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Food for Thought

  • Posted by on March 12, 2010 in Food
  • It almost sounded like some hippie mantra.

    I was on the patio, staring at an odd collection of building materials I’d gathered in the past week, reminding myself over and over again that "Nature required my patience." Well, actually, she didn’t actually need a damn thing from me; she’d get along just fine without me. I would need to accept the pace of things if I was to get something out of all of this. It was just the beginning of the planting season, and as I shook a little seed packet in my hand, I thought that it would be much easier to go down to the store and grab a few things from the produce aisle than wait. Yes, this urban-rooftop-raised-bed-garden thing was going to take some time.

    --------

    A few years ago, when I lost my job at a print company, I really panicked about “having enough time for real work.” I needed to invest my days in looking for something that would put food on the table before things became really hairy. My daughter was just a few months old then, and I tried scheduling each moment for “important matters.” These were mostly dedicated to reworking cover letters and sending resumes from my desk, the rest for worrying about the cost of diapers and the enormity of our grocery bills. Nevertheless, I was determined to keep the refrigerator well-stocked with fresh organic produce. If we couldn’t afford to go out to eat anymore, we would at least eat well at home, using our few financial resources to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It was around this time that my wife Sabi suggested we start to grow our own food.

    My first foray into the world of gardening broke all previous notions of what “real work” was, and how I prioritized my time. We started simply enough, building a raised bed garden with some wood a few feet of hose, and some soil. As it progressed, we devised better irrigation techniques to maximize yield. We added a customized fence to keep out a certain squirrel. During the day, I fought fat green caterpillars for tomatoes, battled blights spreading over rows of beleaguered pea plants, and rescued strawberries from the ravages of too much sun. We weeded and watered and wept until, in just a few short months, there were enough micro-greens, yellow beets and stripey heirloom tomatoes to build a salad that rivaled Mt. Everest...every day of the week...for the entire summer.

    In fact, we were producing so much food we couldn’t eat it fast enough and had to share the surplus with our neighbors. With the help of a few friends down the street, Sabi and I began co-hosting a series of carefully planned progressive dinners. The evening would begin in our backyard with one of our salads and an appetizer, and would then continue down the block. Each stop was a different plate and another glass of wine, more laughter and forgetting the stress, everywhere a completely new sensual experience. The evening passed quickly until we climbed up the hill and collapsed on someone else’s couch, stuffed to the seams, watching our daughter bite into a slice of someone’s homemade gooey chocolate happiness. Later those nights I’d return to my desk to finish up some “real work,” something that wasn’t “wasting time.” One look at my calloused hands and the residual dirt under my nails was usually all it took, and soon enough, I’d find myself back in our little garden, sharing a stale beer with slugs in the moonlit night, admiring our handiwork.

    Something had shifted in me. I was spending more time in the compost heap and more time enjoying what I ate than I had originally planned, but I was somehow happier with my new speed. Slowly, jobs offers began to materialize, from places I would never have considered before. I was patient with the process...and willing to work hard to build the right foundations. I started seeing the connection: we were an agriculturally based society that had gotten away from its roots and had replaced patience for speed, and had lost something in the process. I was going to get time back.

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    Today I’m sitting again in front of my window as I write this first entry for SHFT, and am again thinking how the next few months will be another practice in patience. I remind myself once more: Good things do come to those who wait. This too, was a simple mantra of sorts, and a pretty good one. If you’re patient, I’ll share some fantastic ways to eat, drink, and grow, savoring every delicious, snail-paced moment.

    Let’s get to work.

    - David Vega


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