There was a Time…

I read and listen to the “now” generation talking about food. I see that there is a slight shift in the things they want to eat and the ways they think these should be cooked. They talk about “plant based” food. As opposed to what? I ask myself. “Animal based”? 

We search the shelves in the grocery stores for “organic” and pay the high price for so choosing.. How and when and why did this concept come into our lives? Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad thing. But it reveals much about our culture. 

Without realizing it, we are reinventing the wheel, reverting to living in a way  that was the age-old basic lifestyle  of those who are over 60 years of age. I am older than sixty and in my childhood, I never heard the term “plant based” and “organic” applied to our food.  We ate food from plants for every meal. Our food was not planned with a choice that was in opposition to anything. This was a given. Vegetables or nothing. 

Small amounts of protein were stir-fried into the garden vegetables that all mothers cooked. A handful of fried fish or shrimp was all we had to sweeten the palate. Stir fried vegetables for breakfast, lunch and dinner with dhall, rice, roti or breadfruit. It was no unusual thing to hear my mother calling out to one of her brood, “Go by the front fence and pick all the bora (beans)  and some tomatoes.” 

On week ends there was meat – one meal. A cockerel that couldn’t serve his purpose any longer  would see his last days, or two pounds of beef cooked into a curry with a vegetable to stretch the amount. My mother planted  everything that she cooked for her husband  and nine children. She had a yard full of chickens and ducks. They gave eggs. 

We caught shrimps and crabs when the tidal water rose in the swamps and canals. We fished for snook and basha and catfish  in those same canals. These were cleaned, seasoned, fried in home-made coconut oil and put out in the sun every day to preserve them. We might listen for the conch shell that heralded the approach of the fish-seller with a catch fresh from the sea. There were no refrigerators then. Everything was fresh from the soil or the sea.

We planted, reaped and threshed our own rice that would last the entire year until the next crop was reaped. We bought fresh milk from Uncle Parnel (no relation). My mother sent us with buckets to get the cow manure from his cow pens to fertilize her garden beds. No one knew the word “chemical” could be applied to the word “fertilizer”. From an early age we learned how to spread the cow manure and “tickle” the roots of the plants. The lilies, crepe myrtle, roses, ferns, periwinkles and marigolds grew cheek-by-jowl with tomatoes, beans, peppers, squash, egg-plant and cassava.

Yes,  there was a time when all  we  ate was  “organic” and we didn’t even know it then.  We do now.