Tag Archives: Narrative
Welcome to 2014. It’s a fine time to start some new projects, don’t you think?
We have quite a few surprises up our sleeves. Firstly, for the next year we will be exploring each of the twelve points of our manifesto. During the first week of the month, expect a post devoted to each of the points.
And the other projects that are on the way? Well, you’ll have to be patient for those – but we promise they’re worth it. Hint: we’re fitting a kitchen into a box.
Our manifesto was constructed over several months, with a bit of inspiration from Keri Smith. Every idea was carefully refined; not a single word was left untouched. But this year, to become even more acquainted with the principles of gastronomic permaculture, we’re going in depth with the manifesto.
And so, the first point.
We declare that gastronomic permaculture integrates ourselves, our food, our community and our earth. It recognises that every meal Is accomplished in an ecosystem, and it is the convergence our three basic needs: nourishment, security and love.
In true permaculture fashion, we begin with Zone 0. We begin with the central point of gastronomic permaculture. Really, we think it’s the central point of cooking and eating in general: nourishment, security and love.
When you eat (you see, we’re assuming you’re not a zombie or otherwise undead creature), you are participating in an ecosystem of activity. There is the natural system – the soil, the water, the air – and the human system – the farmer, the store keeper, the people you are cooking with and feeding. There are pre-existing conditions; there’s no getting rid of them. Gastronomic permaculture works to integrate every zone of interaction.
Every meal you make begins outside of your kitchen and ends outside of your kitchen. The vegetables you saute may have been grown in your garden, or down the road in the neighbour’s garden, or hundreds of miles away. The olive oil in the bottle on the counter might have come from multiple countries; the salt from seas you haven’t seen. There were hands aside from your own that crafted the food you cook with; there might be hands aside from your own that prepare the food you eat. Hopefully, there are other hands you can break bread with. The things you discard might go to a landfill (via your waste bin) or you will find a way to remake some of them – as stock, maybe. Or perhaps they’ll go to a compost pile (either your own or that of a local farm), where they will rejoin the soil from whence they came.
Every meal is one stop in a cycle. And in every meal is an echo of our three basic needs: nourishment, security and love.
To send out the old year and bring in the old, we concocted an experiment. Probiotics meet sweet treat. A kombucha float.
Kombucha itself is an ecosystem of nutrients. And once you have a mother grown, you can produce kombucha as long as the mother remains healthy. It also give you an opportunity to settle the faint of heart, but that’s a post for another time…
We’re pretty big fans of kombucha. We’ve tried to sample every flavour we can get our hands on and Tim even did his final chemistry project on the fermented tea beverage. Somewhere along the way we got the idea to make a kombucha float. We created an “ice cream” from yoghurt and coconut milk, and Tim brewed a jar of kombucha. Given the contents of both, it’s a veritable festival of cultures.
It’s a good way to ring in the new year. Something sweet and snazzy. Something with a dose of good stuff in it.
Liquify a 1/2 cup honey (we suggest you use a pot on the stove). Combine with 2 1/2 cups Greek yoghurt and 1 cup full-fat coconut milk. Either connect the whisk attachment to your mixer or grab a whisk. Combine and whip it a bit.
Pour into any kind of dish that can be put into the freezer. Then, obviously, put the dish into the freezer. Every 20 minutes to 1/2 an hour, stir/scrape the frozen/freezing mixture until it is thick.
Scoop the frozen, creamy mixture – “ice cream,” if you will. Place in a glass (or a wine glass, if you want to be fancy, or a mason jar, if you don’t want to be). Open kombucha flavour of your choice and pour over “ice cream.” Make as much as you want, or as little. Sharing is recommended. A straw might be a good idea. Regardless, enjoy.
Also, you can find us on instagram now, if you’re into that kind of thing.
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It started with an email.
I sent a proposal to one Ms. Sarah Sohn to come intern at Side By Side Farms/CSA in Freeland, MD. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the world of semi-hippie farming establishments, Side By Side is a permaculture farm. They are Certified Naturally Grown and they supply to the cafe that I work at with Miss Williamson. It’s run by a pair of amazing, and sort of crazy women and an increasingly crazy farm manager. The truth is that none of them actually run the farm, it’s run by a little dog named Ruby, who is an absolute slave driver.
When I first arrived on the farm on a chilly, early March morning to talk with Sarah, I wasn’t sure if I was at the right place. There was no sign, there was nothing designating the place as a farm aside from the set of hoop houses that seemed rather barren for a farm. After a few minutes of checking my phone to make sure that the address was correct, I got out of the car and walked up the hill along a gravel truck path towards the upper greenhouse which I later learned was affectionately dubbed the “upper hoop house”. A little while later, I encountered the farm manager, Sarah. She showed me around the farm, told me some of the grander plans she had for the place and then ended the brief “interview” with the question of, “So are you interested in doing this? When can you start working?” I later learned this was because I showed up on time, sober and clothed.
Planting beets with Sarah Sohn (back) and Lisa Augustyniak (front).
Sarah Sohn. Weed torcher.
A month later, I started my internship with Side By Side Farms. I thought about keeping a proper journal, or perhaps a blog, but I felt like it had already been done. So I opened up my phone and downloaded Instagram in order to keep a photo journal. I already had a fancy Nikon DSLR, but I didn’t want to use it for this. No, if I was going to document an internship at a Certified Naturally Grown, Permaculture/semi-hippie farm, it was going to be with tools that anyone could get.
There’s something about photographing with a DSLR that’s fantastic. You have clarity, you have better quality, you have control and options and precision. I chose to forgo my DSLR for documenting my internship. I wanted it to be approachable, so that every aspect of it could be done by anyone. Almost everyone has smartphones or devices with access to Instagram these days and the majority of them have cameras. There’s something about the idea that everyone is on the same playing field, that everyone has the ability to be a fantastic photographer that appealed to me. I still took photos with my DSLR while I was at the farm, but my journal would only be iPhone photos because it was a quiet message that anyone could do what I was about to do.
My first day started around 6 in the morning. By that point in my life, I was already a fairly early riser (by college student standards, 7 in the morning is early), but it was a bit early even for me. The sun was just starting to rise above the trees in my yard and the neighbor’s solar controlled driveway lights were still on. I showered and ate and drove to the farm, the brisk air blowing through the cabin of my green 2004 Toyota Camry. When I got there, the first thing Sarah had on the agenda was covering crops. You see, when it’s cold the plants you’ve just started, the tiny green sprouts, need a bit of help. If it gets too cold then they need to be covered, lest the frost kill them. So off we went, throwing plastic covering over the tops of the plants in long rows to keep the frost off of them and hopefully, preserve them so we could have an early harvest.
It started at 6.
Much of the summer went like that. I would wake up early, go to the farm, we would plant seeds or transplant new plants, weed or water, cover and uncover. There was a rhythm to it, a sort of off kilter routine that changed daily. It was fun, it felt like an endless struggle with nature, but one where we could eventually mold the landscape to fit our needs. We didn’t use much machinery, one tractor for tilling and a pickup truck. Everything else we did by hand. It was difficult and laborious, but incredibly rewarding. There were days where I would drink close to two gallons of water and still feel dehydrated towards the end of the day, but if was always worth it in the end. I got a share of the produce, a small amount of money (enough to pay for my petrol over the summer) and always a free lunch made with whatever we had lying around the farm.
The Truck. This was the vehicle I learned to drive stick shift on.
We did most everything by hand, though there was a tractor. One of the farm residents, Finch created this as a model of the tractor we had.
Those were some of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever created and eaten. They were absolutely delicious and about as fresh as you can get, most of the time having been picked a mere hour before consumption. There were fresh eggs, honey from the bees on the farm and always loads of produce. There were times where there were so many of a particular vegetable that I would be sent home with close to $50 in produce, simply so it didn’t go to waste. Those meals were amazing and I got to cook and consume them with people that, to this day, I believe are the most interesting and enjoyable people I have worked with. I heard stories and met people that, had I not participated in those lunches, I never would have heard. It sounds strange to say, but I met a man while I was working there and I listened to his stories every time he came. The second time I ate lunch with him, I decided that he was the man I wanted to be like when I grew old.
Freshly picked and washed beets.
What I expected and what actually happened, were completely different things. I expected to come and learn. I expected to learn techniques and the best varieties and how to run an organic, small scale farm. What I learned was that those aren’t the things that matter the most.
I learned that if you want to run a farm, you learn a lot of those things on the fly. I learned that it was relationships that mattered the most. That sitting on the porch of the farmhouse taught me more than hours in the field did (and that’s saying something, because I learned a lot in the field). That hours in the field gave me the best relationship with my local farmer I could ever get. That the relationship with restaurants and your CSA members determine what the best varieties are. That running a “farm” can just be a fancy way of saying you have a profitable, over-sized garden. And I learned that I don’t want to have a farm. I want to have a relationship with my local farmers, one that’s profitable for both of us and for the environment. I want relationships with restaurant owners that support local farmers. I want to support people that care about people. That’s the most important thing my internship taught me.
Though, Sarah, if you’re reading this, yes, I do have a printed copy of that planting schedule in my “garden” folder and Elliot Coleman says, “Hello”
Lettuce. Available as an iPhone cover!
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Let’s start from the beginning shall we?
The term permaculture (permanent culture ) was coined in the 1970s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Permaculture is guided by twelve principles and three ethics: earth care, people care and fair share.
Typically permaculture is applied to agriculture and garden design. However, David Holmgren writes in The Essence of Permaculture that, “Although permaculture is a conceptual framework for sustainable development that has its roots in ecological science and systems thinking, its grassroots spread within many different cultures and contexts show its potential to contribute to the evolution of a popular culture of sustainability, through adoption of very practical and empowering solutions.”
Between Mollison and Holmgren, there are a lot of big words in the last two paragraphs. That’s ok, permaculture is like tea: there are all kinds of tea lovers, but the two most dissimilar types are those who love plain black tea and the connoisseurs. They are both lovers of tea, but in different ways. Permaculture is the same way, you don’t have to be an expert to be a permaculturalist, you just have to care about the three things that Mollison sets out:
Those three ethics are the guiding ideas behind everything permaculture; they determine the way you plant your garden, how to plant with the seasons and making the best use out of all energy expended. It’s an exercise in restraint, in efficiency and in ethical living. The real attraction to permaculture, however, is that it benefits everyone. This seems like an impossibility in our world – where for every winner, there is a loser – but nature doesn’t play by the same rules. In nature there is always an abundance, always more than you can make use of. So you share the excess, because we all live as part of a larger ecosystem, where each person, animal and plant has importance and value.
Gastronomic permaculture, follows these same ethics. The original idea originated with my partner Ema Williamson (a Permaculture Design Certified anthropology major at Millersville University of Pennsylvania) with whom I took my Permaculture Design Certification course. She scribbled a few notes about what the term “permaculture cooking” could possibly entail and showed them to me one afternoon. A very long, accidental brainstorming session ensued and the idea for gastronomic permaculture was started.
Of course, we figured that someone was already doing this. Why wouldn’t someone combine permaculture and food? But aside from a job offer for a permaculture chef in Ethiopia, we couldn’t find anything. So we continued to work. We debated over the definition for months, picking our words very carefully until we created this long, overly complex definition sometime around 11:30pm:
Yep. It’s wordy. It’s complex. It’s scientific and posh and hipster. But it’s exactly what we mean.
Gastronomic permaculture can start with creating a window box garden, getting to know your farmer, becoming friends with the people at a farmer’s market, shopping at local stores. It is a practice in redundancy and resiliency. A gastronomic permaculture network is designed not to fail. It is built around multiple relationships with the land, with farmers, with purveyors, with friends and acquaintances.
A gastronomic permaculture network remembers that we don’t live in a bubble. We live in an ecosystem; at some point our actions and choices affect everyone. We make our choices, setting our sights on the positives, the opportunities. We grow our food organically, we purchase locally and if possible, organically. When it’s not available locally, we purchase it fair trade, from a local store or at least a shop that makes it their mission to positively impact the world.
A gastronomic permaculture network is good for you as well. It nourishes your entire being, both the material and non-material things we need to live. You should have abundant food, healthier food, better tasting food and you should be eating it with others.
As we write, you’ll see examples of how we’re able to live by our own definition. We’ll share how to go about ‘designing’ and ‘maintaining’ a gastronomic network. You’ll see what we mean when we say a “gastronomically productive network”. We’ll write about how to eat healthy, environmentally friendly and community friendly food without a CEO’s salary (heck, we’ll show you how to do that on a college student’s salary). Most importantly, we’ll be writing about the connections that are made when you pay attention to your food and where it comes from; to the integration of food and relationships, rather than the segregation.
If all this is confusing to you, don’t worry, it confused us too for a while (and we came up with the idea). The whole idea is best summed up by M.F.K. Fisher anyway:
So if you love food, keep reading. If you love the earth, keep reading. If you love people, you should definitely keep reading. Because gastronomic permaculture is all three in one. And this is only the first post. We have a lot more to say.