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June 4, 2015
The CSA Effect
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
An interview of Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect on Underground Wellness thoroughly captured my attention. He presents a new angle on the obesity epidemic. He claims that flavor drives food consumption (makes sense) and that the overuse of synthetic flavoringsin our current provisions, combined with the bland taste of whole foods has provoked the rise in poor food choices.
For years now the Farmer and I consider ourselves Vegetable Snobs. Out at a restaurant we might pick through our salad, turn our noses at the sliced tomatoes, and generally order dishes that are unique from our typical diet at home. Let me be more honest. The Farmer never turns his nose up at food, unless hes had a really bad day. Still, he does critique all produce that comes across his plate.
This winter I took particular notice of the flavors, or lack there-of, when forced to shop a the local grocery store. Where was the nutty bitter sweet complex flavors of young spinach, or spring mix? Or the crisp lemon snap in cucumbers? Potatoes tasted like paper and carrots like the cooler they were stored in. And tomatoes? Wait, actually I was pretty impressed with the winter tomatoes - still on the vine, grown in Vermont, in February? Wow! Even though they didnt taste like summer toms, they were at least red and a little bit juicy.
Previously I thought that drying procedures and cold storage had robbed these organic veggies of their familiar taste. Schatzker points out however that varieties have changed in the past 100 years. Vegetables have been bred to improve storage and durability as well as size. Actual flavor has had to take a back seat to these more lucrative qualities because the very things that make a vegetable sweet and juicy also make it spoil faster.
A low diversity of varieties available to us impacts the broad range of nutrients that might otherwise be available to us. Starving both for specific nutrients drives us to seek flavor-packed foods that signal the brain that the missing nutrient is present. Often, as in the case of Doritos, that signal is false, resulting in increased cravings.
Walking the farm fields with the Farmer, I browsed. Like deer browse. Browsing in the eating sense of the word means to take a little from here and then a little over there, as opposed to grazing which is kind of like mowing. My daughter browses with me. Lamb's quarters, purslane, plantain. Unfamiliar to most Americans, these plants are considered weeds. Yet they are packed with flavor and nutrition and utterly satisfying. Kale, peas, lettuces, while cultivated, these too hold intense satisfaction for the flavor-starved palate when taken right from the field into the mouth. Truly I am sorry you have to wait a day to taste your vegetables, since even in that short amount of time the flavor diminishes. Fortunately, though, there is plenty left to satisfy and nourish. Eat lots of fresh vegetables from the farm and watch and see if you don't end up craving them instead of Doritos.