Given the latest cyclospora outbreak, I’m feeling pretty grateful to be growing so much of my own food. To wag my soapbox finger, I’m of the tribe that prefers to eat local and seasonally, and to produce my own organic produce is an added bonus.
But next to the political ramifications of refusing to participate in corporate food systems with shoddy health standards (ahem, contaminated bagged salads) and the snobby reward of my own moral smugness (first world privilege, where’s Lena Dunham when you need her?!), much of the pleasure I get out of this garden farm experiment thing is physical. In fact, purely physical.
I chose to plant heirlooms because it felt culturally responsible and what not, but mostly I chose to plant heirlooms because they’re so damn cool-looking. In other words, I am physically attracted to my food. It turns my head. It turns me on. These weird cool heirlooms, in all their unexpected shapes and colors, are so much more fun than the homogenous shapes and dull colors that fill supermarket produce shelves.
I first saw lemon cucumbers in a farmer’s market in Portland last summer.
“What are these?” I asked the vendor, squeezing the bright little ball in my palm.
“Cucumber,” she said flatly.
Oh. Of course. Because I’m a clear dumbass.
Sidenote: This kind of (hipster) cultural elitism — the, “oh-my-God-I-cannot believe-you-don’t-know-what-that-is-how-have-you-lived-so-long” is what scares people away from farmer’s markets, I think. And from Portland. Which is also my favorite city on earth.
My hypocrisy knows no bounds.
Like so many other people in so many other generations, the homogenous selection of produce on supermarket shelves was literally the only education I ever got on what fruits and vegetables looked like and were, apparently, supposed to look like. Advances in food science and seed technology got industrial farmers to plant fruits and vegetables that didn’t have all the weird lumps and color varieties and shape abnormalities of real produce — the kind of food people ate for thousands of years — making them easier to market to consumers who were too busy to think about what they were eating and why. That’s the generation I grew up in, and probably the generation you grew up in, too.
So when that bristly farmer’s market vendor treated me like an idiot for not knowing what a lemon cucumber was, the problem wasn’t necessarily that I was an idiot, but that I’d never been taught there was any other kind of cucumber than the glossy green penis-looking things at the grocery store.
And I’m not alone.
Tonight, after posting a quick snapshot of my lemon cucumber goods on Instagram, I got a message from my friend asking, “What in God’s name is a lemon cucumber?”