Last night, while in the midst of preparing dinner with Charlotte and Prad, I was reminded once more of the amount of garbage and recycling we can generate in one sweep. It is tremendous. For dinner alone, the list was quite long: one plastic container for mache salad, one plastic container for raspberries, two glass beer bottles, two large Ziploc bags for fish from farmers’ market, one plastic bag for lettuce, one paper bag for mushrooms from farmers’ market. The plastic bag, and the Ziploc bags, I threw in, although I was not even sure they could be recycled. Plastics are a complicated matter, and I was a bit distracted when I read the recycling guide from the city, a while ago. We are a garbage society, and I am a part of it.
I am old enough to remember the days, back in France, when the garbage collection was only once a month. There was no recycling then. The milk and yogurt came in glass containers, that we brought back to the merchant. We got five centimes for each bottle. A lot of the fruit and vegetables came from our garden. My grandmother had a cassette, a wooden box with a wooden handle, in which she carried the products of her daily pickings. For meat, she would just kill one of the rabbits or chickens that she raised. Milk came from our cows. Cows were a big deal on our farm. Many times, I heard my grandmother complain about having to get up so early to milk the cows. One of my most favorite memories is of my grandfather lifting me up into his horse carriage, and of us going to the Sunday market at Neuville, the closest town to our village. There we got sardines, and fresh fish from the covered fish market, rillettes and boudin noir from the charcuterie, and goat cheese from the goat cheese man. We saved the boulangerie for last. The line was long, and I did not mind. I knew I would be rewarded for my patience, as my grandfather always made sure to get un carquelin pour la petite, puff pastry with caramelized sugar on top. No plastic bags then, only thin paper bags. To carry all our purchases, we each had a filet, an almost weightless netlike bag that had the advantage of taking no space when empty, but that could hold a lot. Once back at the farm, my grandmother would store all the perishables in the garde-manger, a cool place in the cellar especially designed for that purpose. We did not know what the word environment meant, and we did not need to
I long for those times, of living in harmony with nature. And I also know to beware of easy sentimentality. Life on the farm was extremely hard for my grandparents. My mother did all she could to escape, and ended up marrying a man from the city. I laugh when I see the recent plethora of books, glorifying the virtue of going back to the earth, and the old ways. I am a bit of a cynic in that respect. For a healthy dose of reality, I recommend reading Little Blog in the Big Woods.