Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Friday, May 2, 2008


The Blog is Always Greener...
No, no, no, ... not THAT kind of "your own"... Grow Your Own FOOD.

If you Google "grow your own" without specifying "food", you get a really interesting assortment of search variations that make me wonder how many of my friends made it through the 1960s or 70s without the benefit of the internet. But they did - we did - we all managed somehow and most of us now, a little longer in the tooth and grayer around the temples are still growing our own. Food, that is.

An enterprising young DC metro area self-described "work-at-home Mom" (isn't that redundant?), Andrea Meyers, has a monthly roundup of folks who report their experiences preparing food that includes ingredients they have grown themselves. You can find information on how to participate here. The roundup for April, Grow Your Own Round-up #9, includes one of my blog posts about making loquat jam.

As enticing as it is to be able to reach my own blog post through it being featured on somebody else's site; and it was fun for me I'll admit, a foodie's version of the tagged photos on MySpace or being linked in Facebook I guess, it was also humbling once my competitive nature kicked in.

After reading recently on The Amateur Gourmet about the rules of food blogging,and on how to have a "popular" blog, I immediately zoomed past any elation on being included in the roll of the sustainable foodies into a feeling that I wanted, more than anything else, to have the COOLEST entry in the round-up.

I want to sit at the table with the popular kids! I want to BE one of the popular kids!

I mean, come on, JAM?? Pretty pedestrian when lined up against Brazilian zucchini salsa, or dolamades using grape leaves from your family vineyard in Sparta, Greece. Shoot, even the domestic Californian Beet Ice Cream seems much more exotically wonderful than jam.
My problem seems to be that anything from another country, or even another state, automatically falls into the "cooler than here" category in my mind. The California couple featured, White on Rice, actually have a website all their own that features a well designed, dare I say, hiply laid out format I experienced as vastly superior to the ordinary garden variety blogging most of us (read:me) engage in. And, apparently, if am reading him correctly, Adam Roberts would agree.

But surely that is a problem all on its own. Automatic self deprecation has to be a clear warning sign of using the wrong measuring stick.

I could launch here into a discourse on the Mimetics of Desire, about how the value of anything is enhanced by it being appreciated by the "other". Or I could point out that years under the current administration have left most liberal leaning Americans with a self loathing when comparing ourselves to the rest of the world that bottom lines as "anything I can do, you can do better". I could even cite the ground rules of the Two Year Old, if I have it and put it down but then you want it so I want it back, it is mine.

Jam making may be mine, may be ordinary, easy to do, and certainly is much less exotic than, say, beet ice cream. At the same time, jam in the cupboard is dependable, will keep for up to a year (the Gospel according to my little box of pectin) and is something I like to eat. A LOT. Jam will sit there immediately available, a reminder of sunshiny Spring days spent together with my husband, harvesting fruit in our own back yard.

No matter how domestic or unsophisticated that might read to you, it lives out beautifully for me. Raising vegetables in the garden, having fruit trees in the yard and using that fruit, is all something that comes naturally. It represents a return to sensible living where our connections to our food are much clearer. My mom didn't make jam, but her sisters did, and my mother in law did, and their mothers and grandmothers all did.

My son has a culinary garden in his small outdoor space. My daughter shops very responsibly, and "liberates" herbs and food from here since she has no outdoor space at all in this stage of her life. I don't know if my kids will ever try to make their own jam, but if they do? They will know they are entering into an activity that has sustained the palates of this family for generations.

I suppose somebody from another state or another country could read about our jam making here and think to themselves, "how exotic - loquat jam". Bottom line for me is that exotic or domestic, pioneering or safely quaint, growing our own food, preparing it and sharing the experiences with each other is and ought to stay about connecting, not competing.

That couple in California with their independently designed website and amazing garden already providing them with baby beets are demonstrably more sophisticated than I am. I'll say it flat out right now - if that is going to be my criterion then they win. They are the popular kids. I may never be invited to sit at that table.

However, blog envy aside and on a better day, I am real about who I am and who we are as a family and that is, as my Mom used to say, gracious plenty. That means, popular or not, sophisticated or simple, I win. Now I'm going to the kitchen to celebrate and fix me some toast. With Loquat Jam.


Andrea said...

Well, I have to say that loquats are pretty exotic to me because we don't have them here in Northern VA, and actually that's part of the fun. I know it's hard not to feel that competitive spirit when participating in the food blogging events (believe me, I'm very competitive!), and yes I feel some garden envy when I read about ingredients that other bloggers have regular access to, i.e. Meyer lemons and loquats, but that's what this event is about--sharing the bounty from the region where we live (even if it's the same old herbs I've been growing all winter in my indoor garden...talk about needing some variety!).

I hope you will join us again for Grow Your Own!


TexasDeb said...

Andrea - thanks for your kind words and for organizing such a great site where foodies can share their efforts (in that totally NON-competitive way)...

Your bread looked amazing - I could almost smell it from the photograph. I'm off to pick up my CSA basket for the week - maybe I'll come up with some sort of loquat-beet duo...

I'm looking forward to seeing what comes out of the garden over the next couple of weeks for a May submission. See you back on Grow Your Own #10!

Andrea said...

Oh, and THANK YOU for saying "young DC metro area self-described "work-at-home Mom." It almost makes me feel young again. ha ha ha