Every bite we take comes with a backstory of interconnected narratives. The problem is, we’ve taken so many bites throughout human history that—somewhere along the way—we stopped paying attention to the plot details behind what’s sitting at the end of our forks. Before we talk about the local food stories that are being written in our communities, let’s go back to Chapter One.
This food ignorance developed out of a necessary division of labour and skills. We couldn’t all be farmers, we couldn’t all be doctors, and we certainly couldn’t all be both at the same time. But as the wheels of progress kept turning, we started getting a little too flippant with how many tasks and important life skills we delegated to someone—somewhere—else. We can’t all bake bread. We can’t all grow gardens. We can’t all cook supper. Before long, the complicated story of what was on our plates became a brief synopsis that would end shortly after it began, all the finer details—the whos, the hows, the wheres—almost entirely edited out.
But we can’t just read the last chapter of a book and walk away feeling like we know the whole story. The finer details—those whos and hows and wheres—they are a pretty integral part of the plot. The tale of the kale grown on a small organic farm has a different “how” then the kale grown on a large industrial farm. If the “where” is California instead of the Columbia Valley, or if the “who” is a multinational conglomerate instead of a first and last name you recognize from parent-teacher night—these variables not only have a massive impact on what kind of story is sitting on our plate, they also shape the narrative of our communities, ecosystems and landscapes.
If we went back and read all the pages we skipped, we often wouldn’t like what was written. But we can’t just ignore the chapter on the preservatives used to keep food shipped from half a world away looking fresh. Nor the chapters on soil depletion, carbon emissions, fertilizer run-off, pesticides, habitat destruction, water use, agricultural workers and a stagnant local economy. If it’s a part of the story, it’s a part of the story. So, much like with an actual book, if you catch yourself reading something you don’t like, put it down and pick up something better.
Take this carrot, for example (for the sake of this analogy, imagine I am holding a carrot). What is its story? Well, if I bought it from a local grower at the local market, its story would be intertwined with the story of my own community. I could shake hands at the local watering hole with the very hands that plucked its orange root from the earth—a small, eco-friendly patch of soil so close to home that I could point it out on a map drawn on the back of my palm. I could rest easy knowing that my organic midnight snack would not include any surprise pesticide characters; that the tale of its journey to my plate would not include the long carbon trail found when an origin story is set in a far off land.
And maybe the freshness of each crisp bite would inspire me to plant that carrot garden I’ve been secretly thinking about all these years. Suddenly I’ve joined a local garden community. I’ve started reading PDFs on how to compost at home, signing up for cold-climate gardening courses, attending permaculture events, touring farms at bird festivals, sharing wild ideas at local cafes and watching my carbon footprint shrink before my eyes. Before long, I’m holding a carrot in my hand that has me listed in the credits as Head Writer.
But that’s just one scenario. Maybe it’s not a carrot for you. Maybe it’s a mushroom. Or honey, milk, bread—whatever. If every bite comes with a story, become a bookworm. Seek out the narratives that speak to you the most and dig in. You’ll soon notice that our Kootenay communities are like giant libraries full of inspiring food stories—stories waiting for you to throw yourself into and stories waiting for you to help write. Here’s a few from off the Wildsight shelf…
As you can see, there’s a whole network of interconnected food stories waiting to be discovered. And that’s just a taste. With all of our Wildsight branches—Creston Valley, Elk Valley, Golden, Kimberley/Cranbrook, Invermere—there is always a new event or program being added in our communities, so make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up on any new food stories for you to dive into.
And happy eating/reading/writing!