Organic food. Good for you? Yes. Environmentally friendly? Yes. Tastier? According to enthusiasts… Expensive? Absolutely!
Yes, organic food is costly and despite the best of intentions if you don’t earn a high salary it is difficult to eat organic without having to give up on many of life’s little luxuries. Ironically, the more natural a state the food we buy is in the more expensive it is, and the more processing and modification it has undergone the cheaper we can buy it.
Unless you live in (or near) rural Italy.
Here, not only are there stalls lining the streets manned by little old men and women peddling fresh fruit and vegetables from their gardens and eggs from their chickens, but you can also visit the butcher and find that he keeps his own rabbits, chickens and even pigs and uses these for his products. You go to the green grocer on a Monday and find baskets of mushrooms, truffles, berries and nuts that he went and collected from the mountainside on the Sunday before. You find a bag of tomatoes sitting outside your front door because your neighbour’s son had a glut of tomatoes on his terrace garden. And you inevitably find yourself returning the favour in one way or another in an odd sort of throwback to the barter society.
Yesterday, a colleague told me she had left me a pumpkin from her brother-in-law’s garden at the gatehouse to say thank you for a small favour I did her last week. I should have guessed at that point at the size of the thing…
So what do you do with a vegetable of such dimensions? Well some of it you chop, bag and send out to neighbours (and in my case to Roberto’s mother), Some of it you use to make a spicy pumpkin risotto. Some of it you can freeze (if your freezer is a decent size. Mine is miniscule, much like the rest of my kitchen). The rest will likely be used to make pumpkin cake and fritters.
I personally think that much of the rest of the developed world could learn something from Italy. Organic food is, as noted at the start of this article, often prohibitively priced, in particulare to those in the lower income brackets, as is any healthy food. We are creating a new inequality based on food and health, as has been noted by various studies including one from the University of Stirling and another from the Robert Wood Johnston Foundation and many more than I could ever hope to list here.
Rather than spending money on telling people what they should and shouldn’t eat, I strongly feel that our governments could help more by facilitating access to healthy foods, including but not limited to organic produce. How? Helping small producers rather than big industrial farming companies. The problem as I understand it is that said industrial companies are far too powerful as lobbies, in particular in the US.
In the meantime, I would encourage those who can to play their part by buying from small scale farmers and artisanal producers wherever possible, and, why not, by growing their own and sharing the bounty with those around you.
I know this post was a bit different to what you usually get from me, but hey, being too predictable is boring!
With love, from Italy