In August, the sun comes out around 11 AM on a good day in El Cerrito. Jill and I had been hoping to make a visit to the farmer’s market at the El Cerrito Plaza for several weeks. The El Cerrito’s farmer’s market is open every Tuesday and Saturday from 9 AM – 1 PM. One Saturday morning the sun came out early, we bundled the boys up and took them for a stroll at the farmer’s market.
Pushing the Snap-N-Go lazily through the oozing crowd of people, we surveyed the apples, melons, peaches, nectarines, spinach, swiss chard and an incredible assortment of cilantro, basil, and other herbs. The free samples of peaches packed the kind of potent punch that even the most delictable chocolate at See’s Candies can’t match.
The bountiful baskets of blueberries drew Jill in closer to the booth. Since Jill breastfeeds two growing boys every day, she is on the ice cream and cottage cheese diet. Experts recommend that a mother nursing twins take in 3250 calories a day.
It’s hard to do when your chubby husband works hard at eating low calorie fresh veggies and fruit. Thus the ice cream and cottage cheese. Day after day of cottage tastes more interesting–and contains more vitamins–if a handful of blueberries decorate it.
Being the chef as well as the gather of food, I pointed out to Jill that we already had a pint in the fridge at home and that blueberries are cheaper El Cerrito Natural. We don’t need more blueberries. I also warned her not to go crazy as a pint of blueberries cost as much as a pound of commericially grown beef.
While I perused a rainbow of luscious plums and pluots, Jill snuck off and bought a quart of blueberries. “They were cheaper by the quart”, she explained.
That night, we ate four plum salad with watercress, mint and fennel with our friend Janice. I made a vinaigrette seasoned with anise. I served the salad with fresh yellow corn and hazelnut encrusted halibut. Without Janice’s help, we probably would have had spaghetti.
The farmer’s market at the El Cerrito Plaza serves more fresh fruit and vegetables than the produce section at Safeway. And better produce. Though not cheaper. Safeway relies on one of its 13 national distribution centers to efficiently deliver greenish skinned peaches and spongy tomatoes. The hub system makes food cheaper through concentrating resources, but it doesn’t reliably deliver good tasting produce.
I’ve put a plate of okra on a table for someone who sore they hated it. They loved it. Made salads with fruit that didn’t include Cool Whip. Created sauces with apricots and oranges. Served up greens that give to the teeth and melt in the mouth. It’s possible to eat well and eat healthy. Though our country’s food distribution system isn’t set up to do it cheaply.
America suffers from a health problem. The country is embroiled in a debate over health care reform. Even more, really an overlooked core issue of the health care debate, America suffers from a food problem. Potato chips cost less than locally grown peaches. Blueberries cost more than beef. If you wanted to save money and satisfy your craving for rich luscious food, isn’t the dollar menu at McDonald’s an attractive option. Sadly, the government funds these high calorie foods through subsides.
People don’t eat vegetables because they’ve never had them prepared in a way that tastes good. Vegetables take time, thought and energy to prepare. We’ve also become accustomed to the flavors of cheap meat, sugary white bread buns and ketchup standing in for a vegetable. I know, because I have lived this way in the past. Fast and cheap has trumped good, nutritious food in the American diet and now Americans are paying for it in a whole host of diseases brought on by obesity.
I don’t understand all the details of the current health care reform debate. I do know that each person needs to make a contribution by spending a little more money up front on fresh fruits and vegetables–or better yet, grow it yourself–to save ourselves money in preventative care rather than expect drugs to fix our bad habits later. Jill and I hope to make a personal contribution to health care reform through eating healthier, spending more money on good produce, and getting some fresh air with the boys. So go ahead and get the blueberries.