Sunday, September 05, 2010

Livin’ la vida locavore

“If there’s anyone dressed like an air traffic controller in the parking lot, I’m turning around,” I said as we rolled into a pick-your-own apple orchard last weekend.

Our experience at a different orchard a couple of years ago had turned me into a sour apple on the idea of pick-your-own, as the emphasis at that place had been less on picking fruit and more on picking pockets. Men in reflector vests waving fluorescent batons parked cars, tour buses lined the parking field and a giant line of sweaty humanity snaked out of the booth where you waited twenty minutes to pay the entrance fee for the privilege of paying for the empty bags which imparted the further privilege of performing your own manual labor.

But last weekend, we found a nice, quiet little farm with nary a reflector vest in sight, and we gladly forked over a few extra bucks for the privilege of roaming the orchard for an hour, trying to get our son Evan to pick an apple from his mount in my backpack.

“Go ahead, Little Man, grab that one,” I’d say to Evan, backing up until an apple bobbed off the top of his head. My wife Kara stood poised with the camera as Evan reached out, plucked a leaf and stuck it in his mouth. He has excellent survival instincts, for a giraffe.

He got there eventually

We were especially glad to find a pleasant place to pick an apple because Kara’s sister Jill and her husband Kris were visiting for the weekend. Not only are Jill and Kris vegetarians, but they’re also locavores (translated from Spanish: crazy eaters), which means that they try to only eat things that are produced locally.

“Like Tastykakes?” I asked.

“More like seasonal items from the farmers’ market,” Jill said.

I have great respect for the extra effort Jill and Kris put into being responsible consumers. The very notion of having to be aware of when a fruit is in season seems like way too much work. I’m pretty sure that the Founding Fathers intended for all Americans to have access to bananas, whenever we want them, year-round. I mean, if the Founding Fathers knew what a banana was.

Jill and Kris cook their own meals every night, using the freshest of ingredients, all locally grown: kale, peppers, beans, broccoli. I know! I’d starve to death, too.

“What do you do in the wintertime?” I asked them.

“We eat a lot of squash,” Kris said.

“And sweet potatoes,” Jill added.

“What about lunch?” I asked.

“We go through tons of peanut butter and jelly,” they replied.

At first, that sounded relatively normal, but then I realized they were probably talking about the kind of peanut butter that you grind at the store, like coffee beans. Kara and I tried that once.

“Ew. It just tastes like peanuts,” Kara said, wrinkling her nose. Thinking that she sounded insane, I dipped my finger into the plastic tub and tried a small taste. It tasted exactly like peanuts that someone had already taken the trouble of chewing for you.

“Yuck. I like Skippy better,” I said. We learned something new about ourselves that day, namely that we like fake things better than genuine ones. Apparently, we are also big fans of partial hydrogenation. If we were allowed, we’d probably go for full hydrogenation.

In any event, we all enjoyed the apple crisp that came out of the oven after we got home on Saturday. Going to a pick-your-own orchard is like visiting a casino: you’re going to lose a good deal of money, but hopefully you enjoy the experience anyway. On that front, the trip was a great success, and now we have enough apples to keep the doctor away well into Evan’s teens.

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