I’ve started reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” an account by Barbara Kingsolver of her family’s experience eating nothing but locally produced food for one year. After moving to their homestead in Appalachia from Tucson, Arizona the family marks the beginning of their venture with the first asparagus shoot poking through the ground.
I love asparagus! Though it’s not my favorite vegetable for taste, I love the process of finding it each spring–a feeling shared by Kingsolver and her family as well.
As most know, I love biking. Yet, I particularly love biking through Wisconsin’s rural country side and along all of the various bike paths that span the state (Wisconsin is home to the very first Rails-to-Trails conversion, the Elroy Sparta trail). In addition to singing Eye of the Tiger out-loud for hours, I entertain myself by identifying wild asparagus growing along the way-side.
An asparagus stalk peeking out between the grasses along the bike path where I’ve gone for the last few years to harvest wild asparagus in the spring.
Asparagus is originally from Europe and was brought over by colonists way on back in the day but with the help of birds spreading the seed each year, it now grows wild all across Wisconsin. Yet I’ve wondered why asparagus tends to grow in concentration along old railroad tracks and the along the side of county highways. Kingsolver solves the mystery; asparagus thrives in these spots which are occasionally mowed, getting rid of tall growth which would shade-out or crowd-out the tender plants. I also learned that asparagus led to the discovery of the 6th taste–tangy–of which MSG was modeled after.
As Kingsolver and her family embark on their local-only quest, she discusses the change in how they view the availability of food. No longer are they able to satisfy a craving for asparagus by going to the store and picking up a bunch mid-December, instead they eagerly await the solid month of eating asparagus-everything in March and June, knowing by the end of June they would’ve had their fill and be ready to move on to the next thing that’s ready for harvest.
Upon cracking open the book my mind started wandering thinking of how I could challenge myself to eat more consciously as I continue reading about Kingsolver’s family. So far I’ve decided to not buy any food with a bar code. Just two days in and I feel like I’m cheating–although I haven’t bought any additional food it’s become apparent how much I use on a daily basis that I still have on hand–olive oil, tamari, miso paste, rice noodles. I was originally thinking I’d challenge myself for a week, but I realize the challenge will come when those supplements run out and I choose not to replace them….