'Conscientious Eating' is a term that gets thrown around a lot. Especially when we are talking about eating locally and seasonally. There are the usual arguments for building a sustainable food system. There are the environmental benefits of eliminating the thousand mile journey on a fossil-fueled semi, the health benefits of eating produce at its ripest. Most simply, though, people seem to like their food a lot better when they know where it comes from.
After we've thought about what we're eating and where it comes from, what about being conscientious about the way we store our foods? What about being involved in the keeping of food, not just the picking and preparing? I've been looking for an alternative to handing over all responsibility to the crisper drawer in hopes my veggies will be fresh and ready when I am. My refrigerator, currently the dumping grounds for all food items, can't be the most energy efficient option. It certainly isn't the most pragmatic. Since moving to the wet cloisters of Del Norte County, I've discovered the crisper drawer does not actually keep my carrots crisp. But neither does leaving them on the counter.
To save our food from the fridge, Jihyun Ryou, a Korean artist concerned with preserving foods and oral tradition, has designed an aesthitically pleasing way to put more traditional ways of storing food to work. "Objects," she says, "make invisible knowledge evident." That is, she has developed a way of visually reminding us what people before us, our grandmothers, our ancestors have known for ages: how to make food last. Using these objects gets us involved in the lives of our produce, instead of handing it over to technology. Here's a link to her blog documenting the project. As traditional wisdom would have it, it matters whether you store your apples with potatoes, whether you store your carrots upright, whether you give your eggs room to breathe. Whether this will work, and in Del Norte County, remains to be seen, but it seems worth a try. The more we can store outside the refrigerator, the smaller the refrigerator we'll need. And the less energy we'll consume.
one way to store root vegetables outside the fridge
There is always the venerable root cellar, too, for keeping vegetables fresh through the winter. The National Gardening Association has ideas for how to make a root cellar work for you, regardless of your living arrangements.