Variety is supposedly the spice of life. When Daddy would choose to do something others considered ‘different’, his response was, “Julie Belle, there is always chocolate and vanilla. I just prefer strawberry.” I heard a comment the other day about those who practice sustainability must be so limited in their choices. Those words came back the other day as we were packaging up some sausage Randy made, and I had to laugh.

In pork sausage alone, we package up: breakfast patty; plain link; jalapeno cheese link; cheese link; Italian and salami. Just the breakfast sausage alone can be used to create multiple meals – can you imagine what all the types combined could do? The way I figure it, we could eat pork every day for a year, and not eat the same recipe twice.

But in reality, we probably eat ‘better’ than most people do. In ‘better’, I don’t necessarily mean healthier, but just in variety alone. Randy and I are bad about going to a restaurant, ordering a meal, and then on the way home saying, “We really could make that at home.” And then we go home and try. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t, but it isn’t from a lack of having grown most of it ourselves.

You want variety? Well, try this:

Tomatoes: Although I don’t, I have come across at least twenty different ways to can tomatoes alone. I do, however, make sauce, diced, with chilies, and salsa. I have made paste before, but for the amount of work you have to do and the sheer volume of tomatoes for the tiny output, it just didn’t seem worth it in the cost vs savings department. But I will say that our sauce is definitely thicker and richer than anything you can buy in a grocery aisle. This year, just because my friend Deb asked, I will be doing stewed tomatoes made from her Mom’s recipe.

Apples: We make apple butter, applesauce, dried (for fried pies and other goodies); sliced for pies and cobblers; and we even use just the peels for jelly. I have also done an apple chutney.

Squash: fresh for smothering and frying; canned for later; squash pickle

Cucumbers: fresh; pickles; relish; chow chow.

Okra: pickled; canned; fried; in gumbo; and fresh.

Corn: fresh; whole kernel; creamed; relish.

This doesn’t even cover the chicken and fish from our pond; fresh beef; deer; squirrel & dove; snap beans; bell peppers; banana peppers; jalapenos (used for salsa, candied, pickled and plain canned); pinto, Lima and butter beans; garden peas and all the other vegetables and fruits we grow or have grown. I have even grown red kidney beans for our red beans and rice! And then, if you add in all those fresh herbs, you really have a limitless supply of meals at your fingertips. If you add in the eggs, fresh milk, butter, buttermilk and just the few cheeses I have learned to make, then your repertoire is expanded yet again.

If you really think about it, most people cook the same things on a regular basis. If you go to restaurants these days, most of them are chains and the food is the same if you go to Dallas or New York. Yes, you do have some regional places, but even in somewhere like New Orleans, you won’t get the same bowl of Gumbo from restaurant to hole-in-the wall. Every chef down there makes it a little different, and if you eat it here at Paradise, Randy will cook you up a whole different batch (and by far, the best, if you ask me!)

Variety is all in the eye of the beholder, and this Farm Wife is certainly beholden to the variety we have here on the farm. I’ll see Daddy’s strawberry, but then I’ll raise him – some fresh peach, fresh blueberry, some vanilla goat milk (if I can swipe enough from Ayn), and even some butter pecan! And who knows, I may even make a batch of brownies from scratch and toss some of them in, too!