My family always had a garden. Whether we lived in the suburbs of Washington D.C. or in the countryside of Tennessee, my parents had a plot somewhere near where we grew all manner of vegetables and the occasional watermelon vine. We also visited the “pick your own” farms and picked bushels of items like beans or strawberries on a regular basis throughout the different seasons. My mom’s favorite joke for strawberry picking was that the farm really needed to weigh us all before and after we picked because we ate so many as we filled our baskets. I can still remember the warm sunshine on my back and the red juice dripping down to my elbow as I stuffed one ripe berry after another into my mouth. There was nothing better at that moment…except for the car ride home when we would stop at a small gas station and grab a Yoo-hoo to drink.
For weeks during the summer and fall months, our kitchen was filled with glass mason jars as my parents worked to “put up” food either freezing or canning so much that we had two huge chest freezers full and an entire room filled with all kinds of jams, jellies, and vegetables, etc. Some of our freezer space was filled with fresh meats we had raised ourselves or were raised and prepared from our land in Tennessee.
Today, small market-type grocery stores are popping up everywhere along with farmer’s markets. Even big chain grocery stores are doing their best to offer more organic or “farm to table” options. That term has become synonymous with healthy and more desirable eating. Restaurants taut it as part of their marketing campaigns as well. This idea of eating fresh foods directly from the fields of a local farm is not new, although the perceptions around it are.
When I was growing up and my family was growing and picking all this fresh food, we were not considered “cool” for doing so. In fact, alongside us were others like us: we were poor or at the very best lower middle class in income. We did these things because we liked the taste but also out of necessity. I grew up on the freshest and most healthy food imaginable and did so because we had to. Today quite the opposite is true. These “farm to table” and organic/farm fresh foods are pricey and they are trendy. It makes me laugh to see people flocking to buy all these items at exorbitant prices when just years ago these were often given as gifts when families had nothing else to give. My husband often talks about people bringing his family corn or tomatoes as a gift. His father was a preacher in a small town and this is how people often thanked them, where today we might send a card or an email. My family gave jars of blackberry jam or similar items at Christmas.
Somewhere we have flipped the perceptions and the trends. I never realized how healthy we ate until we didn’t eat that way anymore.
Another trend that makes me laugh is the blue jeans world. When my parents were young, dungarees or blue jeans were only worn by the poor or working-class people. They were considered working clothes and were not fashionable at all. As the years rolled forward, blue jeans not only became more commonly worn but the prices soared and now the more torn and ratty they look, the higher the price tag. These things just make me laugh.
I know there have to be other examples.
One thing that I used to tell my kids as they picked their way through the tumultuous times of middle and high school was that what they think is “cool” now will not necessarily be something that they think is “cool” in a few years. I used to tell them to try and remember what they loved or thought was the best thing ever only a few short years ago. Then I would ask them if they still felt the same way and most of the time the answer was “no”.
If times get tough or things seem stacked against you, just hang in there because it will all change soon. Just like those blue jeans and those trendy farmer’s markets.