Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Giving Thanks and Acting Up

A Purloined Letter from the Green Raven

Last year I learned how important the farm bill was to the way this nation approaches the way we eat. Recently, I've been moved by various requests to have an organic vegetable garden on the White House Lawn. And in her post yesterday, Green Bean shows us how important it is to work for a reasonable Secretary of Agriculture. We need to make food a national issue, not just a personal one.

But the way this nation thinks about food and the way we eat is at some level private. And it is easy to get overwhelmed and start believing that our personal choices make very little difference. Our personal decisions will not solve all the world's problems. We are going to need the large-scale governmental decisions--symbolic as well as real--to truly make a more sustainable society.

And yet...

The decisions we make in our personal lives may give us our strongest voice in the public world.

As Sharon Astyk points out, buying in to the idea that "private acts don't 'count' in the public sphere" takes away what may be our mightiest tool for change. She continues, "In isolation, buying local doesn't make much of a differnence." But when we join together, in our local communities and online, with neighbors and gardeners and farmers, we begin to create a new and better world. At a time of national crisis such as the one we are in now, the personal is political--and the political is deeply personal, as well.

* * *

So let us commit to making some private decisions, and let us make them in ways that connect us with our communities. As we approach Thanksgiving, this season of gratitude for our nation's abundance, I am hoping you will all join me in sharing a local Thanksgiving feast. Here is a chance to make a personal decision that will directly affect our real-life local communities--and to make that decision in a way which also makes a public stand in the online world.

The best part is that this act will serve us spiritually as well, making us aware that we provide our gratitude not only to our families and friends and to God-or-Whatever-You-Believe--but also to the farmers who provide us with that abundance, and also to the seeds and soil and rain and the sunshine that made it grow.

Crunchy Chicken has issued an official challenge. As she says, "It's not too late to start thinking about your Thanksgiving meal and how to make it as sustainable as possible. The most effective thing to do is to focus on providing foods that are in season, local and organic."

Consumers Union and the Eat Well Guide have teamed up to help you find what you need for your local meal. Puget Sound Fresh is encouraging people to go local this Thanksgiving, as is Seattle Tilth. The Daily Green is talking about it, as is New York magazine. Even Emeril is getting into the act, featuring recipes and farms from the Mid-Atlantic.

So, if you plan to have a turkey as your centerpiece, now is the time to see what your options are. Can you find a local, heritage, free-range, or organic turkey? Or even just a bird in a locally-owned store if you don't have access to something local at this point? Think about what your family traditions are as well as what is available at this season in your area (or what you've put up previously)--then figure out a menu.

Personally, I'm going to miss cranberries, which we have not been able to source locally so far. I think a fig chutney should keep me pretty happy, though. Another change I'm going to make, I think, is to move from wheat-bread stuffing to cornbread stuffing, since we grew corn in our little backyard this year. Perhaps we'll mash those few little potatoes we harvested. Our garden just might produce enough greens, and at the farmer's market we can acquire those absolutely essential Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and apples. Our turkey will come from an Amish farmer from whom we regularly procure our milk and cheese.

Just planning a meal with local sources will make you grateful for the gift of your community.

Tell us about your Thanksgiving plans!


Heather @ SGF said...

This is going to sound awful, but we try to hide. My family is a little over the top (I have stories that would make your head spin). We're talking about maybe going to my husband's best friend's house (Dallas), but we've been on and off sick so I don't know. We may hide in our house and turn off the phones and save our energy for the christmas party.

kale for sale said...

I prepared a local Tday dinner last year which made every dish a story of people and place but nothing got done in the order that it should. Instead we ate brussel sprouts followed by pumpkin pie and then went on to potatoes and somewhere after hours of small plates we had the turkey. There was so much laughter and the food was so real and good no one complained. In fact it was one of the best holidays ever.

Green Bean said...

I absolutely agree that environmentalism is deeply personal as well as policy driven. Making personal changes, in my mind, are the first steps that you can make and they will lead to a more meaningful, mindful life.

Sadly though - especially as Katrina's post made is sound so much fun - I've traveling to my parents' house and they are buying everything pre-made. A Whole Foods Thanksgiving. I doubt any of it will be local. For Christmas, though, we'll go nearly all local as that's how we eat most of the time.

Anonymous said...

I purchased a organic and local turkey, but I don't think I'm going to impress the inlaws with this on the table. (oh well) Luckily, cranberries are local here in Maine.

eco 'burban mom said...

I am actually out of town for work over Thanksgiving. Luckily, I am able to take my youngest son and my husband along. There won't be any festivites, however. We'll be in Paris, I'm pretty sure they aren't cooking a turkey on account of lil 'ol me. So, local will be a crepes from street vendors and wacky french food I try to force feed to a 4-year old. It should make for an interesting Thanksgiving meal!!

Heather @ SGF said...

eco 'burban mom - I LIKE your idea of Thanksgiving. I could totally make Paris a tradition :)

The Purloined Letter said...

I love all these great stories!

GB: I hope you don't think I was disagreeing with you about the fact public concerns are absolutely vital! Both public and private have to happen, and they have to be connected for the greatest change to happen.

I've been feeling frustrated at how little it matters whether I hang my bathroom wipes and dishtowels out to dry--but thinking about the link between what we do in our private homes, with our pens on these pages, and in government halls made me feel good, and strong. Thanks to all of you for always keeping me motivated.

Green Bean said...

Hannah, I know you are not disagreeing with me at all! This MUST be a combo of personal and policy-driven environmentalism.

eco 'burban mom said...

Heather - yeah, I'm afraid the 4-year old is going to expect Eiffel Towers and crepes every year, and I just won't be able to deliver on that one! Though, I'm with you. I buck the system on holiday traditions. Last year I was home and in charge of cooking and made a crab and corn chowder instead of turkey and fixings! I always feel like I'm running around and not enjoying my company. With a pot of chowder on the stove and guests bringing a loaf of crusty bread and a bottle of wine, I actually spent time with my guests and my kids for a change! Who knows what next year will bring???

Heather @ SGF said...

Next year? Rome :)

Now that you mention chowder, I haven't had corn chowder in so long and I love it. I'm going to have to can some corn next year so I can make some homemade. Sure does sound good. Do you have a favorite recipe?


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