Eating the Abundance
by Nadine LeBean (The Wandering Market)
I spend a lot of time wondering what humans are supposed to eat. What foods will put us in our prime, producing generation after generation of strong, healthy children?
Why has it become so complicated? Where did we get lost? It seems that all other animals instinctively know what to eat. Surely, people at one time learned and knew how to eat in order for us to get this far?
Now, we have hundreds of conflicting diets with specific lists of foods to consume, and they all have supporting scientific info and experts that claim their diet is the right one for humans. It’s overwhelming to those like you and me, who want be eating in a way that is both ethical and nutritionally sound. We will invest a lot into being with the right diet because it can mean the difference between life and death for us.
Think about all the cultures that live on the foods that our expensive diets call taboo and bad. Not only are people thriving on breads, meats, grains, dairy, fats, and sugar, these foods are considered sacred to them. They give them life and keep them strong. I wonder if the sacred cultural element makes the difference, along with being witness to the miracle of these foods coming into existence. How much does it change a person to see them through the seasons and have to wait patiently as flowers turn to sweet berries?
Something very profound hit me the other day while we were driving through the mountains. I watched the deer grazing on the side of the highway and I wondered what made the deer eat the grass and not the roadkill? I imagined the bears foraging on berries and salmon, beyond in the wild, and realized that if they stumbled into my campsite, they would eat all the artificial foods we brought in. They would eat the marshmallows and beer and even the garbage. They would make them sick and profoundly and permanently change their personalities, making them dangerous to humans. So, maybe what to eat is more about the environment we are in and less about the actual food? Because, if the food isn’t naturally in the habitat, then it’s probably not food. Maybe people once knew that our environment is the food. Now, we go to the grocery store which gives us the false illusion that food is separate from us and where we live. It also tells us that everything is abundant all the time. But it’s not a real abundance as there are great costs to have these things. It is not sustainable to use hundreds of calories to transport only a few calories of food. Miles and miles of transportation along with slave labour and ingredients that aren’t really even food are clues that our “healthy diets” may be a little off if it is only a list of foods that we are considering. Our diets need to ask us where we live and what’s available.
I think I have felt this all along, that my surroundings are my food, but I didn’t have the words. Wherever we are, I feel drawn to look for edibles and eat as I search for what is available and abundant within the landscape. There is so much to be found growing within your area that you will be amazed! I haven’t visited a yard, market, or park that didn’t have edible local food that I could eat. They are there, just sitting and staring at me. There’s wild foraging in safe unsprayed areas along with the farmers’ markets and health food stores that often have amazing foods grown by local people who can tell you the story of your carrot. It’s always so exciting to us to spot a bush outside the library loaded with buffaloberries or a patch of horsetail to dry for teas. Now, when I plan our meals, I look to see what we have or can get locally. When the chickens are moulting and the eggs are low, we ration them saving them only to blend into our coffee. When the chickens are pumping them out, we eat eggs in everything, especially our coffee!
I bet many of you have neighbours with apple and other fruit trees that they don’t plan to harvest and would love to have you come clean it up. I love the abundance of having hundreds of jars of homemade applesauce from the neighbour’s tree. The jars provide a wonderful source of food for my family as well as trade items to obtain other people’s abundance.
Once you start looking, the list of abundant foods that you can find and identify will become longer and you will learn to use them in new ways. Dandelions go great in McDonald’s burgers because that’s what this is about. We have to work with where we are at and not expect to change overnight. We need to start somewhere and remember that every little new thing we can do makes a difference!
Nadine LeBean moved to Gravelbourg, SK, from big-time Edmonton, AB, eight years ago with her partner Michael, in pursuit of a simpler, more natural life. Their dreams of what Saskatchewan could provide have been greatly exceeded as they tour around with their five non-schooling children in search of good foods produced on small farms. They can be contacted through The Wandering Market on Facebook or on their new blog www.thewanderingmarket.wordpress.com, where they document their adventures and all they are learning through their alternative lifestyle.