Aaron's grandfather told us about how the first supermarkets came to town and put all the little stores out of business. People wanted the foods of summer all year long, and were willing to pay freight for the luxury.
In our family, we have always loved the foods of winter as much as those of summer, and because we know the history of this dietetic and environmental catastrophe, aren't surprised when we meet people of the "boomer" and later generations that grew up without seasonal foods, changes in flavors and balance of diet. Soon, the monotony becomes boredom, and the love of food dims.
Life, like food, has seasons, and the change in diet that seasons produce prepare us for what challenges life naturally presents us with.
The foods of winter are a necessary balance to those of summer, and the beans, flours, eggs, dried fruits and veggies, and the storage fruits and veggies are not only a delicious treat when the rich foods of summer have waned, but a nutritious need. The first bitter, spicy, flavorful greens are a welcome greeting to the work of summer, the first sweet winter squashes and dry beans and flours signal a period of well-earned rest. Bitter, sweet, sour, salted, we savor life as the flavors change.
Masanobu Fukuoka, Columella and Tull, the three most important farmers in the history of the development of the science, each came to the same conclusion that that as much as the spring and summer foods give us the quick energy required to accomplish the opportunities of the warmer months, the winter foods give the strength required to rest and prepare ourselvs for the rigors of the coming year.
Who wants the heavy breads of winter for dinner when there's work to do by moonlight? Who wants the light fruits of summer when the snow is falling and a sleepy book by the fire stands between us and bed?
Of course, a farmer's work is never done. In the winter we work as hard as in the summer, building, sharpening, strengthening our selves to achieve the opportunities of the coming summer. The animals need cared for, the crops need tilled. But winter work is fundamentally different than summer work: winter is a time of patience and rigor.
In summer it is all about frantic speed, the frenzied pandemonium. We always notice when Father Time first takes a moment to rest on his scythe in autumn. Everything takes a breath, and looks about at the wonder of the world as if for the first time. In summer we are blinded to the end we all face, and like vainglorious barbarians revel in our own strength and endurance to work day and night and day again.
The moon rises and sets, the sun spins about the earth and we never see our own shadows. The stars sing and dance and play all summer long. It is little wonder humanity loves the summer and would miss the foods of the season for the sake of the melancholy memories She gave to us. In winter we have the time to think of those missed opportunities, and if we do not recognize the benevolent paternal love Time bestows upon us, we mistake the bitterness of spring for punishment.
It is not punishment, but the hard, loving discipline of a world that loves us. Winter and Time teach us to live fully in summer...and then rest.
Aaron's grandfather taught us that if only people could taste the foods of their ancestors they'd remember how much they love the pleasures and tastes of the winter months! It was his greatest pleasure to share the experience of those ancestral foods with us, those foods from beyond the mists of a globalized trade, from before supermarkets. How quickly a century becomes ancient! A short time, a few seasons.
Though we face many different challenges than our people did long ago, we still require the same measure of strength during these dark months that all people have forever. We still require the strong foods of winter before the summer comes and we work until exhaustion.
The winter season is coming to a close, and we are savoring the beans in our chili, the lentils steaming from our pots. The fluffy, crusty bread and the hearty soups of dried vegetables, carefully saved away during the careless months of plenty.
Soon we must say goodbye to these foods for a while, for there will be summertime work to be done. From home to home, these foods of summer are not strangers to us and are welcome. The fluffy breads gradually will become flat breads (which take less time to cook) and will eventually be replaced by potatoes, and in the fury of summer we will scarecely eat at all! The filling vegetable soups will become steamed and then become raw plates of salad. The fruits will revive us from the heat of the sun. We won't notice our hunger until Time takes pity on us and delivers us from Summer's work, commanding a rest in the autumn.
And then we'll hunger again, and be fed at his table, and remember our ancestors, our grandparents and the meals we shared at the table with them. Parents, children, siblings and cousins gather and take stock, and give thanks. The sacred rest, the benevolent year, we are grateful.
Now again the hungry summer that lies beyond spring beckons us, and we take our last meals with Father Winter, His lessons to rest and prepare ourselves. We will see him soon. A customer asked when the summertime foods will come, but we reminded her that there's only a short time left of winter, and it'd be a pity if she didn't at least try those delicacies while they were in season...