Like this meme suggests, seasonal eating was once just eating. Today we are blessed to have just about any food we’d like at any time of the year. But what is lost? Traditional Chinese Medicine and Macrobiotics emphasize the importance of eating locally available and seasonal foods. I have always felt great comfort in having 4 seasons here in Arkansas. For me, each season prompts new growth, habits, and a needed change of pace that I love to honor. It’s kind of peculiar that we have to now think about what foods are in season. The concept comes naturally if you take a moment to think about it. What are summer foods? Watermelon, tomatoes, corn, melons, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplants. In TCM, these are all considered foods that cool the body. Now, think of winter foods. Pot roasts with rosemary, thyme, and garlic, spiced breads, baked goods, soups, stews, root veggies. These are foods that are more warming, slow cooked, baked, and eaten hot. Seasonal eating aligns us with the rhythm of nature. Eating foods that have ripened in the same climate we are experiencing affects our body’s inner climate. Today we have a demanding attitude when it comes to grocery shopping. Have you ever been at the store and thought, “Oh no! They are out of butternut squash! Now I can’t make this recipe!” Once, a farmer shared with me that they received a rude message because they had closed the public open picking for the day because the fields needed to catch up and ripen. What a disconnect with nature this person had!
When we follow nature, we gather goods mindfully. We begin our creations knowing what is available and ready for harvest. Think of the markets in other countries. I have often dreamed of what it would be like to go to one, pick what looked good that day and bring it home to cook. When we follow nature, we must listen, not demand. It is very humbling. I find a sense of calm and stillness in this surrender. You may have heard recently about “food miles'', supporting local, and sourcing foods sustainably. I’ve also noticed big companies starting nonprofits and for-profit companies to address this. Although action on this level is needed, like Einstein supposably said, "We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Let’s not sit back and let corporate America call the shots. We must be personally responsible with our choices. You vote with your purchases. It is obvious to me that as Farmer’s Markets and farm-to- table restaurants become more popular and corporations have noticed. However, the corporate way is to control nature, not follow it. Nature gives us what we need. As a country sick with compulsive consumption, what we need and what we want are out of balance. When we let nature lead we feel small in this universe and childlike. It’s humbling. Humans need that more than ever. There’s so much to celebrate in this way of living. Traditional cultures celebrated seasonal harvests as it was a time of thanksgiving. So let’s practice.
How do we follow nature? Make friends with the farmers. I love learning about how vegetables grow and what they need to thrive. Buy what is there. If you are unsure about an item you find, ask. If they grow it, they probably eat it! They may even give you the best recipes! Farmers will also be able to provide additional information about local produce.
Traditions are important to all and some of our deepest connections are made with food. Can you think of a food for each season that you always make? Celebrate these traditions and share why you make the recipe. If you don’t know, maybe there’s a family member who does remember where it all started. You can find great joy in starting your own traditions with your family too.
Questions for Discussion
What’s in season here and now? What traditions do I have that celebrate following the seasons and nature? What traditions and rituals can I start to celebrate and honor the seasons and rhythms in life? Can I open my mind to the thoughts of being connected through my food choices to nature and community? How does that feel? You may feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. Remember the market bowl from last week? Simple! You gather the veggies that look good to you, make veggie sides, simple protein, and a grain and you’re eating well. Keep it simple. Then, repeat. Practice Gratitude. Listen to your body.