Friday, July 14, 2006

In search of nourishment

I’m sure my forebears would find it amusing that practices carried on for basic survival for thousands of years have become exotic accomplishments slated to allotted leisure time for many of us in the 21st century. When our neighbors told us they were going on vacation for a couple of weeks and for us to help ourselves to their garden, I was more excited than if they’d presented me with a gift card to a spa. Why does eating food you have yourself pulled from the vine, that you have carefully cleaned and prepared, taste so much better than anything you can buy in the supermarket, even from the high priced organic produce aisles? And why should this have become such a bygone activity? To plant and harvest your own food, to nourish your body through the work of your manicured hands, the sweat on your well coiffed brow? Though in my youth I picked apples from the trees in our yard and tomatoes from the fields where I rode my bike and the generosity of the earth was pervasive and apparent, I have lived most of my adult life oblivious to the fact that the food that sustains me has been culled from the earth, the earth buried so far beneath our asphalt streets and steel high rises we can no longer feel it under feet or detect its fecund scent. The food we eat arrives from factories in sterile boxes and plastic wrap, symmetrical, scentless, spotless, from who knows where or what. But always dirt free.

We came from the earth and to the earth we will return. When we fully succumb to a Jetson’s-like existence, disconnected completely from our relationship to the land, to the source of our sustenance, what will have been gained and what will have been lost? Having now left my concrete existence behind, I hope to eventually find out.


Jenni said...

We joined an organic produce co-op for these very reasons - the best we can do until we buy a house and plant a garden of our own. I wash dirt off weekly produce and love it, but you are living the better life. I'm a bit envious!

Maleah said...

My grandparents had what I thought was a fairly large garden... but everything looks large in memory. One of my jobs as a young girl was to go between the rows of climbing bean vines and pick those underneath, out of reach of adult hands. The vines grew up on poles that were propped on each other in an upside down "V". What a cool, sandy, and wonderous place. And now my dad has planted a watermelon patch 400 feet long and 50 feet wide to bring himself back to his sharecropper childhood and he beams when he takes you to it and points out the "Black Diamond" variety growing there in the hot Louisiana sun. Maybe it is why I love "The Good Earth" or "The Grapes of Wrath" so, with their stories of how our lives are intertwined with the land. Why I love the rural South and drives past row after row of green crops and their flicker. Nourishment indeed.

allison said...


Apart from the basil I have growing in a pot, I'm the beneficiary of the work of others who have gotten their hands dirty. My garden, so far, exists only in my leisure dreams...

Last night we did pick the wild blackberries that grow around the perimeter of our property. None of them made it to the house.


Your dad has grown much more than watermelons...he's given Eleanor and Emmeline a vivid memory that will inhabit them for life. And anchor them to that same land. One day they'll display their bounty of choice to your great grandchildren and reminisce about riding watermelons in Grandad's garden.