Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What’s for Dinner?

We are entering a period of change, and it is with some curiosity that I look for signs of significant changes on the horizon. I can see that our world will likely change in fits and starts rather than suddenly and profoundly. For example, just as the bludgeon of four dollar gas get Americans thinking about more fuel-efficient cars and maybe even adopting lifestyles that involve less driving, gas prices plunge and we slip back into our old habits. As a nation, we have the attention span of a bunch of eight- (or eighty-) year-olds.

One of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is how we will be eating in the future. There are predictions that we will be eating much more food from local sources. That makes so much sense in so many ways. In fact, today I finally signed up to participate in a local community farm at the Moose Hill Audubon sanctuary. I’ve had good intentions to do this since they opened a few years ago, but thanks to my normal procrastination (and never feeling like I had a few hundred bucks for the up-front payment lying around in January) I always got closed out of this popular project. I vowed this year would be different, and I dropped off my application on the very first day. I look forward to a summer of working cooperatively with my neighbors to coax sustenance from the soil of Moose Hill.

In my darker moments, I imagine a future where food will be scarce. Our economy is collapsing and the oil will soon run dry. We will squander dwindling resources in a pitiful attempt to preserve the old ways, unable to see the tidal wave of destiny bearing down on us. Too many of us will fall into a paralysis of despair instead of preparing for the new reality. The fossil fuel feeding frenzy will be over and fast food and cheap calories will be a fond fading memory. Too long will people cling to there pointless jobs as tanning salon attendants and life coaches. Not soon enough will Americans be working on their farmer’s tans and falling asleep at sundown after a hard day in the fields, too weary, hungry and broke to worry whether or not the feng shui of their vacation retreat is correct.

In these fatalistic fantasies I wonder if we will start harvesting the abundant living protein that is all around us, unused. My on-going war with the squirrels bent on chewing holes in my house has more than once had me wishing people would start craving savory squirrel stew. Not long ago, I counted seven fat gray squirrels on my small back lawn, and I’m not even feeding the birds this year because I don’t want to encourage the squirrels. As if reading my mind, friend Suzanne sent me an article from the New York Times about efforts in Great Britain to get the public to eat non-native (North American) gray squirrels that are displacing beloved native red squirrels. These English reds look a lot like the cute but annoying red squirrels that are trying to take up winter residence in my walls, but they have cute little tufts on their ears. Maybe in the not-too-distant future, squirrel will be on our menus as well. After all, how many war movies have we seen where the platoon sharpshooter was a good old boy squirrel hunter. Back to the future.

Just this morning I was talking with a friend on the other side of town. Outside his family room window, we watched as four whitetail deer nibbled the shrubbery in his backyard. Deer are everywhere and I wonder if it won’t be long before many more of them wind up in freezers. I was jogging along our Main Street a few weeks ago and a fat doe, killed by a car, was lying in the woods just off the road. I wondered if in a few years the motorist would have stopped to claim his prize rather than letting it go to waste.

Massive flocks of Canada geese fill the farm fields adjacent to Moose Hill this time of year. At other times they become pests as they waddle and poop on our beaches, lawns and golf courses. I can imagine a day when a hungry hunter will sneak up on the flock with a small crossbow and put a goose in the oven for his happy family.

In my deepest nightmares, I visualize clean statues in city parks after all the pigeons were roasted on sticks over gutter-trash campfires. When the rock doves get too wary, maybe starlings and sparrows would be next.

Those are my nightmares. In my daydreams on a sunny morning I see healthy and peaceful neighbors working shoulder-to-shoulder to reclaim our land for the production of water, food and fuel. Again we will work with the soil and learn its ways. Honest labor and sweat of the brow will be respected. Those who make real things will be honored. We will trust and love our neighbors because we have worked side by side and helped each other through hard times. We will share and rejoice in the bounty and understand how close we came to losing it all.

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