Seasonality: What's Good Now?
Seasonality is all the rage. But eating food in season is not new; it's the way people always ate, until very recently, historically speaking. We ate what we could grow or what grew nearby. At season's end, we canned or dried the remaining harvest for the coming winter. Root vegetables were stored in the root cellar, where they stayed relatively fresh through most of the cold weather.
Eventually, more efficient transportation allowed us to move harvested ice and keep it in metal boxes, letting us keep some things fresher longer. By the mid 1900s, new processing methods, improved long distance transportation, and affordable refrigerators eventually gave us access to pretty much everything pretty much all the time. Tomatoes in the winter. Asparagus in the fall. Strawberries all year. Fresh cheese from around the world. Lamb from Australia.
Because of unrestricted access, we lost touch with the farms that grow our food and forgot about the seasons. We forgot that, left to their own natural life cycle, sheep only give birth to lambs in the spring. We forgot that berries ripen in early summer and apples ripen in the fall.
And then we remembered. Seasonality is reborn, but this time it's touted as a discovery; proselytized by celebrity chefs as nouvelle cuisine.
Remembering is a good thing. Eating with the seasons is good for a lot of reasons, most importantly, food, especially produce, that's in season tastes better than unripe versions shipped from thousands of miles away. If you wait for spring to enjoy asparagus, it's more delicious - more asparagus-y. Waiting makes everything feel special - while you're enjoying the spring greens, you look forward to summer squashes. While you're enjoying them, you look forward to pumpkins. You always have something to look forward to and you enjoy it more while it's around.
At the same time, we have access to ethnic and artisanal products from around the world. Cookbooks and the internet give us access to recipes. Food can lead to knowing people who are different from ourselves, compassion about their history, understanding about their culture, and even insight into the world as it is today.