Thursday, May 07, 2009

Food and Community

∴ What follows is a post inspired by my participation in an online book club at Simple Mom, discussing the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. I’m truly enjoying it and learning a lot, and since it’s what’s been on my mind, I thought I’d share. However, this is the type of post, when written by someone else, that is notorious for making me feel bad about myself. Lest I seem like I’m becoming some sort of homemaker, locavore extraordinaire (or maybe I’m just flattering myself), let me say that I find this whole process to be a fun and creative outlet. It’s precisely the kind of thing that makes me feel really happy. If you happen to be less excited about tapping into your inner Martha Stewart, please don’t feel bad. If you already do, stop reading. One thing I can’t stand is green sanctimony, and I would hate to come across, you know, greener-than-thou. We’re all doing what we can, these days, to be good stewards of our bodies and the earth, but the truth is, it’s all gonna be made new in the end. There, I said it. ∴

Last week I signed up for a share in a community-supported farm, because I am ultra-chic like that.

Once a week, we will receive a half-bushel of produce grown on land only twenty minutes from our house. As this is a new venture for us, I am keeping my expectations low, but I am hoping to eat tons of fresh fruits and vegetables this summer, as well as freeze and can the surplus, so that we’ll have local produce available year-round.

We’ve been making small changes like this here and there for the last year. Some examples include buying milk in glass jars from a local dairy farm, going berry-picking, and eating meat products at only one meal per day. I’m excited about this last one, because it challenges me to practice vegetarian meals and also frees up room in the budget to buy locally and humanely-raised meat, eggs and dairy. Besides canning, I’m also looking forward to learning how to make my own bread, growing tomatoes and herbs, and figuring out some way to compost in our 800 square foot condo with no yard.

I’ve always struggled to eat healthfully, and I believe the main reason for this is that I don’t eat in a conscious way. Eating is just another thing that I need to do in the Spirit, but that’s hard when you’re either wolfing down dinner because you have no time or you’re choosing not to think about what was really in that crappy, yet convenient, meal.

Consciousness has seemed to be the major theme presenting itself, as I think about the food that my body is currently producing for my baby, as well as the food that I will very shortly feed her with a spoon. My desire is to remain unconscious about several unpleasant elements:
∴ the effect certain ingredients have on my body;
∴ the effect certain food groups (read: sugar) has on my overall mood;
∴ the truly horrific state of industrial husbandry, particularly meatpacking; and
∴ the impact of big agriculture on our local farmers and local economies.

Several books and documentaries have come out in the last few years that candidly discuss the state of food in America, and I typically don’t want to go near them with a ten-foot pole. I don’t want to know, you know? All of a sudden, though, I’m feeling a new responsibility to my daughter and to my community.

The state of the economy and our various environmental crises have had me thinking for a year or so that one of these days we’re all gonna have to move out to the country and learn to live off the land again. Either that, or everyone will cram into the cities, because it’s too expensive to drive anywhere. I keep imagining acres and acres of abandoned and burned out suburbs--basically Detroit inverted. Apparently, I am your friendly doomsday prophet.

Maybe the future doesn’t look a thing like this; I certainly hope not, but it doesn’t matter all that much. I don’t think we can control a whole lot. However, in this theory of mine, communities are going to have to come together to figure out a new way to do life. There won’t be so much self-sufficiency and isolation. This is already happening in Detroit, in fact. All those acres of burned out neighborhoods and urban prairie are being turned into community gardens and art installments. People in that city have very few places to go for affordable, healthful food or beautiful things to look at, so they create these themselves. My new passion for our little local farm and some cans of tomato sauce is connected to those city folk. I want to be apart of a community that is using resources within reach to take care of each of its members. I want to learn skills that will help me do that even in the worst of economies.

Even feigning surprise, pretending it was unexpected and saying a ritual thanks, is surely wiser than just expecting everything so carelessly.
--Barbara Kingsolver


my name is karen. said...

i love calder dairy! tasty milk.

Anonymous said...

Is that the same lady who wrote The Poisonwood Bible?


Krysta said...

Lauren Winner spoke to this issue a bit in her book Mudhouse Sabbath. Thanks for your thoughts; this is a bit more practical than Winner gets in her book. I may just pick up the book you mentioned.

jh said...


i read this book a few months ago and love your thoughts on it. my were quite similar.

hopefully we can connect and chat about this and so much more soon. :)

Mom said...

In danger of sounding too much like a mother, I want to say, "I am so proud of you for your healthy, green nutritional efforts and for your writing ability. Your blog is a pleasure to read - and you're very funny! Can't wait to kibbutz in Ireland about the farming enterprise. I want to start composting as well, acreage not being a problem here! By the way, you may recall that I started wearing a seat belt because I was pregnant with you - children are very good for us!

Writer Dad said...

I live knee deep in the city and am forever jealous of anywhere where such a thing as community farm could ever exist. Sounds wonderful.