Yesterday I made a vegetable soup for dinner, which started with me heading out to the garden to dig some carrots. We left most of the carrots in the ground through the winter, and every time the ground thawed a little I went out and dug a few. They've lasted all the way through till now, with pretty good flavor too.
We also did well with our onions last year. Our basement stays cool, so the onions kept just fine in a cardboard box. We haven't bought carrots or onions in more than six months. We haven't bought jam or jelly in more than a year.
As I was making dinner I got to thinking about how I might define a modern pioneer food ethic. It might be similar to a Slow Food ethic, but it would find greater context from our pioneer ancestors. I imagine that any two people might implement it differently, but there would be common fundamental values. Here's a trial stab at one description of what it means to follow a pioneer food ethic.
Agriculture: Our pioneer ancestors lived in an agricultural economy. Their daily meals came from their relationship with agriculture. A pioneer food ethic would have a personal agricultural connection. For some this would mean growing a garden or keeping chickens. For others this would mean a first-hand relationship with the farmers who grow their food. A personal agricultural effort allows us to access a diverse range of food beyond the grocery store.
Seasonality: Direct relationships with agriculture imply seasonal patterns. Summer meals emphasize fresh produce; winter meals utilize root vegetables and preserved foods. Pioneer food systems cycled with the seasons; we follow this pattern.
Preserves: Pioneers preserved foods for winter to optimize the harvest and nutrtitional value. We might put up preserves for similar reasons. Additionally, we preserve foods to access a diversity of possibilities that aren't available at the grocery store, and to emphasize a providential attitude.
Home Cooking: It goes without saying that pioneer foods are home-prepared, not eaten out.
Social Meaning: Food served as a social vehicle for pioneers, and continues to do so for us today. We seek to amplify the social connections facilitated by pioneer foodways. We value food exchanges, whether garden seeds and produce; one jar of preserves for another; meals shared with friends; or a warm dish given to an under-the-weather friend. We value the exchange of ideas and information that comes with the exchange of food, as we share garden tips and cooking tips when we share those foods.
Do you have any suggestions for things I haven't considered?