Eating Local, in Season…and with Grace

The other day, my mom brought us a bag of frozen blueberries, because she knew our boys like to have them as a snack, and we were out of blueberries. While I appreciated the gesture, I hesitated. Why?! Why, you might ask, would you hesitate, when your kids’ nana brings them a HEALTHY snack (as opposed to sending them home hyped up on sugar, like many loving nanas are wont to do)?

Well, I hesitated, because blueberries are one of those things that I try to hold a little bit sacred as a food that we eat in season, or until our local, u-pick batch runs out from the previous summer. If the boys didn’t want to stay in the field long enough to get enough berries to last through the entire year in the freezer, tough luck. No more blueberries until June.

Have you ever tasted a sun-warmed Oregon blueberry, fresh off the blueberry bush? Sweet and tangy, warm and luscious: just the right amount of squish and substance.

blueberries
Picking blueberries when my now-10-year-old was about a year-and-a-half young. (Look at those cheeks!!!)

Truth be told, my boys generally don’t want to spend any more time in the field because they have eaten so many that they have nearly made themselves sick. We’re working on that…one year at a time.

At any rate, all year long, blueberries remind us of the summer, of seasonality, of waiting and longing and hope. They remind us that sometimes, we go without—something we as Americans are not used to practicing often or for extended periods of time.

Well, we ran out of blueberries recently, and only made it about half way until the next blueberry season.

“Mom, why can’t we just buy more at the store?” asked my 10-year-old.

“Well, because it reminds us to eat things that grow here, when they’re growing, or to think ahead and plan well enough that we have what we need for the whole year,” I replied.

But, my mom took pity on the boys, and got us some Costco blueberries, and I hesitated, but then I said, “Sure.” Because there’s idealism, and then there’s legalism. There are best intentions in teaching lessons through life experiences, but there also needs to be grace for the times we fail to live up to our own (or other people’s) standards.

Anyway, what do we replace the bedtime snack with when we run out of blueberries? Graham crackers! And who knows what is in Graham crackers or where the ingredients are grown or the product is manufactured? Not me!

Lessons I’m learning from this, and you’re welcome to join me:

1) Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in one cherished rule or standard (even one set by oneself) that following it has consequences that are the opposite of what your rule or standard intends.

2) Pick more blueberries.

3) Looking back at the last several years to note and celebrate my family’s progress on eating more seasonally and food from our region:

  • 4 years ago, I made the commitment to eat one thing each day that I had grown or acquired locally, and did so almost every day of the year.
  • 3 years ago, I decided to try for at least one thing a meal that I grew or acquired locally, and did this for a majority of meals that year.
  • During this time, I also learned to can and preserve new things, which continues our ability to eat locally or personally-grown food throughout the year.
  • Last year, a friend started the Newberg Dundee Food Buying Club, and a network of folks in our town are able to access food grown by farmers in our region, much of it organic/grass fed/cage free, at relatively reasonable prices because we purchase it together. As this network grows, we’re able to get more and more of our food locally and affordably!

4) Giving myself and others grace when we fail, and celebrating the successes. Baby steps, y’all! We can’t change everything all at once, but we can change SOMEthing. As Margaret Mead put it, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

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