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Lessons in food for farmers

Erica Louder for Progressive Forage Published on 02 March 2020

A friend of mine has enforced a rule in her home where every week, they practice "meatless Monday." Last Monday, she self-righteously posted on Facebook a picture of her garlic herb mushroom pasta, along with an admonishment for us all to "live a little more consciously."

I was tempted to comment that some beef tips would improve the mushroom sauce. While tempted, I didn't comment. I doubt my sarcasm would have come across any better than her contempt. I would have hardly been a good advocate for agriculture by picking a fight on her feed (pun intended).

The situation did get me thinking about food fads. While I'd adamantly argue against any trend that suggests eliminating meat from my diet, I am not opposed to trying out others. I've made salads in mason jars, served my kids steel-cut oats for breakfast, eaten quinoa (it's pronounced keen-wa, if you are wondering), and turn my nose up at regular yogurt in preference for Greek yogurt. I've even expanded our leafy greens beyond the iceberg I grew up with. Swiss chard, kale, and spinach all make a somewhat regular appearance in our home. However, I recently learned that there was one leafy green that hadn't been properly introduced, arugula.

Back in January, my husband and I attended the American Farm Bureau Convention in Austin, Texas. As you do at such things, we ate out more than usual. After a few restaurant encounters, I began to wonder how "city broke" most farm kids are. When I say farm kids in this context, I am meaning one person, my husband, Craig Louder. At one particular restaurant, Craig made his order, and the waitress politely asked if they could substitute the arugula garnish because they were out. In a ruse of consternation, Craig slammed his menu shut and let the waitress know that no, it would not be acceptable to substitute arugula, because that garnish was the reason he was ordering that meal. This waitress was eighteen years old, tops, it was 8 p.m., and she had served table after table of hungry farmers all day. She looked near tears after Craig's little show. Once the rest of us at the table convinced her he was joking and that maybe she ought to forgo any garnish on his plate altogether, she was able to finish taking our orders.

When she left, I glared at Craig. He offered his explanation. He said he was playing out his own science experiment. The only other time he had heard of arugula (what planet does he live on?) was when one of his vet school professors went on a tirade during a nutrition lecture on arugula. He claimed that no other commercially available crop had less protein per square foot than arugula. Yet, all these so-called "health experts" claimed arugula as a superfood. With that preamble, Craig wondered if arugula lived up to all its hype, one way or another. I am not sure how harassing the waitress would answer this question, but who am I to argue with his scientific mind?

He still doesn't know the real value of arugula, since there is a United-States-wide arugula shortage right now (for real, google it). So next summer, I will send him to the farmer's market to make a purchase from a local arugula grower and get all the data he needs. Until then, we will work on a few household goals: 1) keep meat in our meals, 2) staying polite on social media, 3) hone our city manners. Apparently, the Louders need to get off the farm a little more.  end mark

ILLUSTRATION: Illustration by Corey Lewis.

Erica Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho. Email Erica Louder. 

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