Monday, July 14, 2008

Is localvorism anti-feminist?

I promise this will be my last post before the essay I promised. But this is something I really want to address, both because I’ve seen this several times now and because our sermon at church yesterday was on localvorism and someone raised this question. The basic premise is that being a localvore may be anti-feminist because it tends to require more work to get and prepare food and thus more time in the kitchen. This is, of course, what women have long sought to escape. You can read a blog post on this subject here:

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that not only is eating locally NOT anti-feminist, it is probably the most feminist diet one can eat, and maybe the most feminist thing one can do. I’ll get into the reasons for this as I go through the essay, but first I’m going to take the points in the above post and refute them one by one.

First, as regards winter fruits and vegetables: you don’t eat the same ones as you do in summer. You don’t buy strawberries in December. You buy apples instead. In the place of summer squash you buy winter squash. Secondly, if you want to eat strawberries in December you buy them in May or June –whenever your local season is –and can, freeze or dry them for use in the winter months. This is how our ancestors ate for thousands of years, all the way up to the 1950s when widespread refrigeration and cheap oil made it possible to buy California strawberries in Wisconsin in January.

Second, it doesn’t cost that much more to eat locally, especially if you grow your own or go to u-pick farms. In fact, it can be cheaper. I can pick blueberries here for about a dollar a pint, versus buying them for 2.5 to 3 times that, even now when they’re in season. I have nine pints of frozen blueberries in my freezer that should last me nearly a year.

Next Lilith wants to know if we “can actually cut convenience out of their diets entirely without sacrificing the freedoms that come with not being chained to the stove all day?” There are two points to make about this –the first is that no one says you have to give up all conveniences –I still use my fridge, freezer, and microwave, for instance. The second, and more important, is what freedoms are you giving up? She says she could never work, full-time, get married, or have kids if she would do this all the time. Okay, that’s patent nonsense –there are a lot of married, working moms who are also committed localvores.

Again, I have to ask what freedoms you’re giving up and also what the trade-offs are. Everything has trade-offs; there’s no perfect solution here. To eat locally you do have to spend more time acquiring and preparing food. There’s no way around that. Are the freedoms you’re giving up the right to watch TV for an hour a day? The ability to take your kids to three or four activities a week? That may be okay for you or not. But suppose you don’t eat locally. What are you giving up then?

That question may seem counter-intuitive to some. After all, don’t you get anything? Can’t you eat anything and get it from anywhere? You can eat dinner out every night and have fruit out of season, sure. But it’s going to cost you. The first thing it will cost you is money. As I pointed out previously, it often costs less money to eat locally than not. The second thing it is going to cost you is time. You have to earn that money, after all. And the more money you need, the more you have to work. Maybe you love your job and if so, that’s great. But most jobs in this country frankly suck. The feminist movement liberated us from the kitchen; the corporations made sure we had no choice but to become their serfs. Some success. Where’s the freedom in that? The third thing you’re going to give up is health. Convenience foods are not nearly as healthy as whole, unprocessed food. They are the biggest source of bad health in this country.

But let’s get back to the previous point. Freedom. What is freedom? The right to make your own choices. The right to do what you want and not be dependent on others for your choices. If you depend on the corporate system for food, you are in effect depending on them for everything. Why? Think about it for a moment. Food is basic. Food is the most necessary thing for someone to have. If you don’t have food, you will starve to death. Period. If you have to depend on someone else for food, then you are at their mercy. If you can’t meet their price or they can’t deliver the food, tough. So sorry. A lot of people claim they are not beholden to the corporate system, that they have escaped it. But guess where they still get their food?

Food and food security are not just basic to freedom; they ARE freedom. Throughout history, the first thing a conquering army did to help vanquish the civilians was destroy their food supply. From the Romans, to the English settlers in America, the militias would burn the granaries or the fields to starve the populace into submission. How can you rebel or shrug off a system when you are dependent on it? The answer is that you can’t. So, not eating locally not only does not give you more freedom, it gives you much less. When you are in charge of your own food supply, when you eat locally, when you grow your own, then you cut the most vital link between you and the system that is destroying both you and the country. Which gives you more freedom? And which, therefore, is more feminist?

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

My very first peach!

When I moved here a few years ago one of the very first things I did was plant two fruit trees, one an apple and one a peach. Both were self-pollinating varieties of course. Now, it’s almost impossible to overstate how much I love peaches –they are just about my favorite fruit and one of the best things about the South. (Ok, nearly the best thing about the South.) I have tended these trees carefully the past few years but knew I couldn’t really expect any sort of crop until next year.

I had a lot of flowers on my peach tree this year but none of them seemed to develop into anything. Most of them I took off myself because many of the trees branches are not yet strong enough to support fruit. Well, sometimes life throws you a delicious curve ball.

Late yesterday afternoon I was leaving the house and happened to glance up at my peach tree. The late afternoon sun shone on it in such a manner that the leaves were highlighted and I saw something pink against one of the branches. I thought it was probably a trick of the light and went on because I was in a hurry. Naturally, I forgot to check it out when I got back home.

Fast forward to today. I got home about the same time I left yesterday and as I’m getting out of the car I look up and see the same flash of pink. No, I think it can’t be. Can it? So I traipse across the yard, packages and all, and look up. There, ten feet in the air, hangs a perfect ripe peach. I let out a yell that could have waken the dead, dropped everything in my hands, and did a silly little dance in the yard that had all my neighbors staring. They must really think I’m nuts now, after dancing in the yard with a silly grin plastered all over my face.

After the discovery I proceeded to go through heroics to get to the peach. I had to bring out the stepladder, step it up on the lawn –which slopes by the way –and stand at the very edge of my reach to get at it. I knew it was ripe before I ever touched it; it had that perfect pink blush peaches get when they are at their peak. It was firm to the touch and came off with just a gentle twist. As soon as I got on the ground I smelled it. That heavenly aroma alone was worth waiting for. Then I bit into it and stood there on the lawn, juice running down my chin, completely lost.

This, I thought, is heaven. This is what life should be. I don’t need an IPhone and an Xbox to make me happy –just a tree and a peach will do it.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Few Ruminations

I’ve been watching the unfolding events of the past few weeks and keep shaking my head. It truly does seem like the wheels are coming off the wagon, sometimes. But every time I think our society couldn’t get any more crazy, it does. I heard today that they are talking about giving cholesterol lowering drugs to children as young as eight, and screening those as young as two. And get this –there are now summer camps devoted to shopping. Shopping. Um. Hello? Is anyone out there? Ship to Mission Control –what the **** is going on down there? Did someone let loose some Martian microbes, or just drop a bottle of vodka in the coffee pot?

Now I don’t claim to have all the answers (far from it) but when you start giving those kinds of drugs to kids (most of whom will be overweight, according to the report I heard) instead of giving them a stalk of broccoli and a basketball, and when we start sending them to camps to train them to be good little consumers, something has gone wrong somewhere and we are in deep kimchee. (With apologies to my Korean friends; I love kimchee; I just wouldn’t want to be dropped into a huge bowl of the stuff.)

From what I’ve seen, most of the public doesn’t yet see two major aspects of the problems facing us. The first is that all of the crises we face are interrelated. These are not separate problems. The problems with energy, food, the environment, politics, climate change, cultural problems –all are so intertwined that trying to separate them out is like trying to undo a bunch of knotted ropes and in this case you can’t even see all of the strands. Everything really is interconnected –but especially so in this instance. To make matters worse, every one of these problems feeds back into the others, positively or negatively and the effects are non-linear and thus not easily modeled.

The second aspect most people miss is that this is not a temporary crisis. Pretty much everybody expects this to blow over in a month or two, a year at most. Most people have no clue that what we are at the beginning of a major shift in the world. There may be a temporary recovery but the forces at play have built to such an extent that a long-term return to the status quo is out of the question. Nor do people want to be told this; try explaining this to someone and watch how quickly they do the grown-up version of putting their hands over their ears and shouting “I’m not listening!” On the one hand this reaction is perfectly understandable –who wants to face the end of their way of life? But on the other hand it is utterly frustrating. I find there are times when I want to take someone by the shoulders, shake him or her so hard I hear teeth rattle, and say “What is wrong with you?” Wake up all ready! Yo! We’ve fallen off the edge of the map and here there be dragons! Either head for the lifeboats or find a sword, but bloody hell man, do something!

Back in my saner moments I realize most people (myself not excluded) are busy just trying to survive, without any ability to look further into the future than the next paycheck. Everything is so uncertain right now that it’s hard to make any plans. Every choice could be the wrong one. In this kind of climate, it’s easy to sit and wait and pray.

The trick, as always, is to find a way to face the future head-on –uncertainty and all. There’s going to be a lot of problems in the next few years, probably the next few decades or centuries. But it won’t be all bad. And, in the end, perhaps something better will emerge than the crazy, consumerist culture of destruction we have now.

In my next post I’m going to discuss my own process of decision making in the midst of chaos.

Until then, blessed be.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Interesting Tomato Problem

I had an interesting tomato problem this week. I was watering a friend's garden while she was out of town and she told me to pick any produce that was right while she was gone, which of course did. Among many other things I got several tomatoes. One of these had the problem. It was a paste tomato, a roma I think. I'm one of those who will eat small tomatoes -particularly paste, cherry, and plum -whole as a snack. Now, this tomato was at the peak of ripeness. It was blemish free and had no markings, cracks, or anything else wrong with it. I've rarely seen such a perfect tomato -particularly from an organic garden. But when I bit into this tomato, it had mold growing inside.

Has anyone ever heard of this? If so, what causes it?

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I'm Published!

My novella (well, the first part anyway) appears in this months issue of Fantasy Gazetter. You can find it here if you're interested: My story is Crossroads.