Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Slow food, calm learning

I've just started reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our year of seasonal eating (2007) and I've been reading it out aloud to my daughter, Clancy, aged uh... 2 months (in the hope that she'll take it all in by osmosis). :o)

[Image source: Amazon]

It's a witty read that's for sure. Kingsolver rolls together her family's learnings and some pretty crazy stats and knowledge of the world at large when it comes to food production and consumption, at least in North America anyway.

Since having my daughter, I've been viewing the world in a different light - sort of a 'what if' lens that focused entirely on potential benefits for her! So, of course, given we've been gardening and learning about growing our own produce in our back yard in the suburbs of Canberra, I'm hoping that this will rub off in big chunks for Clancy. I certainly don't want her to think food comes from supermarkets! Take this cute-yet-scary passage from Kingsolver's first chapter (pp. 11-12):

    Steven, also a biology professor, grew up in the corn belt of Iowa but has encountered his share of agricultural agnostics in the world. As a graduate student he lived in an urban neighborhood where his little backyard vegetable garden was a howling curiosity for the boys  who ran wild in the alley. He befriended these kids, especially Malcolm, known throughout the neighborhood as "Malcolm-get-your-backside-in-here-now-or-you-won't-be-having-no-dinner!" Malcolm liked hanging around when Steven was working in the garden, but predictably enough, had a love-hate thing with the idea of the vegetables touching the dirt. The first time he watched Steven pull long, orange carrots out of the ground, he demanded: "How'd you get them in there?"
    Steven held forth with condensed Intro Botany. Starts with a seed, grows into a plant. Water, sunlight, leaves, roots. "A carrot," Steven concluded, "is actually a root."
    "Uh-huh . . . . ," said Malcolm doubtfully.

Now it's over the top, but scarily real for many. I grew up on a farm and can't imagine life without that experience, yet I fall to buying things to satisfy a culinary urge that shouts NOW! Even a trip to the farmers' markets on Saturdays doesn't guarantee seasonal produce, simply because the farmer sells it - cold storage is very often used as are some pesticides (depending on who you might buy from, or talk to, of course), and some farmers are more 'farmers' than others.

I have found our backyard gardening project a wonderful hands on learning experience in which we have become totally engrossed, and now, with Clancy, it is somewhat of a living, productive legacy! I only hope it serves to slow her desires that will inevitably burgeon with the info overload of the 21st century, so she can appreciate the joys of production and consumption following a timeline, rather than the instant-just-add-water promise of cardboard food.

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[image source: Organic Gardener]

If you're interested in the slow food movement check out the site. There's info on organic and companion planting scattered all over the net and in local associations and libraries too. I also recommend the wonderful Gardening Australia program on ABC (now minus the energetic Peter Cundall, but brill all the same!).

So, in the words of a happy and wise gardener, that's your bloomin' lot!! :o)

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