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Kiss your food goodbye

This morning I had an interesting revelation while preparing some greens from the garden.  I was chopping up some kale that had served for a while as a salad bar for some very greedy caterpillars, and thought to myself how not that long ago I would have discarded the beat-up pieces as undesirables.  My husband told me that when he was young, his parents and grandparents would kiss any food that had gone bad before they threw it away as a symbolic gesture of gratitude and sadness at losing such a precious resource.  For years this ritual seemed silly to me, at best the practice of a bi-gone era, at worst the begrudging behavior of someone too cheap to deal with some rotten food. But as I stood there this morning with my holey greens, I finally understood the meaning behind it as I was determined to get every salvageable morsel into the pan.

I realized that I was connected to the food in a way that most people never get to experience despite their 3+ meals per day.  I mixed the dirt the kale was grown in.  I planted the seed, thinned it (and ate the ones I thinned), weeded it, saved it from a wicked assault of bacterial soft rot, and fended off the aforementioned caterpillar invasion.  Why on earth would I waste even a single bite after all that I’d gone through to get it to the cutting board?

It may seem absurd to feel connected to a 1 inch slice of kale, and perhaps I enjoy a bit too much of the absurd, but in a world where very few people are connected to where their food is grown or raised, what is fed to or sprayed on it, or how it is treated, I chose to give thanks for the food on my plate, the farmers who work a hard and honest living to put it there, the resilient plants who overcome a barrage of physical adversities and pass their healthy properties to me, and the noble animals whose sacrifice means I get to live a better, healthier life; and you’d better believe I’ll be saving every scrap I can and kissing every piece of food that goes into the trash.

How do you get connected to your food? Do you frequent farmer’s markets or have a CSA share?  Do you tend your own garden? Do you have your own cooking rituals or other customs that keep you in touch with where your food comes from?  Let us know!

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