Wisdom from ‘The Youth’s Companion’

A few weeks ago, I was back in Northampton visiting college friends. Katy and I were the only two with the day off, and so we began to wander around Main St.

After visiting the Hospice Shop (and battling thrifty old ladies for a skintight velour turtleneck dress–so worth it) we turned down Market St., presumably on our way back to the house to watch the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy in its entirety (yes, on VHS).

Three hours later, we stumbled home, dragging plastic bags of 50’s-era dresses, ugly turquoise placemats, and Odds n’ Ends bags full of lace scraps and stray buttons (thanks, Hospice Shop) from the amazing thrift and vintage stores on Market St. One of my favorite treasures, however, was a copy of ‘The Youth’s Companion’ magazine. It’s the August 13, 1925 issue (Volume 99, No. 33) and cost ten cents a copy back in the day (I shelled out only two bucks for it).

The thing I was attracted to was the cover. An orange illustration of a bespectacled farmer peeking out from between rows of corn was paired with the following quotation from Caleb Peaslee’s Almanac:

“This is one of the months when a farmer c’n begin to quit growin’ all the time — and begin to garner – in a way – early apples – garden truck – fryin’ chickens — I don’t know any better feelin’ than to know your food is growin’ right under your eyes – and not be beholden to anybody else for it — it’s earned food — and that makes it good food to my way of lookin’ at it!” [sic]

Does a better argument exist for the benefits of local produce? It reminds me of a magnet on my girlfriend’s fridge that reads: “Try Organic Food! Or As Your Grandparents Called It…Food!”

During my last semester of college, I took an anthropology class that turned out to be one of my favorites: “Gender, Food, and Agriculture” with Chaia Heller. In an essay we read for the class, Michael Pollan suggested that readers stop to consider what they’re eating from their grandparents’ (or even great-grandparents’) perspective. Before taking a bite, ask yourself, “Would my great-grandmother recognize what I’m about to eat?” If the answer is no, you’re probably consuming more preservatives and chemical substitutions for food than you think. It’s quite possible that Caleb Peaslee — and our great-grandparents — had the right idea.

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