Eating Out of Season

Some people feel guilty about eating too much. Others about eating “bad” foods – you know, the ones that taste delicious usually because they are too fatty, too salty, too sugary, or some combination of all three. “Bad” is, of course, relative.

For me, my letter A of shame comes from eating out of season. Or perhaps worse still – eating foods that will never have a season here in Wisconsin. Foods from thousands of miles away. Bananas. Avocados. I hide them away when company comes, outwardly virtuous to my local seasonal eating plan but hiding a terrible damning secret.

It’s a foolish worry. Food shouldn’t inspire guilt. That’s part of what makes eating so pleasurable. Not to mention the dozens – literally dozens – of bunches of kale and pounds and pounds of winter squash, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and rutabagas I’ve virtuously eaten (and loved) this winter. My mettle is proven – a real medal, perhaps one made from a massive slice of carrot, should hang ’round my neck.

Even so, it’s one I think about every time I go to the grocery store or order from a menu. What’s in season? What’s possibly local? How will that asparagus really taste in February as opposed to the tender bundle I can barely keep out of mouth in June? Is it worth it? Sometimes the answer to that last question is “yes.”

Bananas cower in fear of being discovered behind the paper towels

In some ways, I feel less remorse eating those never seasonal foods than the ones that are just out of season. I know what a really ripe, really delicious tomato tastes like so it’s wan, well-traveled winter cousin is a poor substitute. Even the apple I ate today tasted off – my fall apples finally ran out a month ago so this store-bought apple from South America tasted of a season that didn’t match the view out my window. An avocado, on the other hand, is always foreign – at least until I move somewhere with an avocado season – so I have no comparisons, no trade-offs for a potential pleasure now over the benefits of waiting until spring or summer.

I’m trying to let the guilt pass. You’ll know how well I’ve succeeded if you see a bunch of bananas on my counter.

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