In the food world trends come and go. Last year we were all going crazy over our acai bowls. A few months ago we couldn’t stop posting pics of our designer doughnuts. Just like with anything else, food trends are ever changing—they come and go. We have gotten some of our greatest culinary achievements through food trends. Noodles in the first century, soufflés of the early eighteenth century, or the great fondue craze of the 1970’s. Where would we be without all of these innumerable food trends? They all build off of each other and help to create something new. Like a saucier with their 5 sauce bases. Food trends, much like fashion trends, tend to rotate. We’ve all been drinking our kombucha lately, but this is an ancient Asian drink that has been around for thousands of years.
Every year my family holds a family reunion where we share laughs, food, and history. My grandfather writes a yearly article about his experiences as a child with his brothers and sisters. He grew up on a small farm in Ohio, which was the topic of this year’s article. As I read through the memories brought to life through words, I had a few thoughts. My first was of hunger as he named all the different foods his mother would make with products from the farm. My second was of the subtle food trend that has been bolstering over the past decade. We have seen the farm to table concept sweep across the US and grow in popularity. From small pop-up events and special seasonal menus, restaurants being wholly devoted to the concept, and even those few “big box” places; the farm-to-table movement is evident. I have been a huge advocate of this passion for years, from natural and humanely raised animals to organic and non-GMO produce, but more specifically—local sourcing. As I continued to ponder these thoughts I started putting the pieces of the puzzle together in my head. While farm to table may be a movement reaching from coast to coast, and it is an admirable passion, it is not a trend at all. This is simply a call to return to basic communal living. Farm to table and local sourcing are not something we should hold as a fad of fodder, moreover it should be revered as our most basic way of living.
Eating, selling, and buying locally grown produce and meat is what we have been doing as humans for millennia. Starting as far back as ancient Mesopotamia where we first learned that living together in a civilization is mutually advantageous rather than nomadic hunting and gathering. Moving forward into ancient Roman culture where we learned to control waterways and increased our agricultural outreach. Throughout the industrial revolution we learned new trades and skills as well as living in smaller, closer quarters, yet we always survived by working together through trade and bartering. As we moved into colonial America and learned farming traditions of local native americans, we continued to survive by working together. As you trail through the centuries to modern day America there has always been farmers who fed our local towns. This seemed to come to an abrupt halt in the mid 20th century. With the invention of frozen dinners and fast food on the rise, we took convenience over community. The baby boomer generation became a generation of heater-uppers. I think over the last 50 or so years we can see this has not been the best decision. We can see health issues and a lack of community from this trend. While we might live in the modern 21st century with technology thriving and literally everything at our fingertips, I think it is time for a change. We must learn to live and work together as a community rather than autonomous islands. We order everything from new clothes to appliances online, we even uber our food to our homes now. While these technological advances may ease our lives, they simply are not sustainable for community. We as a new generation must break through the glowing screens to keep our community alive.
I feel as though I must digress for a moment. I am making this out to be some arduous revolution of sorts, of which it is not. I am simply making the argument to remember the farmers. We can have healthy delicious food while also supporting our local economy and welfare. Maybe you don’t have the green thumb, but I assure you there is a farm within 200 miles that can support you. To make matters even easier we have multiple farmer’s markets in the area and almost every town has their own. (Northside Farmers Market, Howland Farmers Market, Warren Farmers Market, etc.) Get out there and get to know your community. If you’re looking for a simpler route we have a co-op that serves the area. It’s as simple as a click of a button. You can go online, pick out the products you’d like, and have them delivered to an assigned drop off point in the Valley—laketorivercoop.com! As our new friend Melissa Miller of Miller Livestock said to me, “…eating local; it used to just be called eating.” The banner we wave here at Jimmy and Spade is connecting people. This is our intention and our mission, from restaurants, cafés, coffee shops, patrons, and owners. This is just one more facet of our community we would like to connect you too.