06 October 2008

Gleaning

One of the books I've read in the last year was Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days. It's a charming mish-mosh - a remembrance here, a recipe there, all short pieces organized by date. Because of the eclectic nature of the day book entries, there's no urgency to the reading of it. You can dip in and out because there's no thread to maintain.

Anyway.

The entry dated 6 October is titled "Gleaning" and it retells the story of Ruth (who picked up barley left behind after the harvest) and it talks of helping the poor through the salvage of potatoes left behind in the field and it moves on to how much food is wasted by supermarkets and restaurants and it finishes with the authors picking up potatoes fallen from trucks and taking them home for dinner. "It's just a way of allowing them to realize their true destiny."

"Gleaning" reminded me of the year that my brother was a senior in college and I was an impoverished graduate student, and he was living in a campus apartment, and his school had a field that they leased in little sections as a community garden to folks who'd drive out from Philadelphia to tend to their produce. By October, most of the "farmers" had abandoned their plots to the impending winter, and my brother and his roommate went foraging through the still productive plots. They filled up their freezer with tomato sauce made with vegetables they harvested, and I went to visit one weekend and came home on the train to NYC with tomatoes and leeks and beets and carrots, and filled up my freezer too.

Waste not, want not.

21 comments:

niobe said...

This reminds me that I should go through my own garden and pick the last of the tomatoes.

Ellie said...

The waste makes one's head hurt. Once food hits a plate, and is uneaten, it becomes garbage. Can't get my mind around that.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

My sister (who lives outside Philly) told me that every year her neighbor plants a huge garden plot and tends it through the heat of the summer and then lets everything rot. What's the point of that?

This weekend I hiked along the river here and saw what I am pretty sure were chokecherry trees, all loaded with fruit. I wonder if tribal members walking through there would feel something like my sister felt, marveling at the waste.

phd in yogurtry said...

That must have felt like manna from heaven, returning to the city with garden fresh veggies. Yum.

Gwen said...

When I was in college, gleaning meant picking through the dumpsters behind the grocery stores to take their out of date but not yet truly rotten food.

(We were poor, man.)

I think I like your way better.

cactus petunia said...

My neighbors have invited us to a cider pressing party...they've encouraged everyone to glean the apples from neighborhood trees and sidewalks (with permission, of course).
I think it's a great idea!

womaninawindow said...

It's disheartening, really, the misallocation of food in our world. Even here. (Now you've got me thinking.) We have a porch full of food, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots. After school the little boy next door came by and said he had no food at home. And here we sit. How do you give food to peers without offending them? Really. I wonder.

Ree said...

Excellent! It's like our next door neighbor that gave us the last of her zucchini and yellow squash and peppers yesterday and then proceeded to pull up all of her plants. ;-)

kathy a. said...

womaninthe window -- i think you can take food over and say, "i have too much, it will go to waste, can you use it?"

noble pig said...

I love that.

Nap Warden said...

I love me some fresh veggies!

Kyddryn said...

When I was a wee lass, I remember hauling a burlap sack larger than I was through a potato field, collecting what had been left behind. I don't know why we were doing this, but I remember feeling it was great fun.

We had to run and jump into the car because it couldn't stop or it wouldn't restart - more fun!

Some markets will give products from their deli or bakery to homeless shelters, and produce that may still be ripe but is no longer saleable.

I wish more would do that, and restaurants, bakeries, and delis, too. They often don't because they are fearful of law suits. Isn't that a shame?

Shade and Sweetwater,
K

Lady M said...

I wish I could find the reference, but I remember reading about a (Jewish?) culture where the tradition was to leave the corners of fields unharvested, so that wanderers would be able to find food.

Krysta said...

i was thinking about something like this. on the sides of the on and off ramps on the freeway (that was alot of ons) there are tomatoes that roll off the tomato trucks that are hauling them to processing. why doesn't pick them up ? they are still good, just a little dirty. it's so much waste.

Angeline said...

this reminds me of my constant struggle to get the right amount for my kids, when I give too little, they are not full... when I give too much, they can't finish and I end up eating what's left behind, I just couldn't bear to see food going down the bin...its just too painful...there are so many out there who couldn't even beg for some...

Hip Mom's Guide said...

Woman in the window: you can also just buy lots of staples and leave them on the porch anonymously. Spaghetti and soup go a long way when you're hungry.

kathy a. said...

a lot of food suppliers donate to food banks and soup kitchens. i've heard of local restaurants donating excess to shelters, too.

but i think there are a lot of "invisible" hungry folks, barely hanging on, who may not have access to free food, or may be too embarassed to ask. i love hip mom's suggestion about anonymous food drops!

Mama Zen said...

This reminds me; I need to see what's left in my own garden!

Janet said...

I'm glad it didn't go to waste and that it nourished you and your brother and his roommate and whoever else visited! Great story :-)

Maggie May said...

i love the word 'gleaning'

and now i want a bowl full of fresh veggies

painted maypole said...

that's awesome!