Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day 19 | Stockin' the Fridge

The way I look at it, if your pantry items are your most basic food staples - your black pants, and if your freezer is a step up from your pantry, the fairy godmother magically helping you make fresh meals even though the food is technically frozen, then your refrigerator is full of your favorite clothes you wear each season.

There are a few obvious refrigerator staples that you should have on hand year round:
  • milk
  • eggs
  • juice
  • yogurt
  • condiments
But everything else should change with the seasons.

This is an idea which was commonplace to our grandmas and great-grandmas, that our parents kind of got away from and that we, today, have no frame of reference for.

I'm not going to go off on a tangent about organic versus conventional produce.  Personally, my family buys everything organic and local with the complete exception of bananas, and sometimes garlic and onions.  I want to focus more on local and in season produce. 

For most of us, we are fortunate to live in a place where it is easy to just drive down the street to our local mega-mart and buy large quantities of fresh produce.  We don't really stop to think about what's in season, because if you can buy it at the store it must be in season, right?

Nope. Not at all.

One of the widest used examples is tomatoes.  There is just nothing in this world like the taste of a fresh tomato, locally grown in season.  The color, smell, and taste are far superior to what you find in the produce bin in January.

Sure, you can find red tomatoes in January.  A lot of them are genetically modified to have that bright red color on the outside, but when you cut into them, they are a pale in color and bland in taste.

Or, you find tomatoes in January that taste almost as good as those summer tomatoes.  These tomatoes come from countries far away that have growing seasons opposite ours.  So they are "in season"...but definitely not local.  Why does this matter?  Well, it's not as if the tomato is airmailed overnight to your local grocery store.  It takes at least a week to travel...maybe two.  So you aren't getting a really fresh product for your money.  And the longer that tomato takes to travel and sit on the store shelf, the more nutrients are lost each day.

SO, whether or not you buy organic, generally you will get the most nutrient rich and flavorful produce if you buy #1 what's in season for where you live, and #2 produce grown as locally as possible.

For me, that means my fridge right now has some remaining summer squash {which is still growing in Texas}, spinach, arugala, okra from my garden, zucchini, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, onions, and carrots.

For fruit I have bananas {which are not ever in season or local for North Americans, but I can't live without}, apples {also not local}, and an abundance of fresh berries which my in-laws graciously left with us from their visit the other day.  Fruit is challenging for me.  Because of my location, local fruit generally consists of strawberries and peaches and only in the summer.  So I broaden my definition of local for fruit to mean local to the US, and try to get local to Texas before local to the US.

Gradually, as the weather in Texas jumps from one extreme to the other as the season changes, my fresh foods will be mostly greens and other "winter" produce.

That might seem really limiting to you.  After all, we do live in a society where you can have what you want when you want it.  For me, I see it as a challenge to think differently about the meals I will create this Fall and Winter.

One thing we have which are grandmas and great-grandmas didn't have is the internet, Google, and seemingly endless pockets of inspiration.  If flipping through pages of a cookbook doesn't inspire you maybe someone in the blog-o-sphere will.  Try Pinterest.  Ask your friends on Facebook for ideas.  I'm partial to recipes found in Southern Living.  Wherever you find your inspiration, save your ideas for future days when your brain is fried and you just can't think of what you want to eat.

Here are some recipes I'm loving for this Fall:

Scalloped Sweet Potato Stacks

Butternut Squash Spoon Bread

Butternut Squash Gratin

Winter Pizza Ideas

Turkey Bean and Kale Soup

Classic Russian Borscht {I haven't tried this one yet, but it looks soooo good!}

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

What about you? Do you change what foods you stock with the seasons?  Do you have any recipes you are loving for the Fall?

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