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Limitation Holds an Invitation

Terroir is the distinguishing contribution of place to the food grown there. It has only been a recent phenomenon that we can have food that comes from no place at all.

Modern food production employs technology that overrides the natural limitations of soil, climate, seasonality, temperature and rainfall. Green houses visible from space, drive-in curing chambers and freezers large enough to accommodate semi-trucks create climates that exist nowhere on earth. They are not terrestrial, therefore, not terroir.

By definition, terroir is limited. It is inconvenient, demanding that we change our food production strategies every season. And even if we keep up, there will be anomalous weather or soil erosion or livestock illness to threaten our harvests.

Nonetheless, every limitation holds an invitation. It is nature telling us how to make something and if we listen, rather than asserting our tastes, we gain more than our input. Only in relationship with the soil and the climate do we open up the possibility for hitherto unimagined bounty and flavor. Certainly, we can use technology to control every step to produce a desired outcome, but such trust in our desires is naïve.

We don’t really want exactly what we want. Given the luxury, we desire too little and settle for garbage. If we work with the earth under our feet and allow it to have a say in how we make ham, it has the capacity to gratify meta-desires. The fact is, we are of the earth too, down to the flora in our intestines and the taste buds in our mouths. Our physiological substructures of hunger are attuned to what the earth can seasonally provide.

Ironically, eating only what we want to eat is a great privation. Like all vices, gluttony is the opposite of what it promises. It is hunger enthroned. Disembodied food detached from place never satisfies. It perpetuates dissatisfaction even when we are full.


- November, 2018 Harvest Journal, On Pacific Northwest Ham
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A Cut Above

written by Corinne Whiting
photography by Gemina Garland-Lewis

For those keen to learn about pork, Brandon and Lauren Sheard of Farmstead Meatsmith are apt teachers. This entrepreneurial duo has created something special over on Vashon Island, after dreaming up a destination where the narrative could remain unbroken—from the field to the table...continued here

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