February in Seattle & Thoughts on Wendell Berry

February 7, 2018

It’s confession time: I’m not in the mood to cook or find recipes.

It’s that *wonderful* time of year when there is more light during the day, but it still cold, rainy, and gray here in the PNW. This week it has been especially challenging to muster up the creative energy to cook something more exciting than made-from-scratch chicken noodle soup. It’s one of those weeks where I’m feeling the pull of life’s responsibilities more than the creative pull of the kitchen.

And that’s okay.

I have to remind myself that home cooking is a life-long endeavor. Some days/weeks I will feel more creative in the kitchen and other days I will make chicken noodle soup out of a roasted chicken and call it good.

I’ve been reading Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America. It’s poignant even 40+ years later. He discusses the issues that are facing both culture and agriculture: the state of our mega-farms and the erosion of the soil + land, the consequences to small farming communities and society as a whole.

The health of our farms and the state of our soil is not something we can escape from. Being able to feed our population for hundreds to thousands of years is crucial. And the current states of our food system + agriculture system do not account for resources like top soil lost to erosion. We have gone from diverse small farms 100+ years ago to these mega monoculture farms. The consequences of which we are only beginning to understand. If top soil is lost, and the nutrients needed to sustain plant life are becoming rapidly depleted because our ignorance and arrogance, how do we plan to feed our society in 20-50 years?

He makes the claim for personal responsibility and “kindly use” of resources and land. It got me thinking:

How can I shape my life around the conscious use of resources? What would this look like in my day-to-day life? What kinds of decisions do I need to make in a more conscious way?

Sure, I bring my own bags *most of the time* to the natural foods market where I shop. I bring a reusable cup to the coffee shop where I enjoy coffee roasted in-house. I make an effort to reduce my single-use plastics, recycle, compost, grow some food in a p-patch, and contribute to the local farmers markets.

But what more can I do as a conscious consumer of resources? What does it mean to be a truly conscious eater? How do my everyday decisions about the foods I put on my plate and the products I use in my home contribute to the resource use of our society?

I don’t think anyone can divorce themselves truly from the systems and societies in which they live. Inevitably I am going to use resources, as are all humans, but to a greater degree because of the society I live in. I don’t want my life to be a “holier than thou” judgement trap, but rather I want to reflect on how I’m using resources, what areas I can reduce my resource use, and how I can be a more mindful resource consumer. I think it’s time for us, as individuals, to take personal responsibility for the resources we use, make conscious choices to shift resources used when and where we can, and take responsibility for the state of our land.

“The concept of country, homeland, dwelling place becomes simplified as ‘the environment’–that is, what surrounds us. Once we see our place, our part of the world, as surrounding us, we have already made a profound division between it and ourselves. We have given up the understanding–dropped it out of our language and so out of our thought– that we and our country create one another, depend on one another, are literally part of one another; that our lang passes in and out of our bodies just as our bodies pass in and out of our land; that as we and our land are part of one another, so all who are living as neighbors here, human and plant and animal, are part of one another, and so cannot possibly flourish alone; that, therefore, our culture must be our response to our place, our culture and our place are images of each other and inseparable from each other, so neither can be better than the other.” ~Wendell Berry, page 24

Check out the book for a perspective-altering read.

May we all remember that we cannot be removed from the land on which we live, it affects us and we affect it. May we all make conscious choices in our every day lives that account for the resources used, and make more sustainable choices wherever and whenever possible.

As always, happy cooking, reflecting, and consciously making everyday decisions that affect the state of our health + society. Something better and more sustainable is possible, even if it is hard to imagine currently.


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