Saturday, August 23, 2008

Grow, eat, and repeat

"Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that is inescapably an agricultural act; and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extend, how the world is used." - Wendell Berry

I have always been an eater. However, in the past two months, the physical process of eating has been my zenith at least three times a day. The intricacies of placing previously-living photosynthesizing organisms turned-culinary masterpieces into my mouth have gone beyond simply to fill a void in my stomach or pleasure my taste buds. My mind, heart, and body are pulsating hundreds of miles a minute, unsure of when and how to stop in this realm of sustainable food systems.

Granted, I have also been in and out, immersing myself in travels to retreats, conferences, and the backcountry in between. Thus, the lack of dictum, anecdotes, and literary proses. I've learned that my thoughts are initially raw, vulnerable, and bombarded with argument and logic. Just like the act of eating, the thought processes about food systems fairly recently are staccato and uncertain upon feedback.

Case in point. Packing thirty pounds of food into the back country - all processed, dry, and astute for ten days in the wilderness - surely conjures up such thoughts of how sustainable our ways of living. This is such the case, especially ambling alongside miles upon miles of berries, fruit, edible leaves, animals, and copious water sources along the trail. If one is to truly sustain their way of living alongside as well as sustain, nurture, and care for their surrounding environment, what are we doing by "importing" all this food?

Bearpaw Meadows, a campsite in the smack-dab middle of Kings Sequoia National Park, serves their reservations sumptuous meals. The morning we passed by, breakfast was a foray of blueberry muffins, onion-tomato-cheese omelets, potato hash-browns, coffee, and orange juice - all imported by mules along the trail. My jaw dropped, yet not enough to show any mouth interior in fear of public perception. Whether or now these foods are organic, unprocessed, and the most nutritious edibles known to human kind, I could not begin to fathom the energy cycles taken to get these culinary feats to this fairly remote enclave amidst the tallest peaks in the western United States. The mules are our trucks, cars, and transport machines. Bearpaw Meadows, dependent on those mules, is the operating civilized institution in the majority of modern society - hospitals, schools, and homes - all of which receive their food contingent upon transport.

Sustainable food is beyond organic. It is beyond health claims. It involves community-based preservation, ecological literacy, fair and humane treatment of humans and fellow species, continuous innovation, and economic equality.

Can we, as a human race, continue to slash the "Preservation" sticker onto portions of our Atlas, while detrimentally manipulating other lands and their food systems?

My mind, like my body, is hungry for more thoughts. It's a matter of hashing out the details as I attempt to do so now.

In the past month, I've eaten the best of San Louis Obispo with friends and future colleagues, at 13,800 feet altitude, in my current summer base, and soon after, the antithesis of San Francisco cuisine through Slow Food Nation. I will continue to eat, taking the moments before to acknowledge W. Berry and the fellow human beings who fully understand his sentiments.

Ideally, food systems are holistic, creating energy that reverts back to its original state: grow, eat, and repeat. It nourishes the body such that to, in some way, reincarnate our being.

An epicure-centric mind...


Anonymous said...


i like this.


Anonymous said...

Hai ..... The image of mules carrying food to the High Sierras leaves me with a non-culinary thought. Animals carrying food - lots of it - to folks who want to eat as they do on the flatland is not in the best interests of the delicate meadows up there. I've seen pack mules and horses do horrible damage when they're left untended in the Sierras. My preference is to walk in with what you can carry, no more. And that in itself is the point of backpacking. If you can't pack it and still be safe and comfortable, you don't need it. On the other hand, people who are not as ambulatory - possible me one day - should have access to these pristine spots as well. What is the solution to that conundrum? The truth is, no matter how careful one is, a person will leave a footprint of some sort. Your thoughts on food are very interesting. SG