Friday, May 13, 2011

What it is and Isn't

Note: there have been some technical issues going on today with Blogger; thus the delay in this posting and the disappearance of yesterday's post... apparently they are working on it, so hopefully everything will be running smoothly again soon. 

Anyway, on with today,

Look what showed up in my mailbox!

 Has a free publication ever had such serendipitous timing before, I ask you?
No, I think not.

I've been hinting around here and there about how myself and our little family have been inching closer and closer towards the edge of becoming local and more sustainable eaters, and this little booklet in the mail has made all of that much easier for me.

I spent my morning happily combing through the directory of all the organic and sustainably produced produce, meat, and dairy products within striking distance of our home, and now I feel much more buoyed on what could turn out to be a haphazard experiment in largely swearing off what the conventional supermarket has to offer.

Where did this all come from you may wonder?

Well, I'll tell you.
It all started about a year ago when I started paging through two fabulous cookbooks.
The first was the Mennonite Tome my grandmother gifted to me that had been gifted to her when she married my grandfather who comes from a large Huldeman Mennonite family. Inside it's yellowed pages were countless recipes not just for the regular fare, but for the domestic processes of the past generation that made use of what they could produce and spread and stretch it out for an entire year.
This struck as me as perhaps the most "green living" book I had read and these ladies (some of them related to me distantly I'm sure) had been doing it long before it was trend, they'd been doing it because that was simply the only way to eat and eat well, and they weren't doing it in the cornucopia of California either, they were doing it in the central Alberta prairies and Manitoba, complete with it's long dreadful winters. We're talking Hardy Zone 3 here my friends, for real.

The idea began germinating in my mind that if they could do it, perhaps I could to?

Could eating more sustainably really be as simple as trying to eat more like my Mennonite Aunties?

Then again, I wasn't too wild about living off borscht (even if the book did boast at least 20 different recipes for it) for the entire winter, and I had grown up shuddering inwardly at the stories my father would tell of the meals these same Aunties fed him as a child of fried parsnips and gravy made from the water left behind from boiled weiners....

Fortunately, this all became more balanced with a simple and fascinating book by that Queen of good food, Alice Waters.
I happened upon her book, "In the Green Kitchen" which wasn't so much a recipe book, but a book of skills combined with simple recipes to change the way cooks feel empowered to make food from scratch in real kitchens... with real food.

Suddenly roasting a chicken, making quick breads and salad dressings didn't seem like such a difficult thing to do, and when I came across a recipe for mayonnaise, I became like one suspended:

With only 3 ingredients?
And two pieces of equipment,
A bowl and a whisk?

This I suddenly believed I could do, and that small spark of inspiration has carried me through this last winter and into this new season of wanting to plant and harvest as much as I can for myself wanting to put my skills to work in the kitchen to make as much as possible... the good old fashioned way.

Add then to that the increasing interest in finding all the ingredients for this type of whole cooking  from the best sources possible and you have my latest stack of books checked out from the library.

I've been learning a lot about the issues and politics surrounding our food, where it comes from and how it's made, but really the desire to do all of this comes even more from the philosophical side of things. To be in touch with what one eats just seems like a good thing to do. Something inexplicable drives me in that direction and part of my rational is made up of the question, "If I CAN do it, then why not TRY?"

Really, in this part of the province, with all that's available to change the way we eat, why not give it a shot?

Will it cost less?
Probably not, but maybe in the long run

Will I be healthier?
Probably, but I am no scientist and have no quantifiable way of measuring those kinds of results.

Will it be a lot more work?
Certainly and I suppose the real test of sustainability is whether it is actually sustainable for the real people who are trying to make a go of it.

The other day I followed a simple recipe online and made yogurt for my family that was in all honesty, quite a bit better than anything I'd ever purchased from the supermarket. It took me more than 24 hours to make and achieve the consistency I wanted, and it cost 3/4 of what I would've normally paid.
But I did it and it wasn't really that hard.

Most importantly, my whole family of mostly lactose intolerant individuals was able to consume the yogurt though one family member claimed it was not as good because it didn't come in the little green serving containers covered in flowers that she is accustomed to.

It was a huge boost of confidence for me, that with enough elbow grease and determination, we too can head a little more back to our land.

It will take several years I know before my own square feet of yard space are able to produce anything substantial and perhaps more years than that before I really even know what I'm doing.  Along the way I'll have to answer a million questions, laugh along with a million jokes ( from my brother in law Pubs most likely) and unfortunately endure the scorn of those who mistakenly believe my choices automatically put them in judgment.

This journey isn't about making a die-hard pledge or drawing some immovable line in the sand. It's simply an expirement  to see what is possible at the work of my wits and willing hands.

I know there are certain things I will not be able to source locally, and probably some things I will even choose not to. I truly believe in not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and small steps are much more effective in reaching goal. For now these small steps are to build the first of our square-foot garden, plan and cook and shop around our Farmer's Market, roll up my sleeves and tie on my apron.

Yes, something good is cooking in this kitchen and it smells like  fresh idea.


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