Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Why You Should Pay Attention to August (or, Every Jar a Victory, Part II)

Just about every single year since 2001 Slate has reprinted that old David Plotz column about how August is hot and boring and exhausting and annoying and we ought to just get rid of it. I can actually remember when it first appeared, and I chuckled at it. But as the years have gone by, I've realized that chuckle betrayed the sweaty ironic weariness of the city-dweller. Get out into the country--or, hell, just get out into your garden--and you realize that while September and October (and possibly November) get all the harvest vibes, the real action begins in August. As our home-made salsa operation, entirely using tomatoes and peppers and parsley from our own garden, makes clear:

One weekend's worth of Roma tomatoes, collected from 18 different tomato plants.

Puree them properly.

Collect and chop up your onions and peppers (green and jalapeno).

Snip some fresh parsley.

Mix...and voila, fresh salsa for dinner.

And, of course, process and jar some, for your nachos during the cold winter months.

As I said before in regards to strawberry jam, every time you manage to feed yourself (or get the food you need directly from its grower or producer), and every time you manage to store some of that food away, you've won a little victory. Less than a century ago, unless you lived in a big enough urban area and were wealthy enough to make use of local icehouses, it was a straightforward and relatively huge victory: over starvation, or over selling yourself (your property, your labor, your freedom) dearly to stave off the wintertime. Twentieth-century markets and technologies and efficiencies have, thankfully, made such desperate victories a thing of the past. And, of course, such innovations have brought a lot to our tables which are rightly to be valued (not to mention having provided us with the air conditioning that gives us some relief when we come inside from the August heat). But all that doesn't mean that being able to look at shelves of food, food that you grew or prepared or preserved yourself, doesn't signal anything worth celebrating in its own right. Being able to eat with confidence, knowing where the food came from or how it was prepared, knowing that what you're eating isn't wholly a creature of abstract trade transactions and distant economic dependencies, and most of all knowing that you can connect a real, teachable skill, one you can share with your kids, with what sits before you when you sit down at the dinner table...that's a victory for August indeed. Take the month off, and see what you miss.


MH said...

I'm learning to bake without boxed mixes. Baby steps.

susi said...

that looks really great.i will try that out some day. i think that august is a great period.