catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 10 :: 2008.05.16 — 2008.05.30


Learning new ways

I’ve always been passionate about all things “green.” For my tenth birthday, I asked for a compost bin, knowing that, if that was all I asked for, my parents would feel guilty not getting it for me. For years, I’ve annoyed friends and families with recycling reminders and admonishments to walk more and drive less. However, I had never thought much about the impact of my food choices on the environment that I claimed to care about so deeply.

Then, around this time last year, I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. When I picked up Kingsolver’s book, I thought it looked like an easy spring read. I figured it wouldn’t be anything that I hadn’t heard before, but the cover was pretty and the title intriguing. I checked it out from the library and was immediately sucked in. For me, reading about Kingsolver and her family’s resolution to eat locally was like sitting outside on a nice summer evening catching up with an old friend, except that the old friend was introducing me to new ideas and new ways of thinking about food and consequences and community.

Kingsolver opened up my eyes to the ramifications of what, how and why we eat what we do. Her prose convinced me of the importance of food in our communities and in our families and what consequences are in store for us as a society as our “food” increasingly becomes stuff that our grandparents wouldn’t recognize as food. Kingsolver never discusses her faith (or lack thereof), but her family’s stories taught me truths about God’s desire for us to be more thoughtful and appreciative in all things, especially such an enjoyable and memorable activity as eating.

During their experiment, Kingsolver and her family learn to relish the value of hard, manual labor and seeing the results of their work in the fresh taste of a summer tomato picked right off the vine or the beauty of a mountain of steamed asparagus straight from the garden. Kingsolver’s narrative reminded me that, as Christians, we are called to care for the poor and marginalized in our own backyard, not just those we often hear about in Darfur or the Congo. It is a sad reality that most of our small-family farmers have been forced out of business by the large, corporately-owned “farms” that over-produce genetically-modified corn and soybeans or mass produce poultry, beef and pork in conditions that no natural being should be forced to endure.

Reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle made me more conscious of what I put in my mouth—where it came from, how far it traveled to get to my plate, the people who toiled so that I could enjoy it. Last summer, I started an organic garden in our little suburban backyard. My family and neighbors enjoyed salsa made from the fruits of our garden almost all summer long. This spring, my grandmother is teaching me the lost art of canning because we’ve doubled the size of our garden and have joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and we want to be able to enjoy local produce all year long. Next weekend, our church will plant an organic community garden that we’ll use to stock the food pantries in our community. I’m anxious to make new friends there, as we enjoying working the land together for the benefit of those who are hungry.

I too often think that I’ve heard it all when it comes to certain topics I care about. I’m learning that there is always more to learn and that words are powerful things. I’m anxious to see how what I’m reading and learning about now will be affecting my family, my church and my community this time next year.

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