When Tricia Beckner asked me to eat only what she can produce on her CSA farm-ette for a month, just to see what happens, I was game. As you’ll see, we’ve widened the circle a little to include food produced 10 miles from my home on Whidbey Island, with exceptions made for 4 essentials: oil, salt (+5 other spices), caffeine, and lemons (until I can find local apple cider vinegar). Read more on my blog about my 10-mile diet.
If this blog were music, I guess you could say I’m singing for my supper. At least I seem to be blogging for it.
For this month, at least, it seems that Tricia and I are engaged in an equal exchange. She wakes up in the middle of the night fearing I might starve. I do too. No, seriously, this challenge is growing her as a market gardener, and the cost is a box of veggies and a dozen eggs a week. I am examining my relationship with food—and really the food system—and all it costs is 500 words a day. Slick. Blogging for food. Would that work in a pinch if I stood by the road with a cardboard sign?
Don’t even go there, Vicki. In a week your veggie habit will be on your own dime. What will remain is this profound learning, a great relationship with Tricia, and 25,000 words towards your next book, Your Food or Your Life, Transforming Your Relationship with Food and Achieving… ummm…uhhh… what?…Health?… Love?
The point being, what started out to be an experiment in eating turned out to be an experiment in loving—and writing.
How can you not love the one who feeds you? If you have the good fortune to know who that is, I mean. Food is love, from the breast onward. That we can eat without attention, not to speak of gratitude, is an unseen but sorry aspect of “farming out” our lives to service people—the farmer, the clerk, the mechanic, the plumber, the accountant, the financial adviser… the list goes on. Could you list the people who make your life possible, who toil daily so you can eat, sleep, drink, drive, dress, wash, work, play? When you think about it, the sheer intimacy of it is staggering. Hundreds of strangers have their hands all over your life.
The 10-mile diet has allowed me to get close enough to my feeders to kiss their hands. Tricia, of course. Farmer John, who sold me the onions. Pam Mitchell, so matter-of-fact in her strategy for farming other people’s land and selling at the farmers' market, but so important to this experiment. She was the one who alerted me that here on Whidbey, we'd be incapable of feeding ourselves for more than a month. She was the one who trained Tricia and who shares Kent and Tricia’s land.
And Rhonda, whom I visited today and whose daughter Marina makes goat cheese and gives it to me as a gift.
“We want to support your cause,” Rhonda and Marina have told me.
I’m not sure it’s a cause. It’s an experiment in putting my mouth where my mouth is, in living what I espouse. But I am grateful that Rhonda wants to weave herself into my pattern.
Rhonda bustled around the house gathering up more “donations to my cause.” She put handfuls of dried fruit into waxed paper bags—pears, apples, figs! (The figs get all the applause as they are so sweet and so special.) Then we went out to their huge garage and she pulled a goat leg out of the freezer.
I looked at it, stunned that she would give it to me. I knew that the most beautiful thing I could do would be to take it, so I did so with a sense of wonder. She told me about the goat. How it was happy from day one to day last. How they raised it and loved it. How it came from the same goats that provide the milk for the cheese they give me.
Generosity itself is kept at arm’s length in our everyday lives. We click PayPal buttons. We write checks between Christmas and New Years based on well-presented literature about people far away. But here I am being invited to eat Rhoda’s kid (goat). How can we not be friends in the future?
My 10-Mile Diet
Vicki Robin on a month of hyperlocavore eating.
I then stopped by the farm where I get my milk and chatted with the woman who provides it. She said it had only been three years since they started raising animals, and told some of the stories of those years: losing five fat turkeys that got out of their pen to coyotes, forming a search party with her husband and son after a friend called to say that their sow and half a dozen piglets were trotting down the road. All the while, she was sifting through packages from her freezer and selecting parts of last year’s pig: bacon, pork steaks, and a slice of ham, more than three pounds of meat in all. I paid her happily—happy to support her farming family, happy to have a wealth of meat for the last week of my experiment. Without grains and beans, a bit of dense meat is what tells my stomach it’s actually eaten.
On my way home I swung by the football field, where Kent was announcing the game and Tricia was running the scoreboard. She'd told me to come pick up some veggies that were a bit too big, or curly, or twisty, or whatever for her regular customers.
I came home and stir-fried the last of Carol and Ed’s chicken (it lasted almost a week) with Farmer John's red onion and Tricia's broccoli, carrots, fennel, and kale, plus a bit of my exotics: salt and oil.
Food is love. Every exchange is love. More love than any of us can bear if we are honest. And so I blog to digest it all—and to celebrate another part of my food system—the humans who spread the love around.
- : While making her lunch, Vicki Robin realized that she knew everyone who raised the food.