Saturday, May 23, 2009

An apple for the teacher?

I've been invited to do a guest lecture at the Polytech - the local extension of one of the country's college systems. One of the students in the class saw my picture on the front page of the Gisborne Heraldread the article about my background coaching and teaching leadership in the U.S. arranged for me to come to class.

Judith, the student who caught my five minutes of Warhol fame, meets me at the front of the campus and escorts me to the classroom. As I enter the classroom, I immediately notice a very large bag of mandarins perched on the front table. The bag of just-picked mandarins is part of the class's thank you gift to me for my lecture [they also throw in a bottle of very nice locally produced Merlot and a hand signed card] and the mandarins, as it turns out, are from Judith's orchard. I am both touched by this gesture and eager to peel into these sweet little treats that are now in season in New Zealand.

But, don't you traditionally give the teacher an apple? Um...yes...but apples aren't in season. Mandarins are. And that's precisely the point!

We've been numbed by the fact that in any local grocery store, you can get ANY kind of fruit or vegetable ANY time of year. There is no such thing as being "in season." Because if Florida, Texas or California aren't producing grapes and bananas, well Chile and the Dominion Republic are.
With an abundance of organically grown produce from around the world, I can't recall ever wanting for any fruits or vegetables. It never occurs to me what "season" we are in, because I can buy whatever I want from somewhere.

The thought of restricting my purchases to locally grown products seemed irrelevant to me. Who cares where the truck comes from? Or the railcar? I'm not going to save the world by boycotting Oregon apples or avocados from California.

But when you are buying produce in New Zealand, those imports are being hauled literally half way around the world with a carbon footprint in size 12! So, once living here, I stopped buying imports. I buy only fruit and vegetables grown in New Zealand. Which means we haven't eaten strawberries since March; figs were perfect in April; and mandarins are over-the-top juicy RIGHT NOW.

When did we start obliterating the seasons? Who came up with the idea of manufacturing nature 24/7 just like an IT platform? Why do we need to have things flown and shipped and trucked to our tastebuds? This abundance didn't used to be disturbing to wasn't even abundant. Now I "do the math" in the supermarket and think about what I'm addition to the melon. How much gas and pollution does my fresh fruit salad create?

So - we have less variety in our produce bin - but it has so much more integrity somehow. My refrigerator feels more authentic. And, I LIKE the fact that I know what's in season. It has been a wake-up call for me. Do I really need to eat corn in December and watermelon at Thanksgiving? Those mandarins are delicious and I'll always remember that I taught the class in May - because of it's mandarin season.

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