Embracing seasonal eating isn’t just an attempt to reconnect with nature. It’s one of the simplest ways to radically improve the quality of your food. And by default, you’re reducing grocery bills, packaging and food miles, all whilst supporting local farmers. That’s because seasonal food is fresh, local food. The type that our grandparents, and indeed all our ancestors, thrived on.
This post is part of our Traditional food tour through Europe.
We’re still in Frankfurt, Germany.
Thanks to the dwindling food culture – the price of convenience for our parent’s generation, we’ve really lost touch with eating this way. Most Australians shop predominantly at their local supermarket instead of markets or farmgate stalls, as is the norm in Europe. There’s certainly more of an inherent understanding over here, that all foods, including meats, have a season.
It would be virtually impossible to overlook the fact that it’s asparagus and strawberry season, right now. There are roadside pop-up stalls on the outskirts of every town. The entire list of appetizers at the centuries-old restaurant we visited recently, featured their famed white asparagus (Spargel) and hollandaise. And because we’re in Germany, the options were: Spargel with potatoes. Spargel with potatoes and bacon. Spargel with potatoes and schnitzel. Spargel with potatoes and pork medallions. Spoilt for choice, unless you had a hankering for leafy greens.
According to Oma, there is an old German saying ‘potatoes make you thin’. And if you look around, it’d be hard to make a case against them. Had a chuckle reading this brilliant piece ‘Why aren’t Germans fat?’. I couldn’t review German cuisine any more succinctly. Although, the mystery of why Germans remain slim on this diet isn’t lost on me. It’s a diet based on simple, seasonal, traditional foods. This is the diet we’ve all evolved to eat. And to enjoy!
I love that there’s celebratory rituals still firmly entrenched in the culture, here. May 1st was a public holiday and we celebrated Apfelblütenfest (apple blooming festival) with the locals at an organic apple farm. If harvest festivals aren’t the most enjoyable way to gain an appreciation for how and when our food is grown, I don’t know what is. We need more of them!
This wasn’t just any apple farm, however. Obsthof am Steinberg produces some of the best artisan apfelwein (apple wine) in the country. The farm is run by Andreas Schneider, whose family have owned the farm since 1965 and he was the driving force in certifying the farm as organic in 1996. He’s now leading a new generation of artisan producers who are committed to preserving heirloom varieties and the more labour-intensive, organic methods of crop production. Read more about the farm, here.
Frankfurt ‘ebbelwei’, the traditional apfelwein made from local apples, is such a specialty here in Frankfurt, that it’s virtually impossible to find outside the region. That’s precisely the kind of experience I was looking for on this trip. So, naturally, I was fairly committed to sampling every variety on offer.
Apfelwein is essentially just apple cider, that’s much more sour than anything we’re used to in Australia. And traditionally, sans bubbles. Although thankfully they did have plenty of sparkling on tap for us. Schneider is well-known for his tendency to use single, rare apple varieties to achieve very sophisticated ciders. I place them firmly in the mind-blowing category. I’ve never tasted anything more delicious.
It’s ironic that reacquainting ourselves with this incredibly simple, natural practice can require some initial effort. My advice – as with everything diet related, is to start slow. Don’t approach this with a puritanical mindset and refuse all non-seasonal food items. You’ll exhaust yourself. Make it a process of gradually expanding your awareness and knowledge, until it becomes second nature. And it will, I promise!
Here are a few easy shortcuts to seasonal eating:
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed part 2 of my food tour. Stay tuned for more. All up, we travelled 6000kms in the car, so there is plenty more to say.
And please feel free to share your experience with seasonal eating. If you’re a seasoned pro, what helped you – and what do you love about it? If you’re not quite there yet, what do you find the most difficult?