Friday, May 13, 2011

I Guess I Really DO Mean What I Say

I spend a lot of time at my mom's house. Mom's sporadic help is the closest thing I've got, as a single mother, to someone holding the other end of the stick, and the boys and I all derive comfort and enjoyment from weekends at Nanu's. Thing is it's sort of like going camping: we don't simply hop in the van and drive the hour betwixt here and there. We gotta pack first, and not just our jammies and toothbrushes. My mom does NOT see the value in organic foods, to put it mildly, and so going to visit there means pretty much taking along everything I will be wanting us to eat while we're there.

She pretends she doesn't mind that we won't so much as drink her water (yes, we even bring our own water. I'm sorry but the water there tastes awful to me, plus comes from an aquifer contaminated with MTBE a few years back by a nearby gas station). I try to not make faces at the uber-industrial comestibles in her pantry. It works out. More or less.

Last weekend, though, Mom got me. I've just been struggling along for a good long while now through an incredibly protracted, difficult and penury-inflicting divorce. Simultaneously I get to enjoy feeling guilty that my standards regarding SOLE food just aren't as high as they used to be. It's not that my beliefs have changed. More that I'm too exhausted and overwhelmed to keep up the serious and continuous work that feeding us sustainably, organically, locally, ethically AND affordably entails. Take yogurt: I've gone from making my own, weekly, from grass-fed raw milk, to buying Stoneyfield organic cream top, to...well, this is depressing, but to hoping that Dannon uses non-rBGH cows and no lowly tricks like bulking up with dried skim milk. These days I'm too tired to look it up and honestly I just don't really care as much as I once did. Scurried a few rungs downward on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs scale, have I. Anyway, once upon a time when energy and/or optimism flagged I could take my class privilege and buy Amish raw milk yogurt, or really fantastic local yogurt I utterly adore from a farm whose name I am too utterly tired to drag forth from my brain right now. Seven bucks a quart, though, I just don't have that kind of financial wherewithal anymore.

But I digress. Nanu had just returned from a visit to BJ's WHolesale Club with a clamshell of Campari (tm) tomatoes. It's early May and the last time I had a tomato that tasted anything like a tomato was probably October. But these were terrific: great texture, firm and aromatic and hoo boy tasty. Some dim memory twitched, something about genetically engineered tomatoes, wherein scientists figured out how to keep the gene for ripening turned on while switching off the (evoluntionally intertwined since dawn of time) gene for softening. I suppressed it, despite a longstanding prejudice against eating food that does not rot, not to mention produce that arrives packaged in plastic clamshells, but. That seductive, fecund tomato smell. Wow. It's something of an understatement to say that my life has for rather a long while been short on sensory indulgences, so I was an easy mark. An easy mark who ate like half the tray.

I've felt sorta bad about it ever since, but not bad enough to look it up on ye olde internet. I was pretty sure my memory was accurate, that these were GMO tomatoes that I'd gorged on, so why make it worse by knowing beyond all doubt?

So. A week later I'm spending Friday night shopping Costco because that's just the kind of wild woman I am. I'm provisioning for MAPS Meet, a primitive skills workshop next week where I'm going to be teaching wild foods classes, picking up stuff that the boys will eat and that will be relatively copacetic spending four likely warmish days in a cooler. One of my favorite Costco items is actual mozzarella di bufalo from Italy -- I used to live near the very farm this stuff comes from and I'm thrilled to be able to buy fresh Campanian buffalo's milk mozz in White Marsh, Maryland (although it's now pasteurized to pacify the USDA, something the Italians would never tolerate). I picked up a tub ($11.99), thinking I'd make sandwiches between teaching sessions of traditional food preservation methods. What I was really thinking was, wow, my tiny spindly little tomato plants still under a grow light because it's been such a cold spring and dude I'm at least two months away from a homegrown tomato worthy of this cheese. And then I thought: Campari.

Yep. Sure enough, Costco gots Campari. I stood there for a really long time, holding a clamshell full of fragrant ruby-red fruit, looking and looking and lusting in my heart. My basil plants are big enough to pick from, even if my tomatoes are spindly weaklings. Insalata caprese would taste soooo good...

After who knows how long I shook it off and said aloud, stick to your principals, girly, and step away from the tomatoes. I put them back, and also the mozzarella. It can wait for the right time. Eventually things are going to get better, and tomato plants grow tall and fruitful, and I can legitimately enjoy the flavorful magic that happens when ripe tomatoes meet buffalo mozzarella, basil leaves, a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, and a touch of coarse salt. Even tired, even hungry and lonely and sad, I'm still me under all that baggage. And the real me still cares enough to wait for the good stuff to come along, all in the fullness of time.