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Abstinence & Seasonal Eating

11.02.11

Abstinence. As I get older I find the concept more and more intriguing.

I went through a stage of enjoying posh wines quite frequently. After some time, it took more and more to impress as posh wines became the norm. I found my enjoyment of them decreased, and it took more and more awesomeness to impress. Having noticed this taking place, I majorly backed away from posh wines, and now I find I enjoy them more when they do make an appearance. They’re special again. They’re not the norm. They make a moment special as a nice wine should.

Eating seasonally is forced abstinence, and I’m increasing grateful for it. Today’s example is lard. I haven’t had lard in the house since last year’s was all used up. That means that I haven’t had a tart, fruit pie, meat pie, in some time. Which makes having one again far more enjoyable than were I to always have it available. It’s a treat, rather than the norm.

The garden provides far better examples – we eat asparagus in May/June, and that’s it. Some people think that’s hardcore. I see it as sensible – eating the item when it’s fresh and local, then abstaining until it’s in season again. It’s an awfully good thing there are other lovely things to eat than just asparagus, and I’ve found that the year is a slow evolution of palette of foods coming into their own. When asparagus season returns, we’re eating it at its best which makes it tasty, but we’ve also not had it in ages which makes it that much more of an event. It’s not ‘everyday’. This forced abstinence seems to inject my life with loads more ‘special moments’ with food than before, that end up tied to time and place. In a sense, it’s largely what I set out to achieve in changing our family’s food culture.

Absence [and abstinence] does make the heart grow fonder. I’m convinced.

10 Responses

  1. A thoughtful post.

    I don’t think that humans do well with the virtual absence of limits that our wealth provides us. I have found increased satisfaction in the sweet spot between living on $2/day and being overfed and too comfortable.

    Can we really love asparagus if we buy it year-round? Not that same way that you do.

  2. Deb Krause says:

    I liked that you used asparagus as an example. Growing up we only got asparagus when it was ready in mom’s garden. Mom always picked them quite small and tender and we’d quickly steam them and have with a little butter and salt. A real treat :)
    Same with the first baby spinach and lettuce salad, or the first of the carrots (store bought never taste anywhere near as good), and my favourite, the crunch of green beans straight off the bushes!
    It’s no wonder kids don’t like vegetables -even strawberries!- anymore… the stuff sold in stores, even “organic” produce, is merely a shadow of what truly delicious fresh produce should taste like.

    I bet your first fruit tart of the fall, made with your lard and fruits (i’ll assume frozen) from this yrs harvest, will taste better than you remember your last one being :)

  3. Barry says:

    Brings new meaning to the phrase… “everything in moderation”

    Moderation not only keeps us from over indulging on both good and bad things, but makes those moments, like you describe above, so much more enjoyable. Applies to pretty much everything in our lives. I’ve known people who get so depressed because they are so bored with life, yet own 3 vacation homes, travel for many weeks during the year, and eat out almost 4 or 5 times a week, etc. etc. Nothing is “special” in their lives…its pretty sad.

    I think its a great idea.

    ~Barry

  4. Indeed!
    And with our kids it is like introducing new foods to them every year. That can be a bad thing, but our are always up for an adventure.

  5. I keep meaning to ask my butcher if he’ll save the fat trimmings for me from his work so that I can render my own lard. We get trimmings off our own animals, but if I could just ask him to save up the fat for me for a week or something, I could render it down here and have pie crusts and biscuits galore. Thanks for reminding me to ask him about that. :)

  6. Exactly what I have written in a post from here not yet published about the seasonal eating done in the Balkans due to poverty more than anything. The raving and specialness about an apple when in season was a recollection I wrote about at length after my experience there, and the seasonal eating that is done and so appreciated.
    :)
    V

  7. Rose says:

    I am also amazed that people find seasonal eating to be strange. Yes, I forego asparagus when it is not in season, but I am not starving, I am indulging in the fruits and vegetables that are at the peak of ripeness at that moment. Right now we are really enjoying fresh apples and eagerly anticipating mandarins and kiwis.

  8. Sarah says:

    I agree totally. And I generally eat most of the summer’s fresh produce cooked simply because I am not bored with it and just want to taste the pure flavours. Freshly picked lettuce just needs a little good oil, some kind of sour flavour and salt……

  9. [...] you haven’t already, Kevin’s post on seasonal eating (or as he calls it, “a forced abstinence”), is worth a [...]

  10. For those that may bemoan seasonal abstinence: To eat seasonal is in some ways hardly abstinence at this time in history, at least compared to the era in Europe prior to “discovering” the Americas. Before this time Europeans had never seen tomatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes, squashes of all sorts, potatoes, avocadoes, pepper, corn, cocoa and manioc (according to my quick internet reference [1]). There may be others. And of course, vice versa for the early native Americans who had not seen other European foods. The variety available to us today, even in our backyard gardens at this northern latitude, is truly astounding; and from historical perspective, bountiful.

    [1] http://www.foodreference.com/html/artvegetablesfruitsneww.html

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