A few weeks ago on Raise the Hammer, I made an offhand comment about the new criteria for stallholders in the downtown Farmer's Market, by saying that the relationships we are cultivating among local food producers will be invaluable at such a time when oil prices spike, and the local grocery store's warehouse-on-wheels inventory philosophy reveals itself as being incredibly shortsighted.
Well, we have decided to take the experiment in cultivating food producer friends a step further.
You have heard of the 100 mile diet, where you only eat food grown within 100 miles of where you live. Usually cheating of some kind is allowed, such as in Barbara Kingsolver's amazing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which each family member was allowed to choose one 'out of area' food item they would keep. In these situations, it's almost always coffee or chocolate.
Instead, we are going to try and serve a thanksgiving meal, with as many ingredients as possible that have been produced, rather than sold, by people we know personally. And they must be within an hour or so drive of our house. Not as any kind of spiritual mileage number, rather that's just about the longest round trip our kids will sit through in the car without melting down.
As I write, my wife is on google researching local grain mills and dairies to try and figure out where she's going to get the ingredients for the bread she plans to bake, and the butter for the potatoes (whose supplier we already know well).
And it's not that we need to be "hey, can you come over and help me build a fence in my backyard" buddies. We just need to know them. To be able to put a face to a name and say, "These beans came from Russ, and the potatoes and carrots are from our friends the Shearleas."
It's a daunting task, but one that leads to a lot more than just eating well. Building community deliberately is not something most people are familiar with how to do - us included. It's one thing to stumble across an already-existing community (such as Raise the Hammer, or local foodies, etc) and realize you share a passion with others. It's another entirely to pull into the driveway of a local turkey farmer and say, "Hey, we just wanted to know where our bird was coming from."
It's an exercise in connecting with an as-yet nonexistent community, but also with our food. We know where meat comes from, and that it was once a living breathing animal. And to be fair, my wife has a huge advantage over me in that regard, her father having been a hunter when she was growing up.
But in an age of styrofoam and plastic wrap, it can be easy to forget that the drumstick you are eating was once attached to something that had a life - in many cases, depending on how little you paid for that club pack of drumsticks, an utterly wretched life.
So wish us well. I'll be sure to report back after Thanksgiving how well we've done; but judging from the remarks my wife has been making while I've been writing this, I suspect the answers will tell us more about a desperately broken food supply system than about our effort.
This blog entry was first published on Jason Allen's website.
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