I have a problem on my hands. My garden is growing successfully. This is unfamiliar territory—never mind that this is only the second year that I've had one. But last year it was paltry, only eking out a small vegetable here and there. My goal this year was to suck less at gardening—mission accomplished.
So what's the problem?
I tried out a couple new greens this year, a red mustard that has a horseradish edge to it as well as a variety of kale that tastes like cabbage but comes out in leaves instead of a single head so you can keep harvesting though the season. They've both grown and re-grown wonderfully. The problem is I'm not sure what to use them in. I tried making a horseradish style mayo that worked alright, and we put the kale in a soup that came out pretty good but only because of all the other things we added to it. We just didn't have a particular meal that it really added something to. Then today as I reheated some leftover soup and thought about the vegetables in the garden that I wanted so desperately to find a use for, it hit me—nutrition.
Cultural food did not happen simply because a group of people preferred corn meal over potatoes, but rather because they first had a thing available from which devised a dish that was relatively pleasing and practical for the environment. They started with what they had and needed—the nutrition—and then made it work. Thus the Irish are obsessed with potatoes.
In USA 2015, I do the opposite. I immediately concern myself with what will taste good. Yes I am reminded at least a couple times a day that I need food, but I mostly think of it as a form of pleasure and entertainment. I have bypassed the thought that this thing brings certain minerals and proteins into my body to make it run—that no matter how it tastes, the nutrition is the point. In actuality, the flavor is the window dressing.
So I went to my garden and broke off a leaf of the kale, a leaf of the mustard, and chopped them up tossed them right into the soup I was reheating. Flavor profiles be damned, I was putting more gas in the tank for what will be a long afternoon.
Our problem goes beyond food—we are obsessed with the flavor and appearance of things rather than the substance, what about the thing gives life. So it's no surprise when our sex, religion, employment, possessions, and relationships reflect that culture we swim in. Not that the dressing is pointless—beauty is never pointless—but to forget the substance of things in favor of the surface is to eventually throw away the substance of that made the things so valuable in the first place simply because it no longer suits our taste.