I am very excited to introduce you to Tatiana from Mama Philosopher today! Tatiana is a passionate educator, mother, homesteader and local food advocate! She firmly believes that we can all “figure out (our) truth and (live) it”, which is a statement I deeply resonate with and is a part of this whole adventure in local eating! Tatiana’s gentle nature and beautiful writing have a magical way of drawing one in, even if just for a moment or two.
I hope you enjoy getting to know Tatiana a bit through these four books she’s picked for us to delve into. I haven’t read them all yet, but with her recommendation, you can bet they’ll be on my bookshelf in no time flat!
In my humble opinion, all good adventures should include a good book. The same is true for adventures in local eating! The local food movement has spawned a number of great reads. Some of my favorites are local food memoirs. Local food memoirs are books that chronicle year-long adventures in local eating.
Here are four local food memoirs for your inspiration, education, and entertainment:
Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon are two Canadian journalists who alternate chapters throughout Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet. The authors split their time between an apartment in Vancouver and a cabin in northern British Columbia. In Vancouver, there are many foods available to them, due to the long and wet growing season and their proximity to the Pacific Ocean. At the cabin in northern B.C., the authors use their time to subsist on a much smaller radius, which includes their garden and foods that can be wild harvested within walking distance. MacKinnon and Smith smoke salmon, freeze prawn, can tomato sauce, make jam, bake apple pies, make homemade pasta, and eat lots of potatoes. The three main barriers they must overcome are sourcing various whole foods (they don’t find flour until 9 months into their local food year), learning to cook from scratch instead of relying on processed or packaged goods, and re-imagining food substitutions, like capers (now nasturtium seedpods) and tea (herbal instead of green or black). Some of the foods that are not available in their area are tropical fruits like oranges and mangoes, rice, champagne (though there are wines), and cooking oils (they have to cook with butter instead). Their version of the 100-mile rule includes some caveats, such as the freedom to finish any non-local food in the pantry, to bring foods home from travels (but not travel solely for the purpose of getting food), and eat non-local when business, travel obligations, and good manners require it.
Not quite as strict as Smith and MacKinnon, Barbara Kingsolver’s family profoundly changes their lives to accommodate a local food year. Kingsolver is best known for her work in fiction, which includes Prodigal Summer, The Poisonwood Bible, and The Lacuna. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, her writing is accompanied by that of her husband Steven L. Hopp, whose short asides throughout the book provide information on topics such as the federal farm bill’s inability to help farmers and the fact that the government does not have the authority to recall tainted beef. Kingsolver’s daughter, Camille Kingsolver (19 at the time), ends each chapter of the book with a vignette and a few recipes. The family of four (which includes Kingsolver and Hopp’s daughter Lily, 9) begins their journey by packing up their lives in Tucson, Arizona and moving to a farm in Virginia where they grow their own food, raise chickens and turkeys, and become enmeshed in the local community. Their year of local eating begins with the first asparagus of the season and allows for the inclusion of oil, bulk rice, and locally milled grains. Each family member was allowed to choose one non-local item that could be derived from a fair-trade source. Their choices were: coffee, dried fruit, hot cocoa, and locally unavailable spices.
While Kingsolver believes that Tuscon, Arizona is an unsustainable place to live, Gary Nabhan shows that it just takes a little more creativity. In, Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Food, Nabhan resolves to eat foods produced within a 250-mile radius of his Arizona home. Nabhan is an ethnobotanist who consumes many wild and indigenous foods such as saguaro cactus fruit, wild greens (collected on the roadside), and mesquite flour. Nabhan is passionate about heirloom animal breeds and seeds, keeping a rare breed of turkey in his back yard and experimenting with different varieties of squash in his vegetable garden. Nabhan’s local food year was not exclusive, as he held himself to the goal of four out of every five meals being locally derived and nine out of every ten plants and animals being native to the region. Technically a local menu in this region could include many feedlot animals and conventionally grown vegetables, but Nabhan swore off these as well. He started his local food year by collecting all the non-local non-perishables in his home and dropping them off at the food shelf.
Far from Nabhan’s desert southwest home, Bill McKibben describes a very different local food year in his home of rural Vermont in Chapter 2: The Year of Eating Locally from, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. A journalist and environmental activist, McKibben’s description of local food eating is one facet of his larger argument about the importance of local economies. Instead of a specific mile radius, McKibben chose to limit his food sources to the Champlain Valley, which encompasses parts of New York and Vermont. McKibben’s experiment connects him to the regional farmers who have made the local food year much easier through the production of previously unavailable goods like wheat flour, as well as those who are attempting to produce enough variety of vegetable and animal products to supply a family with all their food needs year-round. Most of McKibben’s chapter evidences his penchant for research into environmental problems. In his calculating style, McKibben concludes with a short cost-benefit analysis of his year of local food stating the main cost not to be money, but the time spent planning meals. The payoffs are a web of new connections in the community, every meal coming with a story, and a closer connection to the geography of his valley. The benefits, he concludes, far outweigh the costs.
Tatiana sees her life as a journey of rejecting perfectionism and finding peace in her life and work. She is passionate about mindfulness, women’s wisdom, and ecological lifestyles. Tatiana lives in the Adirondack Mountains of New York with her husband, Josh, and their two boys: Birch (almost 5) and Bliss (4 months). She enjoys cooking with whole foods, knitting, getting lost in a good book, and being outside. You can find Tatiana on Facebook or twitter, or connect with her directly through her blog: mamaphilosopher.com.