The Privilege of Cooking
A few weeks ago, my boss kindly gave me her Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share for the week since she was going out of town. I was ecstatic—free local veggies?! You know this girl was down, especially since I buy my own food and consume a hefty amount of raw produce.
To pick up the CSA, I lined up behind Kent Family Growers tent at the Canton Farmers Market, excited to see zucchini, mixed greens, fresh dill, snap peas, yellow beans, sweet onions and yellow summer squash. Next to the snap beans was a bin of pulses I did not recognize—a bean of some sort. I took a bite, but the starchy shell was rather chewy. The experience wasn’t quite unpleasant; in fact, I didn’t spit the green out. Actually, I ate the entire pod. The sign read “Fava Beans,” but my tongue read, “Do not eat raw.” Weighing my allotted pound and a half, I assumed I simply lacked the knowledge to make this produce desirably edible.
This experience made me wonder: How many people have encountered a strange vegetable and not known how to cook its earthy flesh? Many people I talked to at the market had no clue what to do with a Fava bean. In fact, my parents had never even heard of the bland legume until I attempted grilling a handful based on a friend’s suggestion. I then speculate, how many people wouldn’t have even bothered with cooking advice? At least 30% of Americans claim they “can’t cook,” but I would argue this percentage is much higher because undoubtedly many turn a blind eye to foreign-sounding vegetables. Human nature makes us gravitate toward commonly prepared foods like mashed Yukon potatoes and buttery sweet corn. “Comfort food” we like to call these side dishes.
This summer interning for GardenShare made me aware that cooking is a privilege. I can afford to not only eat, but also take the time to do so. I have the power to access knowledge on how to cook a Fava bean, or whatever other strange vegetable I find. There are over 400 different vegetables in the world, not accounting for the 70 cultivars of carrots or the 20 variations of cucumbers. As humans, our lives are pivotally centered on food because eating is literally a matter of life or death. Consequently, we spend the majority of our lives growing, acquiring, cooking and ingesting food. The Bureau of Labor Statistics claim an average American spends 90 minutes a day eating. This statistic fails to include the process - like working a 40-hour week to have the spending ability for grocery shopping. Cooking is an elite interest for the time and money it consumes in our daily life, which is one reason processed instant food is such a big hit today. Cooking means I at least have fresh produce possibilities and different culinary choices for my meal tonight, unlike many in St. Lawrence County.
Working for GardenShare has not only opened my eyes to the community, but also to the small discussion surrounding hunger. As with most social justice issues, I learned how the demographics of an area largely influence the solution. For GardenShare, this means working with local farmers to promote a healthy food system for people of all income levels. I look forward to a future in food policy with this gained knowledge and experience.