Preserving the Fruits of Our Labor

Understanding our food is primarily about understanding ourselves.  Food is cultural, food is historic, and food is at the essence of being.  We really are what we eat. Food preservation ranks high on the list when it comes to honesty in health.  Fundamental for the future of a vigorous society and the salubrious individual, both of which labor to make the other complete, home food preservation is synonymous with well-being.

Food preservation speaks to us from two very important perspectives.  One is the preservation of food integrity, by understanding what goes into the food we eat and thus returning to a holistic “real food” diet.  Such way of life dictates that eggs and milk should be whole and fresh, beef should be grass-fed and orange juice should be raw.  Despite imitation being the trademark of industrial food, we are beginning to see a shift in consumerist thinking – a revolution in the way we shop, approach our food, eat and live.  Post-modernism drives transparency, to put the control back in the hands of the consumer.  Understanding our food, by way of our ancestral heritages, reconnecting with the earth, and rooting out greater wisdoms and peace found at the heart of holistic living, is where we can reclaim the thrust of our livelihood.  This growing awareness about food processing, handling, and packaging has created a rising demand for real, natural unprocessed food, the best of which can be made right in our very own kitchen.

The second equally important perspective on food preservation is the sheer reality of economy and convenience.  Preserving our own food, (whether grown in our private gardens, taken straight from the farmer’s hands, or off the shelves of the local supermarket), means one can have access to many variety of food throughout the seasons, without having to have it shipped thousands of miles.  Moreover, if economies must be made, preserving our own food helps to relieve food budgets.

The deeply romantic and equally thrilling imagery that accompanies notions of real food, organic, environmental, and homemade, seems to come from nostalgia of a simpler life: what raw, hole, real food can actually come to represent.  Living off the land is no longer a poor man’s lot, but is something of a luxury, as if growing one’s own tomatoes is in itself, a kind of rite of passage and picking wild berries to make family jams and preserves is some great unprecedented victory.  In a way, they are just that.  Each time we chose to produce, cook, and preserve our own food we are triumphing over the comprehensive industrial food system, taking that emancipating rite of passage from ignorance to cognizance, repression to self-governance.  However while the luxury of real food is synonymous with peaceful existence, it becomes a luxury many of us must make room to provide.  The days of frozen-dinners, ravioli-in-a-can, pizza pops and fruit roll-ups are numbered. One can freeze, ferment, can, dry or even vacuum seal vegetables, herbs, fruits, meats and grains. Dehydrating, smoking, sun-drying, air-drying and baking are all forms of food preservation that can easily be done at home.  The revolution starts right in our own kitchen and is carried by the work of our freezers, jars, pressure cookers, crocks, dehydrators, juicers, stovetops and ovens.

There is a something profoundly satisfying about enjoying the fruits of one’s own labor, (quite literally).  Perhaps it reminds us that personal creation is integral to self-conception and peace, whereby food is the projection of one’s identity.  While the industrial food system seems to expropriate the integrity of humanity by devaluing, and externalizing the individual, a necessary return to natural, holistic food and home food preservation, transcends food from being a commodity of monetary exchange, to the priceless product of one’s own labor.  Let your food speak for you.

-Elizabeth Cucnik

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