There are times when I think I know a lot about food. Then I have a new experience and realize that I have so much to learn. This post is about the important lesson I was taught by a jar of cherry preserves.
The Cherry Preserves
I was in a store that had imported food from many lands. My eyes were drawn to a jar of cherry preserves. I do not eat fruit preserves, because they are always made with added sugar or some other kind of sweetener. Yet I picked the bottle up and looked at it. The manufacturer had used an incredibly beautiful color for the glass in which the cherries were packed, a magnificent cherry red that no doubt made the preserves look much better in the jar than out.
Sure enough, the few ingredients included sugar, and citric acid. I do not eat foods with added sugar, or citric acid. But I held on to the bottle.
The word organic did not appear on the bottle. I do not eat foods that are not organic, unless I know they have been grown in a way that is the equivalent of organic. There was no information about how the cherries were raised. But I held onto the bottle.
I noticed that the preserves were made in Ukraine. My grandfather was born in Ukraine. I remembered that he would never eat fruit. I asked him why, once. He said that after eating fruit in Ukraine, he could not stand the dead, lifeless, tasteless fruit in the U.S. That conversation took place over fifty years ago, when fruit was much better than it is now.
I bought the preserves. When I got home, I put some preserves on some heavily buttered spelt bread. I tasted them. Wonderful is too weak a word to describe the glorious taste. I immediately felt better, clearer. The preserves were not sweet, and they tasted like cherries. A deep cherry flavor I had never experienced before. The skins had been left on the cherries, there was hardly any liquid in the bottle, and the effect on my body was wonderful. I never tasted fresh fruit that was half as good. Not even the best organic fruit I could find. And as good as the preserves were, I was satisfied after eating two tablespoons. I looked at the bottle. Now that some cherries had been taken out, it was clear glass, with no coloring. The magnificent color was from the cherries alone.
Despite the added sugar, despite the citric acid, the natural goodness of these cherries dominated the experience.
I could not understand this. Then I remembered what my grandfather said, and about the soil.
Ukraine just may have the best soil in the world. The best soil is actually black there, very thick. Incredibly rich in nutrients and minerals. It has been known for hundreds of years for the wonderful crops it produces, the incredible vegetables and fruits. No doubt much of the soil was damaged or lost under the brutal rule of the Soviet Union, which polluted much of the land with the poisons of heavy industry. But obviously much of the sacred black soil of Ukraine remains, and it was that soil that made those cherries so good.
For hundreds of years, people wanted to know where all their food came from, and paid particular attention to how good the soil or grasses were in a particular region. Food raised in a region famous for good soil was highly prized, and even the goodness of the soil of a particular farm was known in the community and valued. The desire for this important knowledge has largely faded away, as marketing and corrupt media and government convinced us that all food was the same. An apple is an apple. A cherry is a cherry. No matter where it comes from. One of the biggest lies about food that has ever been told.
The soil is crucial, our ancestors knew this, and that bottle of cherry preserves proved it once again.
I believe there was a day when most preserves and traditional processed foods were this good, a day that has long passed.
We have lost so much.
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