In celebration of Independence Day, Gowan, Apple, and I marched in our quirky little small-town parade today. We wove through the streets of the Mendocino village in a procession of colorful and eclectic floats. It’s a snapshot of our funny little corner of the world which is quite unlike any other place. My mom came to the coast for the holiday to escape the Central Valley heat, so we tasked her with capturing some photos of us. In her characteristic diligent manner, she documented the entire procession. I will upload her pictures to our Facebook page tomorrow, so be sure to follow us.
As we walked with our neighbors, I was reflecting on what we were “standing” for. We were marching with the Moms Across America Label GMO group and flanked by our local and mighty Grange contingent. Our collective message was simple: real, safe food is a right. Our personal statement is that we can choose to exercise this freedom every time we put food in our mouths. Not that it’s simple, not that it’s always cheap, and not that it’s convenient. But, it is our right, and it is one that many of us give away every day.
Like voting, you have to show up and do it. The food system is subject to many of the same flaws as our democracy as they are inextricably linked; the deep pockets of corporate powers, suspect political agendas, and the strategic disenfranchisement of the poor. The difference is that when you cast your ballot, you are thrown into a convoluted electoral system that doesn’t ensure that your vote really matters (nor that it will even be counted). When you eat, your cells cannot be deceived. Eating real food, especially fresh local food, has profound impact on your sovereign body as well as huge social/political/ecological implications – with immediate return.
On a day that celebrates our independence, we have much to be grateful for. Running water, birth control, washing machines, the internet and now, finally, same-sex marriage. We are also a sick, stressed, and tired nation ridden with cancer and diabetes. How many people really feel healthy, relaxed and hopeful about dying happy in their sleep at ripe old age? The statistics are getting worse as time passes. Yet, optimism is appropriate when we realize that this, truly, is a matter we can take into our own hands, every day.
Every single time you eat, you are choosing to create the world you want to live in. It is that big of a deal. Every calorie is an investment in your own health and longevity, every dollar spent supporting a local farmer is a subsidy toward a local food economy, and every gallon of gas saved by consuming locally is a carbon credit that your children and neighbors will directly benefit from.
And perhaps the most important return of all is one that is more difficult to quantify: joy. We have compromised much in the name of convenience, efficiency and freedom – the simplest deep joys that come from harvesting potatoes (which is like a subterranean Easter egg hunt), waiting for the first tomatoes to ripen, or the sweet smell of a pie in the oven. We endlessly seek entertainment, happiness and stimulation without knowing what our lifestyles have cost us. Often what we chase just takes us further from what we need the most. Reconnecting with our food opens up new roads to bliss, daily.
So, how did we celebrate our freedom today? After the parade, we came back to my apartment and I supervised the ever acrobatic Apple while she mowed my lawn and Gowan assembled some patriotic taco salads for us.
Then mom and I toasted the day with a glass of Mendocino syrah. With every bite, and with every sip, I love this country.