Friday, July 10, 2009

Better to pay the grocer than the doctor

My rerouted trip further north along the coast gave me a chance to explore a bit of Portsmouth, NH and even Kittery, ME, as it was just over the bridge. (I know I said I wasn't going to Maine, but that's where I stayed for the evenings I was in the area.) My impromptu timing meant that I missed out on the activities of the vibrant Slow Food Seacoast network in the area, though I learned a good deal about it from my cheerful hostess and one of the group's founders, Michelle, over chickpea curry the first night and homemade pizza (with gorgeous local NH tomatoes) the second. The weather continued to be cold and rainy, but Ollie and I were not to be deterred. I spent Wednesday afternoon on a tour of the lovely Strawbery Banke Museum.

Now, as a child, I went to a LOT of museums all around the world. Usually, the museums were dark and dank, the tour guides droned on about this or that dead person and their taxidermied rodent collection or fine china, and I was counting the seconds until the tour was over so I could go outside and climb a tree. Not so at this place. Our fearless guide, John, led a fascinating tour of the gardens and pointed out the ways that the green spaces revealed so much of the cultural knowledge and history of the people who kept them. We could quite literally see through the content and configurations of the gardens -- vegetable, kitchen, or decorative in nature -- the way the community changed over time by observing what plants they valued, their aesthetic ideals. Of course, the opportunities to smell and taste various bits along the way made the tour even more appealing (what can I say, I'm a tactile learner), and I learned a bit more about some of the medicinal uses of plants.

John did an amazing job of reinforcing a belief held by so many for generations, one which we seem to have lost in modern times: it's better to pay the grocer than the doctor. (I'm not talking about our country's appalling lack of a sufficient public healthcare system with hundreds of thousands of Americans unable to get adequate medical attention -- that's a whole OTHER soapbox I reserve for another time, like when I get a little wine in me). I'm talking about utilizing the natural benefits of whole foods and herbs as preventive or curative "medicine" instead of the shocking array of pharmaceuticals that are so readily prescribed for every little belly ache or sneeze or headache. Of course there is a time and place for some of these, but consider how much more pleasant a steaming mug of fresh ginger tea with honey is than any number of pills or cough syrups with all sorts of side effects. (Okay, maybe ginger isn't a panacea, but it does seem to work for an upset stomach, menstrual cramps, fever, muscle aches, and sniffles, at least in my experience.)

Sorry, I got off topic there, and the anti-pharma rant is not John's axe but my own to grind. But I do think that so many of our contemporary ailments could be ameliorated by dietary changes and a less sedentary lifestyle. I'm not advocating that everyone ride their bicycles for 50 miles a day -- I mean, what kind of loony would do that? -- but a little time in the garden planting, weeding, mulching, composting, harvesting, and cooking your homegrown vittles. Yes, I *am* suggesting that. It's good for the heart and the soul. And wouldn't you know it, John just began hosting a workshop at SBM on starting your own victory garden using both old and modern gardening, composting, canning, and other techniques. Because, he reminded us, we have learned a lot about these things over the years -- some of the old ways of doing things are better, but let's not romanticize things to the point where we forget that many of the modern adaptations are good ones. Canning, for example, is much easier today, and we're less likely to get botulism, say. (I feel compelled to mention an exception to this: modern lawn mowers make it easier to keep enormous mowed yards while requiring comparatively little exercise riding around on them. Consider how using one of the old school push mowers would limit lawn sizes and save money on gym memberships. And what do you do with you lawn except look at it and perhaps play the occasional game of baci ball? At least a garden can feed you. In fact, at one point during WWII 50% of all produce consumed in our country was grown in backyard gardens.)

Dig up part of your lawn. Plant a garden. Tend it. You may scandalize the neighbors in your suburban neighborhood, but you'll probably happily outlive them, too.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


  1. Can I get an "AMEN"? Well said.

  2. And you wrote all that on your blackberry? Impressive thumb-typing skills.

  3. "And you wrote all that on your blackberry?" -huh ? is this for real ! you very impressive like Beth said . Well anyways i have try some programs on gardening but this is one of a kind.Experiencing some site's which can help us in our gardening activities they were also great some of this is about garden wind spinner , accessories, furniture birdbaths etc .


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