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The Beauty of Food

September 26, 2010

This weekend I finally made it to the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine. I’ve heard about it for years, but I didn’t quite know what to expect, although the one thing everyone assured me was that it would have lots of good food. And it did, but what struck me more than that was the beauty of the food.

I didn’t pay as much attention to the prepared foods, but I will say that the lamb shish kabobs, alternating pieces of perfectly cooked meat with tender apple, roasted onion, and sweet peppers was enough to convince me that’s what I wanted for lunch (well, that and the smell). I also loved looking at the different hues of the honey, from clover to wildflower to blueberry to raspberry, ranging from very pale to a deep amber. And of course the creaminess of ice cream (a little too evident in the hot, melting sun).

More than that, I was struck by the gorgeous beds of rainbow Swiss chard, the tiny hot red peppers that looked like Christmas ornaments against the shiny green leaves, the tables full of produce that had won prizes. I loved seeing not only the “perfect” ones but those that we don’t normally see in the supermarket, such as the braided carrots, or the butternut squash in the shape of a horseshoe. Those differences remind me that the food is real, that it comes from the ground and is grown by people, not just mechanically produced.

And I thought how wonderful it was to reward people for growing the best produce, or raising the best animals, or producing the tastiest jam. Too often we forget (or simply don’t know) the effort that goes into the food we eat, making it easy to not fully appreciate the end result.

Today, therefore, I have been enjoying not just the taste and smell of my food, but its physical beauty. My breakfast of a frittata, golden-yellow, lightened here and there by sprinkles of goat cheese, dotted with the brightness of red peppers, and the soft, light green of my perfectly-shaped pear. At lunch, the darker crust on my grilled cheese sandwich with the lighter brown of the toasted part, the brilliance of my just-tender green beans, and the variegated red and green of my Macintosh apple. For dinner, I eagerly anticipate the yellow of my heirloom tomato (I forget the variety), contrasted sharply with a fresh basil leaf and mozzarella cheese, and the darker green of spinach peeking out from my white bean and fennel soup.

More than that, as I appreciate and savor the beauty, as well as the taste, I am grateful to all those who spend their lives in service to food. I will enjoy it all the more as a result.

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