Salon + Supper

April 10 @TheRiveter

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In collaboration with Ecolibrium Farms, we set up shop once again in The Riveter kitchen, this time to host their monthly Salon + Supper.  In honor of Earth Month, we focused our food systems dialogue around plastic packaging.

Members and their guests joined us at the kitchen island to prep our seasonally inspired meal.  While chopping, zesting, and stirring the pot, we answered the evening's opening circle question - what plastic item in your kitchen are you loathe to give up?

Our Menu

  freshly pickled last season's carrots

root vegetable stew

bitter greens salad

Kirsop Farm amaranth

 

Lively conversation ensued.  We explored recycle and compost options, what really happens after the recycle bin gets picked up, commercial use of plastic containers (from farm to store to restaurant), toxicity in our foods, alternative packing, and more.  Over amaranth alegrias (think nutty cookie-like dessert), we shared our action items for Earth Month 2018.

Thanks The Riveter Community for an inspired evening!

Pop-up Lunch

March 19 @theriveter

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As we hibernated over winter, we wondered...what happens when two people show up in a work space with farm fresh ingredients, a burner, a pot, and some kitchen tools and just start cooking?  We emerged at The Riveter on the final day of winter to test a theory that community can be built around food.  While people sat in the distance at laptops in their own worlds, we took over a kitchen in plane sight of all, and made lunch. 

Lunch Menu

Chickpea and vegetable stew with pungent spices

Kale Salad with fresh herbs, lemon, walnuts and apple

Local PNW Quinoa

Fresh pressed Ginger tea with honey

One by one, folks crept up to the counter and inquired.  We invited them to eat.  Soon we had a half dozen people taking a moment out of a busy day to eat a warm meal and indulge in conversation. 

Dinner Together

December 11 @theriveter

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We gathered around a pot of soup.  After a little time dreaming about our favorite holiday guilty pleasures, it was time to massage the kale for a salad, stir the stew, and sit down together.

Over a vegetarian meal the conversation somehow came to focus on animals and slaughter.  How we arrived there is unclear, but immediately it felt necessary and natural to discuss our attitudes towards meat.

As all meals eventually do, we concluded, with empty plates and full bellies.  Clean up is as important as the prep, and we did it together.

Conversations

November 2017 @ wherever we are

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We're hitting pause this month to assess what we've learned so far and contemplate the future of this project.  Stay tuned for our December gathering date and location!

As we discuss our model for coming together and sit with emerging food systems themes, we keep coming back to the word digest.  What does that mean for us?  How do we facilitate experiences together that encourage digestion of ideas alongside a meal?  How do we remain focused squarely on the food, each other, and carrying our conversations from month to month, rather than the documentation and promotion of our time together?  How do we really move this gathering beyond the people we know so it's a reflection of our larger community and not just those who look like us and live near us?

We're inspired by The Civil Conversation Project, from On Being, and their Better Conversations Starter Guide - 

Our young century is awash with questions of meaning, of how we structure our common life, and who we are to each other. It seems we are more divided than ever before – unable to speak across the diferences we must engage to create the world we want for ourselves and our children. 

Yet you and I have it in us to be nourishers of discernment, fermenters of healing. We have the language, the tools, the virtues – and the calling, as human beings  – to create hospitable spaces for taking up the hard questions of our time.

This calling is too important and life-giving to wait for politics or media at their worst  to come around. We can discover how to calm fear and plant the seeds of the robust civil society we desire and that our age demands. 

This is civic work and it is human, spiritual work – in the most expansive 21st century sense of that language. We can learn for our time what moral imagination, social healing, and civil discourse can look like and how they work.  

The Civil Conversations Project is a collection of audio, video, writings, and resources for planting new conversations in families and communities. How do we speak the questions we don’t know how to ask each other? Can we find ways to cross gulfs between us about politics and the meaning of community itself? How to engage our neighbors who have become strangers? Can we do that even while we continue to hold passionate disagreements on deep, contrasting convictions? How is technology playing into all this, and how can we shape it to human purposes?  You will have your own questions – particular to your community and concerns – to add.

Lunch on the Farm

October 8, 2017 @ Ecolibrium Farms

The ideal circumstance for efficient digestion would go a little like this: You begin preparation of your meal with your family by going our to your own garden and picking fresh vegetables. You see fresh food and vibrant colors, and completely appreciate all the time and effort that has gone into growing it. The appreciation would not be limited to yourself and your family who tended the garden, but of course also to Nature—for the plants’ efforts and the miracle of the sun, the soil, and the seed all coming together to create this beautiful food. You bless the food first and then eat the food over thoughtful conversation, or listening to music that is conducive to good digestion.
— Melina Meza, Art of Sequencing

We began in the fields with this reading.  We wandered and gathered, whatever looked good.  We brought it all to the table by the fire and made up a menu together.  Some washed, some chopped, some nibbled, some stirred the pot.  We sat down late afternoon to our feast - radishes, bread, butter, soup, salad, wine - and with each other.   

When was the last time you were on a farm?  we asked each other.  The answers led us here and there and everywhere.  We showed up mostly strangers and left friends.  

Access

September 11, 2017 @ the Riveter

Our previous conversations have so far synthesized down into one central theme: Access, but access can mean a lot of different things. In an effort to remove bias from the conversation we began with simply with the one word prompt.

Questions immediately flurried, what is access? who needs it? who has it? why is it good? is it good? 

The multilayered and many aspects that access has in how people eat and interact with the food system is astounding. Lack of access to the "right kinds" of foods (whole, local, sustainable) is as much a problem as the overabundance to highly processed, nutritionally bare, fast food. Even more crucial are the skillsets, time, and resources required to prepare sound meals. Our current food system leaves huge swathes of our community as food deserts, neighborhoods where "good" food simply cannot be found. Couple this with the extreme economic pressure that these same communities endure and finding time to prepare your own food becomes impossible.

The parents and adults in these areas are under immense pressure to work as many hours as possible just to make ends meet. Cooking classes and sustainable eating initiatives fall short in addressing the real problem, access in this case is far more than the physical availability of good food. How can you fault a parent that works two jobs and doesn't want to spend their few remaining hours shopping, cooking, and cleaning?

Children offer the best opportunity to enact real change. Primary and secondary school initiatives are often the first introduction that a child has to sustainable, whole food. It is paramount that this introduction is fun, approachable, and actionable. Studies have shown that educating our children on the importance of conscious eating can make a huge impact on the way the entire family eats. Allowing students to learn about carrots, gets their hands in the dirt, and taste a carrot they have grown themselves builds a connection and relationship that is hard to shake. A relationship that enriches their lives in the immediate and serves as an example of our best opportunity in rebuilding the social glue that our food system can be. 

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In the thick of it

August 2017 @ Ecolibrium Farms

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This is the moment. The apex of our summer flush.

Right now everything, truly everything, is in season. The perfect mash between the last crops from earlier this year, and the full-on production of high summer. Now more than ever the farm dictates my life, and drives my inspiration. All around is an astounding diversity of fresh fruits and vegetables. A healthy sheen and summer tan come standard as the entire region is abuzz with festivals and camping and hikes and bikes.

Rebekah and I have long talked (since the day we met) about the emotional significance of sharing food. From a biological perspective this is the ultimate submission of a individual into the tribe. To give up some of your own food, your own survival, in return for shared community and safety. Safety in numbers. Family. The most powerful ties we have in life. 

Today, far too often these tenants of human behavior are ignored and belittled as inconvenient and time consuming. Our relationships, families, and selves suffer as a result.

In August these two paradigms crash together and even the most inaccessible parts of our food system get a breath of fresh air, a summer barbecue, vegetables and fruit so ripe all you have to do is bite into them. A democratization of healthy eating made possible only by nature’s overwhelming bounty.

For me (and most of us) this is a highlight of the year, where the colors, flavors, and feelings are at their most poignant and bright. For some of our community, our city, the people we rub elbows with everyday this may be their only interaction with local produce all year long, if they get it at all.

I eat peaches by the pound and berries by the handful, I don’t even step foot into a grocery store this month choosing instead to eat from the market. Meanwhile, children and families right here are robbed of that opportunity, provided an overabundance of shoddy, flavorless, and convenient food. 

The New Foodieism

July 2017 @ our summertime haunts

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Our summer reading includes Mark Bittman's new weekly column at grubstreet.com.  His thoughts on foodies in The New Foodieism felt like a vision statement for what we are working on at The Seattle Digest.  Here's an excerpt.

These are food issues. Six of the eight worst-paying jobs in the U.S. involve food. When “foodies”       (I don’t mind the term, but it’s gotta mean more than talking about eating) address these issues in the food community, directly or indirectly, we do work that helps everyone. To be a foodie now is to know that we must protect the rights of farm workers, retail workers, restaurant workers, immigrants, anyone who is harassed at work and/or at home (mostly women), and laborers who make minimum wage or less, often without benefits.

The work of real foodies includes farming, battling for universal free (and good) school lunches, struggling to close CAFOs, increasing access to fruits and vegetables, reclaiming land from monoculture, and way more.

We have to discuss diet, environmental, and farming issues. We have to address these issues in the context of making sure all people can afford good food, as well as in the contexts of public health, general well-being, and the means to care for the earth. Better wages are essential, but let’s include income inequality, guaranteed basic income, and a no-questions-asked safety net in the conversation.

This is all interrelated. You can’t address nutrition issues without addressing agriculture, because as long as there’s monoculture, there will be junk food. And you can’t fix agriculture without addressing immigration and labor. You can’t fix immigration and labor inequality without empowering women and so-called minorities, or without rationalizing both energy and agriculture.

Our First Gathering

May 15, 2017 @ the Riveter

The culture of food is as important, if not more important, than the production of food...Because our food system is disconnected.  It operates in silos: vegetables here, animals here, grains somewhere else — each component part separate from the others and unhitched to any kind of culture.”
— Dan Barber, The Third Plate

The invitation was to come explore sustainability and the food system.  Our guiding premise was inspired by a book we'd both recently read, The Third Plate.  Our plan was to show up with a few ideas and minimal structure, then let the project be shaped by those who showed up.  Certainly we wanted to be rooted in a few basic notions -

  • systems thinking - a theory that explores the links among the seemingly unconnected and uses this holistic understanding to re-imagine current systems through elegant and innovative design. This methodology can be used to help organizations and individuals move beyond problem-solving to discover and implement patterning or structures for long-term health and wellbeing.  
  • accessibility - envisioning a healthy food system for land and people as a right for all, rather than a privilege.  
  • diversity - we enter the system where we are, as we are and hope the discussion will only broaden with time to include a variety of voices from across cultures, races, genders, ages, and identities. 
  • collaboration - a work in progress that we all contribute to, taking turns to both lead and listen.

About 15 of us gathered around a table to see what could happen when we asked each other a few questions and shared our ideas. 

We started with a Check-in Question - when were you last on a farm?

The discussion split into two groups to delve into production/consumption (the whys and whats of the system) and culture (optimal conditions for eating and digestion, the importance of community, cuisine).  After a time, the dialogue merged and we took from it a framework for future conversations.

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