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Counting My Blessings

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By Diane Pohl Minott

Counting My Blessings

As the trailing spouse (a most unfortunate term) of a diplomat for the past 20 years, I am so pleased to be settled in Northwest Indiana, specifically rural Valpo. One of the key benefits is being able to speak—in English!—with the food growers and producers in local farmers markets.

As you can imagine, food quality in other countries was a concern, as pollution often was more evident and accessing producers was next to impossible. Among the worries were filth in some rivers and the rusted chemical containers from abandoned factories. One never knew where or how the food was grown or how it was transported. (As an aside, while were posted in Tbilisi, Georgia, the winner of the annual embassy photography contest captured a farmer in a small car packed to the ceiling with produce and a sheep sitting in the front seat.)

For example, eating fish in Azerbaijan was problematic, as the Caspian Sea is famously polluted. A mason jar of the finest caviar could be purchased on the black market for $35. Aside from the ethical and legal issues, we knew where it came from, so thanks, but no thanks.

Local outdoor markets offered brilliantly colored mounds of fruits and vegetables. There was no doubt that they were fresh and in season, but food quality was another issue. For some reason, I trusted that I would find the nutrients I wanted and needed in the markets in the small country of Macedonia (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), but the produce in Kazakhstan came in waves from its central Asian neighbors and no doubt many of the vendors were selling products obtained from the same trucks. Organic and healthy? No way to know.

As is more evident every day, nutrient dense food, minimally processed, is the way to health. And “dense” is the key word here. The only way to be absolutely sure of food quality is to buy the seeds yourself, coddle and feed the soil, and take care of the pests without harmful chemicals.

These days, I find that talking face-to-face with producers and sellers is very reassuring. I love to arrive at the markets early and find the sweet spot between the time the vendor has set up and the time the market starts bustling. Almost every vendor is keen to talk about their produce—questions from buyers are most welcome! I am very grateful that there are so many in Northwest Indiana who contribute to the food quality and therefore to the health of all of us.

And speaking of food quality, if you are reading this, then you likely have visited The New Kitchen Store or ordered from its website. I have found Phyllis to be an invaluable resource on many topics related to food and cooking essentials (also, those gadgets that aren’t essential, but wonderful to own). I noticed that she is offering Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, as now is the time to order. After talking to Phyllis, I have become hyper aware of yet another link in the chain of good health. It all starts with seeds, and if your seeds aren’t healthy, your food won’t be either. Now, I have another question for the vendors when the farmers markets start in the spring.



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