You Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover… Can You?

The warm weather in Toronto right now has put me in a wonderful zen-like mood.  We’re getting to that point when the temperature is in the double digits more often than not.  And that, my friends, means we’re rounding the corner on my favorite time of year…

It first occurred to me that spring must not be far off last week, while tending to the tomato forest growing in our basement.  With the exception of the 3 varieties I planted late (Pink Zapotec, Old German and Blondkopfchen), all my seedlings are about 6 inches tall and straining to get outside.  I’ve been hesitant to put them in the outdoor ground because the fluctuating temperatures could kill them, and then where would Project Sustainability 2009 be?  Now, I’m feeling that by the end of the week I should be ready to dig a few holes in the ground, and (hopefully in the process) attempt to rejuvenate my ailing citrus trees.  But I’ve been dragging my ass again, so I still need to procure some soil before then, because one cannot garden with seeds alone!

Our return trip to Cheese Boutique for those ramps yesterday also reminded me that farmer’s market season is almost upon us.  In my opinion, that is definitely one of the best things about this time of year.  I relish the lively interaction with the farmers and discovering new products through their friendly suggestions, (like Oh My Stars cheese from the Trinity Bellwoods market last year) just makes my day.  The market near our home is due to open in 2 weeks, and I can’t hardly wait.  The larger one near my office won’t start until June or so I’m told, so I’m sure I’ll be (rather impatiently) counting the days for that.

Dreaming of market days to come got me thinking about a rather bizarre habit we have in North America.  From childhood on, we’re constantly taught that you should never judge a book by it’s cover.  It’s become somewhat of a cliche, but it still holds true in many aspects of everyday life.  The one area where I don’t think it’s relevant or has a leg to stand on would be food shopping.  The very nature of shopping for edibles practically ensures that you’ll be judging some food by its cover.  With the rare exception of finer purveyors like Cheese Boutique, or one of the “Five Thieves” and some kindly farmers, the vast majority of grocers expect you to purchase your food on faith alone.  And that’s a crying shame.  How many of us never take a chance on something different at the market because we’re unsure if we’ll like it, and would rather not waste the money if we don’t?  Or conversely, how many times have you purchased what appeared to be perfect produce only to bite into something with the texture and flavor of cardboard?  In an era where almost no one knows where their food is coming from and outbreaks of all kinds are popping up with increasing regularity, doesn’t it make sense to go that extra mile to not only know your farmer, but also try to support him (or her)?  It’s much easier to keep people honest and accountable for the things that they grow and sell when you face them every day.  Plus, knowing your farmer has the added benefit of being able to impact what is grown and form a collaborative relationship with them.  Besides, while touch and smell are great supplementary senses to aid in shopping, they shouldn’t be the only methods available, especially when so much commercially produced food is picked and pre-ripened with gases and chemicals instead of allowing natural fruition.  So this year, take a walk on the wild side and stop by your local farmer’s market.  Who knows, you just might like it…

Until next time…

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