Sunday, January 1, 2012

100 miles in one step

I live in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, beloved for its natural beauty, heat, and lakes, "home" is a destination for a number of Europeans vacationers, a staycation spot for a number of locals, a summertime second home for many a wealthy oil drilling Albertan (and their loud deisel trucks). It is also renowned for its orchards and vineyards, its abundance of produce as seen in its abundance of farmers markets. Well, guess what, all those lovely selling features are frozen.

Kelowna and surroundings are not that great in the off season (read: late fall-the earliest, most hopeful and promising signs of--please let it be--early spring)--unless you ski, which i do not, because gravity and i do not get along and i treasure all of my limbs.... And those orchards/vineyards/farms? Hibernating. So, it seems, are the Albertans and their trucks, so i am not entirely bitter about winter here.

Really though, it is difficult. Besides the fact that i suffer from SAD (seasonally affected disorder)--and regardless of the fact that my suffering is self diagnosed...), the Okanagan Valley leaves alot to be desired in the winter.

Being a valley, it is gray. Not rainy, not really snowy, just plain ol gray. For days on end. SAD.

Nothing grows. No grapes. No apples. Certainly no cauliflower.

Which is where this eulogy to the popularized summer months comes full circle: i miss cauliflower.

And many other vegetables and their sexy cousins: fruit. Really, i know a pink lady apple is pretty and all, but i so miss blushing white peaches, near to bursting with juice plums, perfumed raspberries, and my beloved apricots.

i miss them all because, in my dedication to the region i call home, i follow the 100 mile diet, even in these gray, gray, graygraygray, days. I miss green in these monochramatic times: beans--string and freshly shelled--, delicate salad greens, fennel arguably stronger than Sambuca, and parsely. Sweet you-know-who- i miss parsley. Sure i could easily buy all that i would in the not so gray months here from California or Mexico at my favorite produce shop, but it just wont taste the same as the veg i grow myself--anyone who has eaten a tomato off their own vines, yet still buys them, flavourless, from mexico in the winter, can attest to this, i am sure. And i have jars of my own tomatoes. And bags of dried. And bags of chopped heirlooms in my freezer. My bountiful freezer.

I preserve alot of what i grow, which helps me get through the months that i am not growing anything. But i forbid myself from using it until January 1. Instead, i live off the less frequent winter farmers market, filling myself to the point of fatigue with stored roots, the occasional leek if i am lucky, the ever saddening supply of cabbage (i still buy it, even when it is wilty...i question my morals at this....). That is, as mentioned, until January 1.

This is the part of the post where the gray, low hanging clouds clear and the sun shines gloriously. Oh. Thats not the sun. That is not even my SAD sunlamp. That is the light of my deepfreeze.

The new year marks my self-designated rejoice for the old year date. When i can replace the celery root i have been living off of with the remnants of summers bounty. This is the one instant when freezer food is as, if not more, appealing than fresh. It is a silly rule, i know, to wait until now when i started turning orange for carrot consumption weeks ago, but it creates the same sort of appreciation for the work i did to preserve my crops and their flavours, as it does to enjoy that same bounty in its season. No it is not the same, but it is still better than anything with a "packaged on" date that traveled from somewhere sunny all year long (note to self: relocating may mean less strategic freezer usage...). But the wait is over.

January first and i pulled, not surprisingly, cauliflower. Worth the wait. Worth the sacrifice of eating it fresh when it was, instead ziplocking it for now. It makes me a little less SAD. A little less orange? A little more thankful for the place that i live that truly is "Beautiful British Columbia"-- just reference any non-deisel vehicle...

and now, i am going to dig out some of those apricots...

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