Guebert: Today’s foodie culture was yesterday’s way of life

Alan Guebert

We didn’t know it back then but everyone on the big southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth was a foodie.

Of course there was no one named Bittman or Pollan or Waters to tell us we were foodies but there were people named Mom and Grandma and Aunt Nina whose food knocked your socks off despite their cracking a cookbook about as often as they wrote one — which was never.

Most of the ingredients these professional amateurs used in our breakfasts, dinners and suppers came either from our farm and garden or were purchased — hogs, peaches, roasting hens, eggs, apples and such — from neighbors within 10 miles of our kitchen table.

So, in almost perfect ignorance, we ate farm-to-table, our farm to our table, for decades. We were foodies, indeed, and “locavores” to boot, long before anyone on the East or West Coast cooked up either word or concept.

If you grew up on a farm or a ranch two or more generations ago, you, too, were a foodie and locavore because, back then, rural food leaned more on home butchering and canning than grocery getting and buying. Eating local was more about what you had on-hand, not what you carried home from town.

Besides, most “store-bought” food (the name our farm’s hired men gave all goods purchased in town) back then involved a lot more novelty — Oreos, Coca-Cola, Froot Loops — than nutrition. “Real” food, the pork loin in the basement freezer or the milk from that morning’s chores in the refrigerator, easily beat the “goodness” of the French fries from that new little building with yellow arches on the state highway.

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