Learning What We Used To Know
So, I’m new to the notion of gleaning, and to living a life where I can make a choice about where my food comes from. Bigger cities are a special kind of “food desert”, where you can get anything at any time, as long as you don’t want to know where it came from. What people call “Big Food” is big business, and part of their job is to crush the competition. To accomplish this, these companies advocate legislation prohibiting the distribution of food in public places, unfenced gardens and livestock like yard chickens. After one near arrest for passing out sandwiches to homeless folks in a Denver park, I can attest to how serious cities are about these ordinances. The argument in favor of these laws is that they protect public health, and that’s true. It’s true for one reason only, though…
We got stupid.
Now, when I say “stupid”, what I actually mean is ignorant. We have allowed ourselves, over the past few generations, to forget nearly everything our evolution ever taught us about the natural world and our place in it. There are countless skills that have been lost, that we, as a culture, have abandoned. This lack of knowledge leaves us more vulnerable than we realize.
I have evidence of this, though it’s purely anecdotal. I have a friend still in Denver… Let’s call her Pauline. My friend Pauline, WHO TOTALLY EXISTS, is kind of a mess, physically and emotionally. While I’m sure many factors contribute to her issues, I honestly believe that, were she not in the city, she wouldn’t be nearly as sick as she is. Pauline is chronically “busy”, which means she is constantly stressed. She eats out at least once a day, usually drive-thru fare. She is dangerously overweight and genuinely has no idea why, she has high blood pressure, anxiety, sinus problems and ends up with bronchitis at least twice a year. Her knees are shot and the only exercise she gets is the rush from her house to the car. Recently, she told me about a doctor visit wherein it was suggested that she cut way back on animal protein and eat small meals, six times a day. Pauline has no earthly idea how she can accomplish this, just like she has no idea why fruit is better than juice or how her intestinal health impacts her immune system.
The thing is, it’s not her fault. When her eyes widened at the thought of me gathering stuff from the side of the highway and she asked me if I was planning to, like, EAT it, I realized how complete the victory of “Big Food” is. Pauline has been completely brainwashed into a fear of anything that doesn’t come from a store or restaurant, wrapped in plastic or waxed paper. Only that is food. Everything else is, on some level, dangerous to her.
We have forgotten how our bodies were designed to function, we have forgotten how to grow things. We have forgotten how to cook, we have forgotten hard-won lessons on procuring and preparing real food. Real food is work, it’s sweat, it’s imperfect. It’s the way we’re meant to be, grazing on seeds and berries as we explore the landscape. Kind of like eating six small meals a day, mostly plants.
So, with this first post, I’d like to congratulate all of us on finding our way back to this very elemental place. Now that our toes are back in the dirt, may we be wise enough to embrace this way of living as our birthright. Humans have always been opportunistic gatherers. That’s why when we go find our own food, it feels good… It feels like coming home.