A week ago, it was around 50 degrees…..in southern Michigan, in January.
I got all riled up about it. Granted, it was hard to complain….getting around without snow is so easy, less fuel use for heating, chickens laying in record numbers for this time of year, and digging in the garden as though it was October. I generally try to avoid complaining about the weather, and I find wonder and joy in weather changes, season changes, and day-to-day differences. However, I found myself longing for snow and worrying that it wasn’t cold enough. After a super-hot summer, and ground that still hasn’t really appreciably frozen, in January, (I easily dug carrots and leeks today), it can be a little scary to contemplate the climate changes I believe I’ve seen in my own back yard. What if every year increases in temperatures the way this past year increased over the year before?
But now, with the temperature in the teens this morning, and the longed-for snow covering the ground, I feel a little better. Waking to the brilliance of sunlight reflecting off snow, and filling the house with light is a welcome change from the two months+ of warm but sullen grey skies and ground. Even though I could still dig vegetables out of the garden, we came in with bright-pink faces from the cold. Settling down with seed catalogues and a cup of tea feels much more in-tune with my expectations for this time of year. And soup is a frequent quick meal.
One thought that has struck me this winter was to contemplate how much more food I might have grown if I had known the late autumn and early winter would be so mild. I’m missing lettuce and spinach. In our hectic fall, I passed the usual dates for re-sowing these greens, and figured I might as well not try. Turns out, they would have
done well. We’re not suffering for salad, we do fine substituting cabbage, endive, baby chard, tatsoi, and baby kale for other raw greens. But lettuce and spinach would be a welcome touch of luxury.
My next thought was that if we are indeed experiencing warming of climate, there is even less reason for us northerners not to grow our own food. There is even less reason to ship in food from milder climes, when well into December, (and now even January) it is possible to harvest greens and roots - even without a hoophouse. If you cannot grow your own, you can buy it locally. Support and pay for local farm goods, and more farms will come into being, increasing availability even more. And at the same time, we will be working to reduce what food transportation contributes to global warming.
Growing our own food or purchasing it from someone close by, and learning how to cook it solves so many problems at once. Last month, a study determined that eating commercial canned soup for just five days raised urine BPA levels 1221%. The lining of the cans contains this chemical, leaching it into food. “Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor , which can mimic the body’s own hormones and may lead to negative health effects. Early development appears
to be the period of greatest sensitivity to its effects, and some studies have linked prenatal exposure to later neurological difficulties.” (Wikipedia) As a midwife, you can guess how that makes me react. Why do humans tend to take a nourishing food and ruin it? (Unfortunately, it’s not just soup. BPA is also found in many other food containers, cans, lids, and the lining the metal canning lids that many of us use to preserve our food at home. The price of lovely Weck jars still makes them prohibitive to me - but they would be a safer solution for home canning.)
Every day, I am upset with what our species is doing to the world we live in, the food we ingest, the chemicals we instill in the bloodstreams of our unborn fetuses. I am trying to do my small part by refusing to participate with at least some of it. I wish more people would join those of us who are making these choices. Maybe it sounds silly to talk about changing the world by growing and cooking your own soup, but maybe it doesn’t. Because every time each of us purchases something like canned soup, we consent to waste, pollution, and chemicals in our food. If you buy it, if you eat it, you have agreed to it, you have helped put off demanding that manufacturers must change. I am not suggesting I am perfect - there are many ways in which I am still too complacent. There are many days I am exhausted from late work hours and feel forced to resort to food I haven’t grown or cooked. But I’ve got the soup down, at least! Here’s a recipe that starts with pre-made chicken stock, and
pre-cooked beans. (Many blogs cover how to make broth or stock, so I won’t - here is a good one, for example.) Except for salt and tumeric and sweet corn, every ingredient in this soup was grown or harvested by us, on our land. Most of them are doable for a backyard gardener. Most of them can probably be obtained locally in most northern areas, unless you are in a food desert. No cans were opened, all garbage from the making of this soup could go onto the compost pile. This is not my once-a-week local challenge meal - this sort of eating is daily fare for us whenever possible. If nothing else - learn to make soup. A pot can provide meals for days, and keep chemicals out of your food.