Today, I cleaned out my fridge. It was an act, at the time, born of immediate need. I confess, it smelled, it had been slightly neglected. And, of course, fridge cleaning is the great rite of moving. But cleaning the fridge is really a microcosm of the whole event of moving. All kinds of things lurk in the fridge. Many, very obviously, need to leave (the mould-forest growing on the pine nuts) while others are in a kind of limbo (a half empty bottle of barbecue sauce, two-thirds a bottle of mustard). Most I trash, but some grab at my heart. My jar of bouillon made a convincing plea. "I'm just so handy when you haven't made broth lately. Surely you'll want me. It don't ever go bad," the little jar seemed to say. Moving, for me, takes enormous focus as every item I own passes through my hands and must face the question: to trash, or not to trash? In my focus on these life-changing issues, however, I lose, for a moment, the real issue at hand: why am I moving? And not moving just to a new house, town, state, or job, but to the sum total of all these things: I am moving to a new life. Feeling a little shaky about this transition and the general upheaval of my existence, I was invited to, really, the perfect farewell to one life and the open-armed welcome to my new one.
I went to see Barbara Kingsolver speak about her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which she tells the story of her family's first year eating an entirely local diet. It was really wonderful. I was especially surprised that I knew so many people there. Usually when I go out, I might see one person I know… maybe. Atlanta, after all, is a big place. But this time it was my town; if I didn't know their name, I knew their face: Linda, who runs an amazing Feminist bookstore; Donna, my exceptional high school history teacher; Bob, my chiropractor; Joe, the man who sells me veggies at on of the local farm stands where I shop; my friend Sarah, a student at Emory; and several of the farmers whose produce I enjoy weekly. I was warmed by this incredible interest, not only among the general public, but among people I have known for years. I felt like I was finally in on something. I wasn't an outsider.
And then it dawned on me. I realised how involved in this whole local foods movement I am. I know these people; I share their likes and concerns. We know the same things. We know, as Ms. Kingsolver said tonight; we don't believe, but know that our conventional food production is a "limited-time-only deal." We are worried about that. We are worried because what we eat is more than what we are: it's the very face of the earth and moreover, the means by which we stay on it. It is the thing we use the most, and though we suffer the omnivore's dilemma of infinite choice in what we eat, we have no choice but to eat. But the strange part is, I knew all this before there was a "we."
I knew sitting in my mother's kitchen learning how to cook just by watching, by the pure osmosis of my mother's love in her food. I know this because, though I had my fair share of TV dinners and McDonald's apple pies, that nothing was more beautiful than the soft dimples of pastry laid over cinnamon-coated apples and that nothing on God's green earth beats supper at my mother's kitchen table. I was probably the only child in my pre-school who knew what asparagus looked like as they were coming out of the ground, and one of the few who spent summers eating blackberries off the vine that made my hands purpley-black. I realise now, after being in a room with hundreds of like-minded people, that there was something that had long-ago been born in me, dare I say, quite organically that really and truly is a part of something bigger. I realise now that I'm not towing the line, I'm creating it.
So, when I went home I let go of the canned bouillon. If there's no broth, there's no broth, and there will be something else for supper. I am starting here: in the pull to understand that it's not about what I want, it's about what there is. Ms. Kingsolver, in her experience, found that this practice led her family to a feeling of gratitude, which is not at all about being beholden but is the immense and joyous feeling that comes of having all you need and being happy about it. Cleaning out my fridge became my first act in this new life. Local eating isn't going to be something I work towards, or try to do, or even succeed at. It is going to be my life. I will work, breathe, and, yes, eat, local food.