We have almost survived our four-year electoral margination. The beaver moon has eclipsed its emboldened shine. Now we must think of the good meal we will celebrate with friends and family to give thanks. As we consider this gourmands holiday with big birds and fluffy stuffing, it’s not too much of a stretch to consider giving thanks for the soil from whenst it all springs forth. Let’s raise a toast to dirt, humus, and compost and yes to manure itself. For in that microbial dirty brew life is sustained.
I remember the very first Thanksgiving I prepared. I was a budding adventurous cook tender in age, just eleven and armed with all the modern food technologies the 1970’s had to offer. I unsheathed the glistening naked butterball, properly probing the plastic pop up navel that would herald its finish. After inspecting its entirety, I thrust it into a plastic bag inside which its juices would not diminish.
Next, I opened a can of julienne string beans, Campbell’s trusted mushroom soup and topped the concoction with a shake of French fried onion bits.
Needless to say, the mashed potatoes issued forth from a box.
Yet I think the butter was real!
Oh, how time has healed such gastronomic transgressions.
To celebrate my 56th turn of Thanksgiving feasting, I am much more wizened in culinary skills and in understanding how and how where food comes from. The richness of my food is integrally connected to the very soil and compost it is grown in.
Consider the main course, turkey, ham, or if you are lucky, a duck—all must be raised on grains, grass and all good things growing in a medium rich in nutrients. The richness of the biodiversity of this medium is at the core of flavor. How the beast was treated during its short life to nurture us is also critical.
But a creature that has been fed non-organic feed is often confined and ingests pounds of meal that are laden with toxic chemicals and antibiotics from conventional agricultural practices. These chemicals become concentrated in the fat, liver and the very marrow of our meal, transferring a toxic legacy from the farm to our Thanksgiving table.
The potatoes are less of a mystery. These modest tubers, rich in dense nutrients are begging to be beaten and folded into pillowing clouds of stature. Because they rest mainly in the soil, they are inherently susceptible to embracing the herbicides and pesticides inside their crusty core.
The clever cranberries were bogged in a lake in Wisconsin, and if they were produced with organic methods, they serve forth no toxic transgressions. Nor does the boggy water contribute to toxic algae blooms and nitrate runoff.
Certainly the urgent spears of broccolini, crisp young snap of peas, the tubular orange yams slathered with sweet butter and brown sugar all taste better if they are grown organically in soil that is alive and flourishing.
Even the greenhouse tomatoes sliced across the virulent cucumber salad are better if grown in an organic medium rich in biodiversity. I always prefer an organic hot house tomato to its conventional pale-faced cousin.
Organic food requires that it be grown in such a way that protects our natural resources while conserving the biodiversity of our planet. The inputs an organic farmer uses are the very core of its success. An organic farmer composts, spreads manure, nurtures thousands of worms and concocts giant cauldrons of compost tea.Whether it be in the earths topsoil, containers or bioponics, the microbial activity is the dirt of the matter.
This dirt is teaming with billions of microbes, a mixture of minerals, organic matter, gaseous liquids, and countless organisms that together support life on Earth. Organic matter is like a natural body with four important functions: it is a medium for plant growth; it is a means of water storage, supply and purification; it is a modifier of Earth’s atmosphere; it is a habitat for organisms; all contribute to the very balance of life on earth.
As we give thanks this year, lets us say a salient prayer for all those who nurture the soil and substrates with living microbial methods. Organic matter that is alive produces food that tastes better, sequesters carbon from our warming planet, and is healthier for our bodies.
I raise a glass to the dirty richness that organic serves up. Won’t you join me this Thanksgiving?