I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) last year just as the news about the economy started to get really desperate. My friends were getting laid off, some twice in the same year, and the collective anxiety of the country, of the world, really, was (and still is) palpable. It was then that I clung to her words about eating simple meals that are locally grown....there is something comforting about feeding your loved ones delicious meals made from ingredients we can actually pronounce and identify, and come from farmers from our region.
Kingsolver's book, if you are unfamiliar with it, documents the first year that her family pledged to eat only locally grown foods. They each were allowed one cheat food (coffee would be mine), but otherwise sustained themselves with foods they grew in their garden, meats they harvested themselves (the chapters on the mating habits of their Kentucky Bourbon turkeys is hsyterical), and food purchased from local farmer's markets. Many don't realize that before Kingsolver was a successful novelist she was a science writer, and she could write on virtually any subject and make it riveting. She is one of the most compassionate, intelligent humans on the earth, she really must be, and she is a complete inspiration to me, not only for her writing, but mostly for the way she lives her life - so intentionally and thoughtfully.
Which was the lesson I needed, and still am holding on to, for hope during this strange and frightening period.
Now I am going type a phrase here, and I am going to cringe. Simple pleasures. God, that was so painful, I am going to type it again: simple pleasures. Sounds like the title of an Oprah magazine article, or a harlequin romance novel. But really, it's something we need to relearn in this country, and we are obviously going to have to. Enjoying our lives, and our meals, is not about expensive food trucked in from all over the country, and dining in an expensive home. Some of the best meals I had in 2008 were eaten off of plates balancing on our laps, in the modest yet terrifically bohemian and cozy apartments of my friends, made from ingredients we'd purchased that morning at the Hollywood Farmer's market.
And it was lovely.