CATHY: It all began in the spring, as I was looking for interesting new books to read. Perhaps I should say it all began, because I had been dabbling in eating healthier and being more intentional in my eating habits. Our local community had decided to go on a weight loss program which produced a total weight loss of almost 10 tons, and being slow on the draw, I don’t participate in the community’s program but my own diet, with the help with an online weight loss program.
However, I tried to think back as to when I had the earliest recollection of buying locally. I remember the vehicle well - it was a mint green Rambler Station Wagon and the man came to our neighborhood with his vegetables and eggs. I remember that he looked OLD to me and he had glasses that made his eyes look really big to me. (Funny how you remember such things in childhood). He would open up the back of the station wagon to show off the vegetables and eggs that he was selling). Then as I was shaking the cobwebs out of gray matter, I remember the milk being delivered in glass containers with a paper lift lid on the top and being delivered to our front door. Sometimes we had to go to the dairy to buy our milk and it was less than a mile away from our home. Wow, I guess we really did buy locally back then.
I don't know when that all stopped, but convenience became a big deal -- tv trays and frozen dinners were magical back then -- as we would watch the evening news for dinner (well we didn't watch it because we only had one TV and it wasn't facing the dining room table and well, tv trays were only for special occasions). And no fighting on what channel to watch, because only one channel came in good then. Anyway, I digress...
Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life takes us through a journey of a year in the life of their family as they "go local" - growing their own food, as well as buying local foods from the folks that lived in their community. The discuss the trials and tribulations of living life without bananas (they don't grow in the southern Appalachians), eating foods only while in season, and sex (yes sex! but it's not what you think so read the book if you're interested). And they had their exceptions to the rules (ahhh coffee!). (Note that you can check out their web site here to find local resources in your area).
Our church book club just finished discussing this book and I will say it brought some very interesting thoughts about what we could do and what we were not able to do as consumers in today's world. So, in light of the book, these are some questions I pose to you readers of the book. If you have not read the book, you may want to listen to the interview here.
1. Two churches in our diocese whose book group has read this book for a book study. How might this book be used in terms of personal stewardship? How might it affect ministry in the church if they took on a ministry in this area?
2. In listening to a radio interview, Kingsolver states that it is a peculiar habit we have in today’s world to begin our daily quest for food with the question "What do we want?" instead of "What do we have?" How might that apply to other parts of our lives? How does it apply to our spiritual lives?
3. One of the ways that the book has influenced me was to encourage me to search for alternative options for obtaining our vegetables. Our family subscribed to a gardening subscription service (community sustained agriculture) in which we receive our vegetables from a organic gardener. It’s one step that we have taken that we found works for us. How has this book changed how you are eating or purchasing food? What alternatives are available in your area?
Now for fun... what is a local food that is unique to your area? For example, grits is a main staple where I live (YOU SHOULD SEE THOSE GRITS FIELDS). For some of you, you may have never eaten it. So.... suppose I came to your place and visited. What would you want me to have that would be a part of your world?
I have a pitcher of iced tea (sweetened for those of you who want to have the local experience), a bowl of boiled peanuts, as we are in the height of pulling peanuts here. I would offer apple pie, but we can't grow apples here. How about some fried sucker fish and swamp gravy (in our fair city)?
Mary Beth will come in to cover the day shift here and will add her assortment of local foods. Please join in to the party and discuss your thoughts on the book. I'll be around after work.
MARY BETH: Thanks, Cathy! for the great kickoff! I must say that I have never eaten any sucker fish but I am certainly intrigued. And, grits...ummmm.....sign me up.
Cathy's the one who turned me on to this book. I was already a HUGE Kingsolver fan from way back. I went out and BOUGHT it (a big step for me) and it was not a mistake). I spent a sleepless night finishing it, and arose changed! I wrote about it on my blog here.
I am extremely fortunate to have grown up with North Florida grandparents who had huge gardens at both their town and beach houses. They grew (let me see if I can get it all): Vidalia onions, garlic, pimientos, bell peppers, cream peas, green beans, blackeye peas, squash, zucchini, figs, MILLIONS OF TOMATOES (there was a separate patch just for tomatoes) and I don't mean a little bit of each one! They canned and canned and canned and canned...they also dragged a net for mullet in front of the beach house, set crab traps, went fishing and scalloping...made jam and jelly. I don't think 'eating locally' was their impetus. They had lived through the Depression, so saving money was, and using what the land and the sea gave us. Memamma was a farm girl (who cooked for field hands all her life, even when WE were her audience!) and Bigdaddy was a chemist who loved experimenting with soil amendments.
The upshot was, though I grew up in a suburb of Houston, I knew where a lot of my food came from, from my grandparents and from my mom doing the same things. I remember watching a 50's movie in 8th grade science where Dick and Jane were watching Mother can jelly. The voice-over said, "You've probably seen your mother pour the jelly into jars before the canning process..." all around me kids were laughing, shaking their heads, saying, "nope...never saw her do THAT!" It was as if the movie mom were Wilma Flintstone, cleaning a pterodactyl.
Back to this summer and the book. I LOVED going to the local grower's market each Saturday. I delighted in it. But...it's over until June. What to do!? Well...to teh Internets!
To find out what's in season in YOUR neck of the woods, I suggest a Google search such as "produce in season 'texas'" This, for example, brought me to the Texas Department of Agriculture's Produce Guide, listed by month. To find a local or organic foods co-op, try a search like "north texas organic food coop" (you'll substitute your locale, of course!) The one at GreenPeople is a good starter. Also, if you have a local natural food store, you can buy there - they are usually pretty good about labeling local produce as such.
I am struggling a bit with keeping up with my local eating resolve. It was so much easier this summer...when the bounty was spread before me in the courthouse parking lot, and my neighbors were the sellers. But I'm determined to keep working on it!
Oh, and what's my local delicacy right now? Umm, corny dogs and fried Oreos at the State Fair of Texas? No?...well, I'm loving fall greens like kales and turnips cooked into soups. Sweet potatoes. Butternut squash. Gotta go make a grocery list!