“Holy cow!” our then-5-year-old exclaimed as our cold hands unpacked five heavy boxes of frozen beef—one half of a cow, to be exact— that we were sharing with another family. We were sorting large piles, making heads and tails of all the smooth and frosty vacuum-sealed packages, and carefully reading labels with the anticipation of a new season’s beginning. That morning, we were not yet fully aware of how much our lives were about to change. It was earlier this same morning that our two babes (hereafter: the Craunlets) and my husband were at the North Union Farmers Market buying a week’s worth of locally grown food. Their senses were absolutely delighted, and all three returned with wide smiles and individual pints of apple cider. It was then that we discussed committing 50 percent of all of our food spending to local products.
It was a small and hopeful seed, planted unknowingly in the food-rich soil of our local community. It quickly took root, and changed our entire food landscape and lifestyle. We now comfortably eat week-to-week, rather than by cartloads of convenience and overloaded apathy, with a survival mentality of stocking up our cupboards. The shifting conversations around our table in these last three seasons have been the best record of how our entire understanding and appreciation of food has sprouted into far more diverse palates than a parent could imagine.
Craunlet phrases familiar around our table previous were simple: I like this; I don’t like this. The Craunlets were only consumers of our meals. The terrain shifted subtly at first, as the Craunlets began asking dinnertime questions like: Where is this from? Where did we get this? Still fairly simple questions, but now revealing greater investment. Their inquiries were imbedded with the understanding and assumed assurance that we would have answers.
As we continued our weekly trips to the local market, through the spring and into the summer, their conversations began picking up with an increase of keen palate-aware descriptors such as: I find this one to be more crumbly. I like how crisp and sweet the buttercrunch lettuce is; it is not as spicy as arugula.
It is the depth of comparison and description from their experiences that strike me most deeply. That, and the now-natural and comfortable expectation that we should know where our food is from. The Craunlets’ daily mealtime prayers have grown to include blessings for the farmers, and the many people who now provide our food.
In only three seasons of this food adventure, we now have kids who eat toasted spelt cereals, and more than I would have dreamed possible, we spend nearly 100% of our food budget locally.
In fact, the whole family now takes pleasure in our weekly food shopping. We no longer procrastinate and wait until the very last drop of milk demands our trip to the dreaded glowing big box with teeming aisles and free childcare. The meals we enjoy around our table have become our delicious new normal.
It’s a wonderfully fortunate thing to happily entertain so much talking with our mouths full.