It’s orange season again. I’ve waited for it for 8 months, and man was that first orange good. It comes right after peach season. After stuffing myself everyday with peaches that grow in every yard here, and I was ready for an orange. We’re also getting into cabbage season. I never would have thought I’d ever get excited about cabbage, but cooked with a little oil and spice—yum.
One of the things I love (and can also sometimes get frustrated with) living in rural Lesotho is that I eat according by the season. It’s just what is available, what things grow here (and in neighboring South Africa, such as oranges) and when it is ready to be picked. There is something really satisfying about knowing exactly where my food comes from, and often the exact person who grew it. It makes me the food taste better, and it probably does have more flavor since it doesn’t have to be shipped far.
Being more connected with the growing process of my food sometimes means seeing the more gory aspects of food, especially meat. Since I eat meat, I decided that I needed to be comfortable with the whole process of killing and butchering the animals I eat myself. My convictions only lasted through killing one chicken (which I didn’t do very well…). But I think it was enough to help me re-value meat. In Lesotho the people certainly love and value meat or “nama”, the particular animal doesn’t seem to matter much. And I have yet to meet a masotho who shied away from killing their own animals for that meat. I think growing up distanced from the whole process is what gives me my typical American squeamishness about it.
One of the biggest fears I have about returning to the U.S. is the abundance, something I never thought I’d dread. Any food I can name (and many that I can’t) from all over the world will once again be readily available to me, along with countless processed foods with numerous and mysterious origins. I’m pretty sure American’s food access and process used to be more like Lesotho, but now there is so much waste, so much over indulgence. And Lesotho is changing too. Most of my students eat a snack called nik-naks (imagine even more processed Cheetos) that leave their fingers constantly dark red and the school ground littered with the plastic wrappers.
It seems healthier, and certainly more satisfying to eat things locally grown/made, and in season, and I’ve truly enjoyed eating this way for the past 2 years. But I still get cravings. I miss fresh fish, and nuts, and chocolate, and oddly enough toaster waffles, and I’m not sure I’d be able to turn them down if they were shipped to my local shop here. When I go back home I’m going to try to eat locally and seasonally, have a garden and shop at the farmer’s market, but the self-will required is daunting. But after waiting almost a year, those first oranges were so wonderful, definitely worth it.
The contents of this article are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the American Peace Corps.