounded by bags full of frozen elbows. Ugh. My throat felt a little tight at the thought.
With an imagination like that, I suppose I am well-suited for vegetarianism (or lessatarianism to be more accurate).
When March arrived a few weeks ago, I looked in the freezer feeling satisfied. While I still had plenty of food for the next few months, I also saw a lot of empty space. Many of the birds had flown the coop (if we want to fool ourselves in that way). The green beans, collard balls, corn, black-eyed peas, and various kinds of pesto had dwindled. I was just thinking how well I'd planned when I looked at the top shelf, the one reserved for fruit and saw it was...FULL.
Holy Toledo!--we forgot to eat the fruit!
That top shelf sat bulging with 4 gallons of strawberries, 2 gallons of blueberries, 1 gallon of pears, a few random small bags of melon, and several quarts of raspberries. Aside from uses like muffins and pancakes, this stash was supposed to fuel a winter's worth of smoothies.
I could say it was my hoarder instinct in overdrive. And I'm sure there'd be some truth in that. Sometimes I get so caught up in the gathering and storing "for later" I forget that "later" is NOW. This is especially true of the strawberries because I freeze them in May and must look at them for months before I'm "allowed" to break into them.
But that's not the whole truth.
If this local and mostly organic fruit didn't fuel my winter smoothies as intended, then what did?
Oh, I don't know. Maybe a banana or two?
A bit of chocolate?
I might have added a "splash" of coconut milk.
There is NOTHING local about a chocolate-banana-almond-coconut shake!
Unless, of course, you live within 20 degrees latitude of the EQUATOR.
All I can say is: I got addicted. Surely that is some kind of defense? I think it was the caffeine in the chocolate. I don't otherwise drink caffeine, and I found myself waking up every morning saying, "Don't talk to me. I can't think before I've had my chocolate-banana-almond-coconut shake!"
In my chocolate delirium, I plum forgot about the fruit.
Now, spring is a week away (one week! woohoo!). Except holy crap - we've got a lot of frozen fruit to eat. There's only one thing worse than running out of your winter stores before the new growing season starts, and that's leaving your winter stores uneaten.
It feels so wasteful--of the food left over and the time spent preparing it.
So we've been hitting the strawberries hard. We've been under a near daily strawberry smoothie mandate for two weeks and have already polished off two gallons of them.
My kids have no idea why there's suddenly an influx of berry flavored stuff on the menu. I wonder what exactly goes through their heads as they endure my manic directives.
In one day I can swing from "Don't touch those strawberries!" to "Good God! Why haven't you eaten more strawberries!"
We have an urgency around food that wouldn't exist if we shopped for this stuff at the grocery store.
Or if, perhaps, the person in charge of all this food storage and consumption was a tad less neurotic.
Or susceptible to the intoxications of chocolate and coconut in a blender.
Still, despite the berry mania, I feel like we're in good shape as we ride out this last week of winter. In reality, I discovered the fruit just in time. After all, it's not like it'll start raining berries on March 23rd. We still have two months before fresh fruit will appear in the markets.
And I'm happy to say that, unlike my lethargy of last year, I feel tired of this year's winter food coma. After such a frigid season, I'm more than ready to do the work of eating fresh food and am happy to make my chocolate shake addiction a distant memory--an anomaly of a winter gone by.