Tuesday, 21 September 2010

You were right, Dad

Labour Day weekend I spent a few days camping at Ragged Lake, a couple of hours Northeast of The Soo, with family and friends. Friday and Saturday were rainy and chilly, but on Sunday the cloud broke and the sun came out. Seizing the opportunity, I grabbed a kayak and spent a few hours circumventing the lake. And gliding across the water with only the kingfishers for company, I contemplated the recent changes in my life that saw me move to the country, keep goats for milk and meat, chickens for meat and eggs, and with a decent little kitchen garden.
Then I realized that I owed someone an apology. This is it.

Ricky the puppy, Dave Sr., Dave Jr. I'm the one in the diaper.

Now Dad, I know I haven’t written to you very many times. In fact, other than scratching Happy Birthday on a card, I doubt that I have written you at all since the days I wrote Father’s Day poems for you in elementary school. But the fact is, I have been doing a lot of thinking, and I owe you an apology.

 I’m living on a little hobby farm these days. I have a small herd of dairy goats, and I get up at 5:30 every morning to milk. I also feed the chickens and walk the dogs, make coffee, shower, and then your daughter-in-law and I have breakfast. All this by 7 o’clock. I remember your stories about morning chores on Grandma’s farm. I won’t compare my little place to hers, but I do appreciate the beauty of doing morning chores in the quiet before dawn. I can still see the gleam in your eye when you told me stories of training new draft horses, and the dull ache in your forearms after milking.

Most of all I remember how you used to complain about the taste of food from the grocery store. “Food doesn’t taste the same anymore!” you always said. "You can have that force-fed crap!” And I would l smirk, barely looking up from my Swanson TV Dinner or my Kraft Mac and Cheese. Man, I thought, it’s awful to be old. You think nothing is as good as it was when you were young. Apparently you lose your sense of taste. And all you can talk about is what’s wrong with the world.

And then by chance, I fell into something of the life you once had. This morning, Dad, I had sliced red tomatoes from the garden with my eggs, eggs that were laid yesterday by my own hens. The milk in my coffee came from one of my goats this very morning. This weekend for dinner we are roasting one of my free-range chickens, with sweet potatoes and red potatoes from our garden. And I've started making goat cheese. My mouth waters just typing the words.

Oh, and you would love our pantry! I get tears in my eyes every time I look at it. Jeanie's Green Tomato Chow-Chow, Chili Sauce, Choke-cherry Jam, Wild Cranberry Jelly, Grape Jelly. All the fruit came from the backyard, the roadside garden, or a neighbor's place.
And the taste... well, it tastes like Real Food. Fresh, bursting with flavor, satisfying. Real food.

And the best part is, there are thousands, millions of people who know what you knew. Some have known all along; others are like me and finally figured it out. But they are spreading the word, and taking to the country, and frequenting farmer's markets, and they are refusing to settle any more for food that isn't food. Every day they vote with their dollars to support local produce and pastured meat. Some of them buy my free-range eggs. Like me, they can't stand grocery store eggs any more, not only for ethical reasons but because they refuse to eat eggs unless they taste like eggs.

So there it is Dad. I'm very sorry that I laughed at you. And you were right all along.
If only you were still here so I could tell you.


Judith van Praag said...

To Dave Jr. That's a lovely note to Dave Sr.
If only we knew the things we know now back when, right? I appreciate your sentiments, you're not alone.
As we grow older there's got to be regrets such as yours. Good thing is, you've recognized what your dad was talking about. I think that's most important. And somehow I think your dad will get the message.
All is well that ends well, don't you think?

Trase Passantino said...

This is a beautiful post. :) Appreciating that the "old folks" had it right when it comes to food is a notion we definitely share.