I believe that one of the most important reasons to buy and eat local is to learn the narrative behind your food. It’s the story of how that food came to be, who grew or tended it, how hard they had to work and why that food must be enjoyed in its proper time and season. While grocery store food also has a narrative, you can bet it won’t have as much flare. It may be a story of food grown thousands of kilometers away, loss of diversity due to monocrops, undervalued and underpaid labour and poor stewardship of the land.
When I’m not growing it myself, I try to buy as much local produce as I can. Not only does it feel good to buy from friends and neighbours, but I also like learning the story behind the produce. It helps me value the product and delight in the end product and it fuels my passion for sharing my preserves with others. I have been on the receiving end of very generous gifts of fruit or offers to come help myself to leftover fruit and most times, those offers come with a story.
Like hobo rhubarb.
I was admiring the rhubarb patch at my local nursery, when the nursery owner mentioned I could help myself, warning me that it was the green, thicker stalks, which I find perfect for chutney. She called it “hobo rhubarb” as that patch was a gift from her neighbour who received that crown of rhubarb back in the 1920s during the Depression. The railway that runs from Montreal to Halifax goes through Sackville and when work was scarce, men would ride the rails looking for work. In exchange for a bit of work or bite to eat, they would offer whatever they could. In this instance, it was a crown of rhubarb.
I’m not exactly sure what I’ll make as there are plenty of great suggestions at Punk Domestics, but whatever shape it takes, that rhubarb will continue to tell stories and food becomes alive with meaning and celebration. That’s my kind of food!