Comedian Louis C.K. has a famous routine where he mocks those who agonize over what to do with their lives. He demonstrates his answer by pointing to his mouth and saying, “Just put food in here.”
A dramatic oversimplification, to be sure, but one with quite a bit of truth to it. Ever wonder why virtually every religion has an intimate relationship with food? Simply put, food is our everyday miracle. We take something from “out there” and it becomes a part of us, sustains us, brings us joy.
Not religious? No matter. The food we consume defines nations, cultures, families, even individuals. (I, for instance, am known for my love of Brussels sprouts and my distaste for mayonnaise: Make note should you ever invite me over for dinner.)
Arguably, the primary step in the progress from the cave to civilization is the way we treat food. Virtually every form of animal life is preoccupied with following Louis C.K.’s prescription to the letter. As soon as food appears, lesser creatures either swallow it or hide it to swallow later. Civilized human beings indulge in some very peculiar practices around food: aging, seasoning, blending and employing heat and cold to transform the raw stuff into the good stuff that we can enjoy at leisure around the fire (or the Super Bowl).
We’ve gotten so sophisticated at our “just put food in here” formula that we can quibble over the relative values of, say, an all-beef patty at a fast food restaurant and a slab of Australian grass-fed, hormone-free ground chuck.
Speaking of Australia, I’m not sure what they teach in geography classes anymore, but once upon a time a country or region was known for its agricultural output. (Did you know that soybeans make up nearly half the crop production of Argentina? Now you do.) New Hampshire’s agriculture is hamstrung by our short (120 day) growing season and our rocky soil, but along with apples and maple syrup we’ve got a reputation for our dairy products and a burgeoning greenhouse produce industry.
The appetite is a force to reckon with. In spite (or perhaps because) of our infertile soil and inclement weather, Granite Staters are both avid consumers of fresh farm goods and ardent evangelists for the local veggie, meat and seafood movements.
My youngest daughter caught the culinary bug early on, becoming quite a bread chef and starting her professional career with Food Corps, a non-profit dedicated to getting kids attracted to healthy food and to improving access with community gardens and such. She’s now employed spreading the gospel of good eats in Jackson, Mississippi, but still looks up to one of the shining stars of this movement, Kin Schilling, who operates her Cornucopia Project out of Peterborough.
Our cover story this issue will give you an idea of just how richly we’ve been blessed by the work of so many for whom local food is a passion and a way of life. And it’s a reminder that, before you stuff that bite in your mouth, you might offer up a word of thanks for this everyday miracle that we so often take for granted.