Time And Food Wait For No Man

In the late 1950s, the American activist, singer and songwriter, Pete Seeger wrote the antiwar song, Turn! Turn! Turn! It remained a fairly obscure folk song until the Byrds had a worldwide hit with it in 1965.

Apart from the refrain, and six words at the end of the song, Seeger lifted the text, almost verbatim, from the King James version of the Old Testament book, Ecclesiastes. Specifically, he used the first eight verses of Chapter 3.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

But what neither the author (or authors) of Ecclesiastes, nor Seeger mention, doubtless for reasons of relevance to their respective points, is that there is also a season to food.

At the time of writing, the 2022-23 festive season is being wound up. People are hastily consuming the last of the mince pies, taking their last, guilty bites of chocolate, and surreptitiously slurping the dregs of the Christmas booze. Arguments about whether to have sprouts for dinner are being mentally folded up and put away, not to be brought out again and recapitulated for another eleven months. Those who have been blithely quaffing alcoholic libations from breakfast time onwards, will now resume the habit of passing moral judgements on anyone who drinks earlier in the day than they do, only to forget their scruples again in fifty weeks’ time. People who enjoy turkey or rich fruit cake at any time of the year, are dismissed as “weird” by those who routinely feed their children Turkey Twizzlers and gorge on rich chocolate cake.

Yet, although, largely as a result of overindulgence, people are relieved to get to the end of the festive food – the season is over – and they will then go out and buy unseasonal food. They will counter the yuletide stodge with lightly dressed lettuce and strawberries. Just the thing for cold, January evenings. Honest.

But why? Why strawberries in January, but not turkey in June? Why its that culinary symbol of Good Friday, the hot cross bun, available in supermarkets all year round, yet the mince pie is not? Neither makes sense. In the UK, strawberries don’t grow in January, so they have to be imported, at considerable cost, both financial and environmental. Home-reared turkeys are available all year round, but as I’ve already said, people who eat them at times other than Christmas, are unfairly considered “weird”. There is nothing uniquely Christmasy about mince pies, yet we are denied them for most of the year. There is a good deal of symbolism surrounding hot cross buns which is specific to Easter, but they are freely available to us whenever we want them.

Surely we should have some kind of standard? If we can abandon all seasons for fruit and vegetables by importing them when they won’t grow here, why must we have rules concerning the seasonality of baked goods? If we must have rules about pies, should we not revert to having strawberries and lettuce in the summer, and more filling fruits and vegetables in the winter?

Perhaps, if the subject had been important to biblical authors, Pete Seeger might have written a song about it?

One response to “Time And Food Wait For No Man”

  1. This made me smile.


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    Liked by 1 person

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