When I was growing up, I was a pretty picky eater. I didn’t like a wide variety of foods, from cottage cheese and pickles to cantaloupe and basically every vegetable under the sun. I also wasn’t crazy about my foods touching on the plate—my mom used to make a baked meatloaf with mashed potatoes and cheese on top, and I would famously refuse to eat it, simply because the potatoes and meat were touching. I can only imagine the frustration I caused my poor mother.
I was also not the most adventurous kid. As an only child with no older siblings to coerce me into adventures and no younger siblings to dare, I was content to sit quietly and read from an early age. My family loves to reference an early-’90s home movie of a New Year’s Eve party where a gaggle of my cousins are watching a cartoon, giggling and chatting, while I’m willingly sitting in a corner with a book, facing the wall. (Clearly I was destined for a career involving reading and writing.)
Thankfully, these character traits have mellowed in my transition to adulthood, especially my palate: My tastes have broadened tremendously, and I’m now proud to say that the list of fruits and vegetables I dislike is significantly smaller than the list of produce I love. (By this point, it’s doubtful that I’ll ever come around to beets, fennel or especially coconuts.) I’ve come around to most of my disliked foods, and I’ve even developed a taste for olives and raw tomatoes, both of which were expressly banned from the Hershberger household by my parents and I alike in my youth.
I can credit this switch mainly to the idea that Robert South is referring to in his quote: Moving to a city from a small town opened my eyes to the wide world of available food I had never experienced, and suddenly, all these brand-new foods were at my fingertips, just waiting to be tasted. I bought a starfruit at the local food co-op, I tried sushi for the first time, and before I knew it, I was hooked. I would go to restaurants or grocery stores, and I’d leave with a bag or a belly full of novel foods, a goofy smile plastered on my face.
I’ve found that sentiment to be true in other areas of life, too: Novelty and pleasure often go hand in hand. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but little things, like buying a new item of clothing or making a new friend, often serve as some of my greatest sources of happiness. I think the same is true of agriculture and farming: Is there any feeling quite like the electric thrill of buying seeds of new vegetables you’ve never tried and imagining the delicious results, or the swell of joy that stems from watching the birth of a new addition to the farm livestock menagerie? We’re not meant to be creatures of strict, inflexible habit, which is why newness is so exciting.
As this growing season winds down and we start preparing for cooler weather, consider the unbridled pleasure that novelty could bring to your farm or homestead: What can you add to your farming experience this winter or next year to spice things up? Maybe you’ll even discover a brand-new appreciation for your agricultural endeavors, similar to my fostered love of mustards and spicy foods. The sky’s the limit—but let’s leave the coconuts behind.