Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2. The Availability of Local Unprocessed Food

One of our weekly rituals is buying food from the farmers who set up shop in the parking lot outside our apartment building every Sunday morning. I say ritual rather than chore because buying fruit, vegetables, and occasionally prepared foods from the farmers, Larisa and Yevgeny, is still a bit of a novelty. 

It's nothing fancy; they unload a table, a scale, an old cash register, and twenty to thirty cardboard boxes full of produce to which they affix some prices with plastic forks. By this time there are usually twenty or so folks--mostly old women--waiting around, but they aren't necessarily standing in a line. Patrick learned that they figure out their order in line by asking, "Who's last?" when they arrive and telling whoever's last, "I'm after you." It isn't a perfect system, but it allows the babushkas to sit and rest on the nearby steps rather than stand in line for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Come to find out, the farmers grow a lot of the vegetables on their own land, and Larisa makes some of the prepared foods, such as eggplant salad, Korean carrot salad, and fruit leather, herself. Additionally, there are a couple of dairy farmers that sell milk, bryndza cheese, tvorog aka farmer's cheese, sour cream, and sometimes whole chickens and eggs from the trunk of their car. There's also a beekeeper who's shown up twice this summer.

I know that the farmers have documents that allow them to sell food, but I highly doubt their farm and products are inspected by some sort of agency to check that health or agricultural codes and regulations are being followed. The milk that's sold by the dairy farmers is definitely raw. An hour or so after we buy it, a layer of thick cream rises to the top. You know it's high-quality when one family regularly sends their son out with a few five-liter jugs to fill and when the babushkas fight to get to this milk, which they've described as настоящий. In other words, this milk is the real deal--not the processed crap in the supermarket. The honey isn't processed either. There are tiny bits of honeycomb in it, it crystallizes pretty quickly, and the taste--it's like nothing I've ever tasted. Its flavor rivals maple syrup in my opinion. According to Patrick, "you can taste the flowers."

Honestly, with all the chemicals, pesticides, and genetic tampering with produce; the antibiotics and hormones in animal products; and the frequency with which corporate and factory farm products are contaminated with lethal bacteria, I'll take my chances with the unregulated, unprocessed food, which I'm fortunate enough to have access to here in Russia.

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