One From the Vine by Mike Verano

If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me,
because I’d like to hear it again
Groucho Marx

Do you know how many stories there are about food? Neither did I until I Googled it and got back 2,350,000,000 hits. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of writing dedicated to something that started out as a basic need and has evolved into the stuff or, more to the point, stuffing, of legends.

Food is so much a part of who we are that we not only love eating it, we love talking about eating it, talking about preparing it, and talking about preparing to eat it. We have phrases like “food for the soul” and “food for thought.“ We have “recipes for success,” as well as failure. We live in a country where the book The Joy of Cooking has actually sold more copies than the Joy of Sex.

In true fable fashion, the stories we tell about food are sprinkled, glazed, and frosted with morals. From such timeless wisdom as “A watched pot never boils,” to the more practical, “Everything tastes better with bacon on it,” there are a myriad of life lessons to be learned in the kitchen. Here’s a quick example:

Once upon a time my wife, Kathy, and I set out to prepare dinner together. The image we had as we entered the kitchen was that of two trapeze artists in total sync with each other. Moving from refrigerator, to cupboard, to stove with deft precision, we would be one with the other’s thoughts and movements. What actually took place sounded like this:

Kathy: These onions are so strong I can’t see through the tears.
Mike: That’s probably why you’re about to slice off one of your fingers.
Kathy: I got this, just finish washing the veggies.
Mike: I thought you already washed them.
Kathy: Than why would I ask you to wash them?
Mike: Yeah, that’s what I was wondering.
Kathy: You’re gonna have to move faster, the oil’s getting too hot.
Mike: Ok, here they come, oops, I just dropped the garlic.
Kathy: Two second rule, get it up!
Mike: Actually, with garlic, I think it extends to five seconds.
Kathy: Oil’s burning.
Mike: Is not.
Kathy: Is!
Mike: Is not…uh oh.
Kathy: What?
Mike: Nothing.
Kathy: What?
Mike: Fire in the hole!!
Kathy: Put a lid on it!
Mike: But I was just saying. . .
Kathy: The pot, Einstein, put a lid on the pot to smother the flame.
Mike: Got it.  I have a new idea for supper. Siri, order us a pizza.
Siri: Did you say boarder us Lisa?

Moral: The family that cooks together often ends up dining out.

While the average American diet fits neatly in the fiction aisle, as in “Nothing you’re about to eat is truly food,” the farm-to-table movement is rewriting the book on food sourcing and returning us to our roots, sometimes literally (see the chapter, Give a Hoot, Eat a Root).

Thanks to this movement, the food we put into our bodies has more nutrients than pesticides, more wholesomeness than hormones and, here’s the kicker, more taste. In what is becoming a classic tale of “Jack the Giant Killer,” the locavore devotees are green-thumbing their noses at the corporate food culture and restoring both sanity and safety to the way we produce, distribute, and consume our meals. By bringing us closer to our food source, places like Off the Vine are rewriting the narrative about what it means to eat fresh. This is truly a legend in the making with a fairy tale ending:

And they all ate happily ever-after.

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