Thursday, November 25, 2010
The Preacher’s Corner
I give thanks for our wonderful variety of veggies
Thanksgiving is a time for all those wonderful, traditional vegetables and fruits. Sweet potatoes, green beans, turnips, asparagus casserole. I have had a particular craving for pumpkin pie. I usually have only one piece per season, but this year I might have two.
We have an amazing assortment of vegetables and other groceries at hand. People in the long ago could never have envisioned such variety. I knew a minister from Scotland who loved nothing better, when visiting our country, than to stroll the aisles in a large supermarket and marvel.
I have a fading childhood memory of the vegetable man who came down Linden Avenue, in front of my paternal grandparents’ home each morning in Memphis, Tenn. You would hear him crying off his wares in a strong Italian accent. He was a small man, and his cart was pulled by a little mule. Sometimes he would push the cart himself. Grandmother always sent me out with ten or fifteen cents to buy something for her. She was always glad for his butter beans, or some turnip greens.
I suppose that man supported himself and raised a family from his little vegetable cart.
In the afternoon, the Good Humor ice-cream truck came down my grandmother’s street. That is a story for another day, but it required a nickel, and was something we did not have in the little town where I grew up down in the Mississippi Delta.
The vegetable man and others like him (there must have been many), got their supplies from an entity called the Curb Market, that stretched a block above Madison, at the corner of Cleveland, I think, there in midtown Memphis. All the farmers brought in their produce early in the morning — very early, I think.
Mr. Cork, who sold vegetables from a wonderful little store that was built like a large screened-in porch on Highway 61 in my hometown of Cleveland, which was 110 miles from Memphis, would drive to Memphis three nights a week, returning home with a truck full of fresh produce, which he would unload and arrange for sale by the time customers began arriving about 8 a.m.
Mr. and Mrs. Cork would run the market in the warm months, and then in the winter they would batten down the shutters on their vegetable stand and spend the winter in Florida.
The successor to such enterprises now, in cities and larger towns, are the deluxe vegetable markets, that also feature imported items, and “natural” foods of all types, including eggs from free-range chickens, milk from “contented” cows, meat with no steroids, and so forth — all at exquisitely high prices, I might add.
Last spring I visited Mt. Vernon, and spent an amazing day. There is so much to see at George Washington’s restored plantation! There was one disappointment, though.
A restaurant near his old mansion, purports to serve meals prepared from “authentic Mt. Vernon recipes,” but it does nothing of the kind.
Martha may have overseen the production of each of the dishes I ate, but these things came in and out of season at different times. She did not have the freezer that made it possible to enjoy all the items I was served all at once!
I like having the full range of the produce of the whole earth at my near reach. There is something to be said for the ebb and flow of the seasons and the good things to eat that arrive with the different times of year. Thanksgiving calls to mind a simpler time, and I like that, too. After all, the first Thanksgiving was not about abundance, but gratitude for mere survival. Those Pilgrims would not have made it apart from the grace of God and the Indians.
Mrs. Obama is urging Americans to reach out to people in our country who live in “food deserts.”
That is, people in certain urban and rural areas that are without stores that sell a decent range of fresh fruits and vegetables. Those items cost more than “fast food,” and too many people have just fallen into the habit of pizzas and burgers, and it is taking a terrible toll on our health.
Church folk can help. The Methodists in Lambert, for example, are showing their neighbors how to raise gardens. You would think everybody would have this ability, but raising a garden takes more skill and perseverance than you initially think, and unless your parents taught you how, and ingrained the discipline … let’s just say that for many, it is a forgotten art.
Mississippi Public Radio said this morning that 18 percent of the people in our state do not eat the proper foods. At this Thanksgiving time, we need to think about ways to reverse this trend. One way to be thankful is to help people and educate them. There is a better way, and the good earth under our feet is God’s gift to help us help ourselves.
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