Food for thought again

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

Food for thought was provided at the recent 14th annual workshop by that name sponsored by the Northwest Audubon Society.

Keynoter Terra Brockman, founder of The Land Connection, shared thoughtful morsels. When asked what is local, since interest in eating locally is high, she responded, “As far as you have to go to get what you want.” While this was probably not the definition in the minds of most who were present, it did make us think.

She humorously shared the horror of people who claim farm-fresh fruit and vegetables are unfit for human consumption, since they are “grown outside in the dirt!” Her concerns went beyond those of us with ready access to fresh, wholesome food to those who get “no real food at all”—food inequity—being unable to consume any nutrition other than prepared “foods.”

Locally-grown foods were prepared by local cooks, reminding us of the lower transportation and fuel costs of eating locally. Recipes were willingly shared.

Mary Blackmore, who “has been gardening for 200 years,” provided hints on root cellaring, a low-impact technique for preserving foods for the non-gardening season. The exhausting work and energy use of canning, freezing and drying can be avoided for many foods. Of course, these techniques are needed to preserve some produce, especially fruit. Specific hints and a summary were printed to share with the audience.

Everyday people shared amazing things with other everyday people who make a positive difference in the world through their individual and collective actions, providing healthy foods and a healthier environment.

A Rockford couple with two small children shared their one-year food odyssey eating locally. They were amazed to discover their diet had more variety and cost less than eating imported and processed foods. They were also amazed their children had little desire for other foods when the year was over. She advised that a diet composed totally of locally-grown (much of it in their own garden) and prepared (baking from scratch and canning) food was possible at the time since she was a full-time mom, but that it was time-consumingly impractical for most people in the 21st-century world.

Two real farmers, women who returned to the land for natural lives filled with real food grown for self and others, shared their passion. Andi Hazzard was concerned that we “outsource all of our ugliness.” She believes that people need to understand the entire cycle of their food, that those who eat meat should do at least some of their own butchering to know the fleetingness of life. Butchering one’s own animals “hurts the heart.”

While milk, eggs and cheese were part of the menu, little meat was prepared. The day’s fare was primarily vegetarian, using natural foods close to the the earth. Later, we smelled the sweet, fresh earth of our gardens. It reminded us of the silly ’90s camp song, “Dirt made my lunch.”

Finally, Rich Benning, who has presided over the event for as long as we can remember, mused that perhaps preaching to the choir is not bad, since “the choir can sing louder now.”

From the Nov. 17-23, 2010 issue

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