Carrboro, North Carolina
Born and raised in central Maine, my youth was spent mowing the lawn, kicking a soccer ball against the garage doors, and trying to sneak sugar cereal out of the kitchen cupboards after I was put to bed. More about Tim
South Royalton, Vermont
I am a baby boomer who grew up in a time when the trend in food was convenience and speed. It wasn't the fast-food era, but a post-World War II time when ... More about Warren
We live in Holliston, Massachusetts. When we bought our house in Holliston about 27 years ago, Holliston was a rural/residential town of about 13,000 people. More about Barbara
Wallace, West Virginia
My name is Autumn. I'm 24 years old, and I live in rural north-central West Virginia. I was born and raised in West Virginia, and in 2005 I graduated from ... More about Autumn
My personal interests revolve around the environment, both knowing more about it and getting outside and enjoying my surroundings. This led me down an educational path to ... More about April
Last week my grandfather turned 80 years old, and yesterday we traveled to Charleston, WV, to celebrate the occasion. The birthday meal was not local, but I won’t deny that I enjoyed the special treat of cake and ice cream. I got a chance to talk with my grandpa about this project, and he told me some stories of local foods from his childhood.
My grandfather grew up on an 80-acre farm in central Michigan. His parents initially sharecropped the land until they were able to buy it. Sometimes his father rented space on other people’s property as well, if he needed extra land. My grandpa is the second oldest of 11 children, so there were many mouths to feed, but also many hands to help on the farm.
The family was basically self-sufficient; they grew practically all the food they consumed throughout the year. They grew white beans as a cash crop, and they milked half a dozen dairy cows and sold the extra milk to a local dairy. They always had fresh milk and buttermilk, and they churned their own butter and made cottage cheese. They also grew their own wheat, rye, buckwheat, barley, and, of course, lots of field corn. My great-grandfather took the grain to a mill in town, where some of the grain would be ground coarsely for the cattle, and some would be ground finely for the family. My grandpa remembers large storage bins filled with each kind of grain, and a corn crib filled with ears of corn. A subterranean cellar was filled to the brim each winter with long-keeping vegetables and home-canned foods.
My great-grandmother raised laying hens and sold eggs. She hatched chicks in an incubator and sold the extra roosters for roasting. The family raised hogs each year, and they either butchered or sold the calves of their dairy cows. They raised sugar beets, a major cash crop in Michigan, and sold the beets to a local processing plant to be made into sugar. A two-horse team was used to plow the fields, and they grew all their own vegetables and fruits. They grew an acre of potatoes and enough onions, winter squash, and cabbages to make it through the winter. My grandfather says they stored the cabbage by digging trenches next to the rows of cabbages, then cutting the cabbages and turning them upside down into the trenches. Then they refilled the trenches with dirt, and the cabbages remained fresh long into the winter.
For Christmas, each child found an orange in the toe of their stocking. It was likely the only citrus fruit they would see all year, and they savored that orange like it was gold, slowly peeling off a single slice at a time. There were lean times; my grandpa remembers eating nothing but pumpkin for many days in a row one particularly hard winter. But there was also bounty, and all of it was the fruit of their labors.
And the broccoli won’t return my calls.
I realize that in my blog posts thus far I’ve generally lauded the ease of eating locally in NC. It’s true that there is a great variety of things to eat here, especially compared to other parts of the country where my locavore comrades are adding notches to their belts this time of the year. But I have to tell you, it’s still winter down here and there are only a few things growing!! The carrots have gone, the broccoli is gone - local cabbage is harder to come by. I never thought I would have cause to say this – but I’m getting a little tired of eating sausage and ice-cream all the time.
It’s true that my wife and I have become more pressed for time lately and one of the first things to get cut is food prep. But you really need a handful of time and loads of creative energy to throw together a suitable late night snack when you open the fridge and only milk and beets await.
I know the local farmers are hard at work and I want them to know that I anxiously await the fruits and the vegetables of their labor. For now we’re taking our message to the soil. The time to plant is upon us. We’re hungry, we’ve got our trowels, and we’re ready to see if we can’t coax some new treats out of the ground.
North Carolinians! Who is gardening? Write in and tell me what you've got planned. For those living in Chapel Hill or Carrboro, check out Northside Community Garden which is where we have a plot http://grassroots.wikia.com/wiki/Northside_Community_Garden.