This morning, I (slowly and carefully) drove my car to the repair shop in my neighborhood to be fixed, and then I walked home. This afternoon, I walked back to the repair shop and picked up my car.
This evening, I left my freshly repaired and perfectly working car at my home, put $5 and my cell phone in a drawstring backpack, and walked to the farm stand a few blocks away. I came home with red potatoes and a muskmelon.
I guess healthy choices really do breed more healthy choices.
In generations past, we didn’t need $30-per-month fitness clubs or gym amenities in apartment complexes. Our ancestors traveled distances too long to walk by horseback or horse-drawn wagon…and I bet the aerobic activity and “weight-lifting” required to care for the horses was more activity than many of us get in the 21st century. And that doesn’t even take into account the energy expenditure that was required to grow/raise, harvest/slaughter, and prepare food. Or to wash the laundry. Or to chop and carry the wood just to heat the home during the winter.
Even today, in the 21st century, even in industrialized places like ours, there are people who naturally expend a lot more activity than I do. I wouldn’t know, having never been there, but it is my understanding the New Yorkers mostly walk and use public transportation. The typical New Yorker’s walk to their subway stop is many times longer than my walk out to my car.
And remember college? In college, I walked all day long. Briskly. No matter what the weather, I walked. If it was hot, I left a little earlier (when I could) and walked a little more slowly. If it was cold, I wore a hat and mittens. If it was raining, I carried an umbrella. I arrived to class with rain soaking the bottom five inches of my jeans, or snow collected in the grooves of my backpack, or sweat trickling down my back. It didn’t matter what the sky was doing, we all walked.
Why do I get in my car, when it’s not very far away, I’m lucky enough to have legs that work fine, and I have enough time to walk? Or ride my bike? Truly “authentic exercise” is when it takes me somewhere I want to go. Our world, at least here in this city, does not provide us with enough truly authentic exercise, so we need good exercise habits on top of that. But why can’t I break out of the peer pressure of using my car five times a day? It turns out, most of my routes today actually had good, safe sidewalks and crosswalks. (I have my doubts about whether the traffic actually yields to pedestrians, but that’s another issue.) Why can’t I try to think more like a college student? Or a New Yorker? Or, evidently, a French woman?
Which brings me to my second point, and the reason for the delicious picture you see above. I’m in the middle of the book French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, and I’m finding it delightful, anti-diet, pro-joy, and all about balance. Despite the title, which doesn’t sound as holistic as the actual advice inside. Apparently, the French have a habit of going to a market every couple of days, rather than doing bulk grocery shopping once or twice a month. (And it’s described like a farmers’ market, not a supermarket.) They buy the produce, meat, and dairy that they have immediate plans to cook, and leave the monthly shopping for things like flour and toilet paper. The benefit is that you eat the food when it’s at its best. You don’t eat tomatoes that have been in the fridge for a week and taste like sawdust. You don’t eat chicken that has been frozen in boneless, skinless pieces, maybe months ago, or the frost that has been collecting on it. And you learn what really good food tastes like, and you become a snobby French woman who won’t settle for less. 🙂
So, I was inspired to prepare myself a dinner of something that was absolutely ripe and at its best. I went to the farm stand just to see what they had today, and planned to decide what to make later. I ended up with a delicious omelette made with a tomato that I picked off my tomato plant, red potatoes grown not 20 miles from my home, and the most perfect, sweet, almost-mushy, sun-warmed muskmelon slices with sea salt. (If you’ve never tried melon sprinkled with just a little bit of sea salt, proceed with caution. You’ll never go back. On the other hand, this is how I finally learned to like muskmelon and cantaloupe.)
Supermarket tomatoes taste like water, compared to a homegrown tomato. Supermarket melon feels like biting into styrofoam, compared to the ripe, sun-warm melon that melts in your mouth. I don’t know what the difference is, other than whether it ripens on the plant or off. Supermarket produce is picked early, because it needs to travel before it reaches it’s peak of ripeness. Farm stand or farmers’ market produce was picked this morning, or maybe yesterday. A home-grown tomato can be picked and eaten within moments. It ripens while still receiving nutrients from the plant, so maybe that’s the deal.
It’s all about balance. I am grateful for the transportation that makes it possible for me to have pineapple, seafood, and coffee. I’m grateful for the transportation that allows me to go places, daily, far outside the distance I can walk in a timely manner. But I’m also grateful for the occasional perfectly ripe muskmelon and the fact that I can walk to find it.