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Too Much of a Good Thing

October 10, 2010

I have a confession to make: I’m a compulsive produce shopper. Most items that people like to buy – clothes, jewelry, cars, computers, video games, etc. – leave me cold. But get me to a good Farmer’s Market, and I have a hard time stopping.

When picking out apples, for instance, I want to get some of each variety, and this time of year, those are in abundance: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Macoun, Macintosh, Cortland, Empire, Honey Crisp, Jona Gold. This also applies to other items when I find new heirloom varieties, be it with tomatoes, carrots, beets, zucchini, or others.

As new items come into season, I wander among the stands, recipes darting through my head as I fantasize about what delectable treats I could make, savory and sweet: soups, stews, casseroles, stir-frys, salads, fritters, breads, muffins, jams, and pies. Or, in the case of items like cucumbers, the delight may simply be in eating them raw, or as with broccoli, I may simply steam it or lightly sauté it. Then as the season ends, I worry that this will be the last week a certain item is available, but I don’t want to let it go just yet. Which is why, by the time I’m done, I’m practically waddling back to my car, laden with cloth bags brimming with produce.

The problem is this. I’m only one person, and while I can eat a somewhat ridiculous amount of vegetables, even I can consume only so much. After all, as I learned the hard way, overeating healthy foods may be more difficult to do than with less healthy options, but it’s still overeating. That’s why I occasionally find items in my fridge that were once fresh but are now sad remnants of their former glory: withered potatoes, blackish sludge that was once lettuce, peppers that turn to mush when I pick them up, brown and wilted tops of fennel.

Until today, I hadn’t actually given much thought to this. But this morning, after another trip to the Farmer’s Market, I was in my favorite local shop for a few additional items, and I saw that they had put up a sign with some suggested rules on how to treat food. Things like buy local and organic when you can, eat less meat and wheat, prepare food with care, serve only as much as you need, and use the rest.

It was the last rule that struck me. I try to use as much of the parts of what I buy as I can, such as making chicken broth from bones, or using beet tops for salads. I realized, though, that as I’m on my buying frenzy at the market, it’s disrespectful to the farmers and the food to buy so much that some of it goes to waste. And so in the future, I will try to remember to buy only what I need, knowing that (most of the time) I can get more later, and that there truly can be too much of a good thing.

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