by Tara Pederson

Have you ever had someone ask, “Where can I get a good lunch?” or “Who has the best breakfast in town?”
Depending on who you are, where you are, and possibly to whom you respond, not only will the answers vary, but the way you answer will vary as well.
With so much media coverage of “health foods,” I can’t help but think back to a time when rice cakes and diet soda fell under that classification and only thin was seen as healthy.  These days, while we are more knowledgeable on many fronts, the tendency to look down our noses at people who don’t or can’t frequent Saturday farmer’s markets or who value convenience over sourcing is something we hardly feel as troublesome. But maybe it is-
We speak in hushed or defensive tones in turn regarding dietary habits and traditions of cultures not our own, of religions we do not practice, of places about which we are neither knowledgeable nor comfortable. This isn’t born strictly of attitude. It is also a product of the way we choose to talk about it all.
Food is sometimes political, sometimes a source of identity, sometimes the enemy. Certain traditions originated in an effort to encourage safer food practices across a culture (think pre-refrigeration) and became sacred in tone over time.  It all depends on the person with whom the conversation is held. Even here, we differentiate groups based upon who puts tomatoes into which dishes and where the strawberries were grown. (You know you do).
In some cultures, children are taught in their formative years to openly study and critique their food, while in others, meals are uniform and repetitious, often eaten in silence.  Conforming to the expectations of peers and authority figures when it comes to the contents of one’s lunch box is more than just a school cafeteria practice.
Those expectations often define not only normal but “healthy” for a group of people.  It is so easy to turn conversation and language into the stigmatization of nationalities or socioeconomic classes, and therefore all the more to subject others to negative emotions regarding what they eat –  with little to no consideration of WHY they do so. Maybe it’s about buying and eating what they can afford.  Maybe it’s overworked parents doing what they can to survive the day, or preferring to spend that 45 minutes playing with their kids or helping them with class projects rather than cooking. Maybe it’s someone just doing what his mom always did, or someone not thinking beyond the box because that box is the sum of their expendable day to day energy. Maybe trying new things sounds exciting to you, but overwhelming to someone else. Or maybe they{gasp!} JUST DON’T CARE.
Truthfully, it doesn’t matter. That’s right. I challenge you to focus not on forming opinions on the food practices of others, but on how you view food, and how your language reflects it.  Because preserving food by fermentation and pickling is done across the globe, I leave you with a simple quick pickling liquid recipe, and a few things to pour it over.
Combine 1 cup salt, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup black peppercorns, 3 smashed cloves garlic 1/2 cup vinegar and 3 cups water.  Bring mixture to a boil. Turn off heat and allow liquid to cool slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Place what you’d like to pickle in a glass or heat resistant, sealable container. Pour hot liquid over, covering completely to the top of the container and lid. If this is a sanitized glass jar, allow to sit at room temperature to cool, and lids should seal on their own. Their shelf life is 6-12 months. If it is plastic, place in the refrigerator for safer storage, up to 3 months.
What to pickle?   Try – onions, green beans, okra, pears or plums, or eggs.