Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Spice Route

I am a Stranger amongst Strangers, yet curiously feel at home as I head towards Spice Paradise on a rainy Saturday night. I know this street even though I don’t live in NR3. I lived in inner city neighbourhoods for a big chunk of my life, Westbourne Grove in the 60s and 70s was a London W2 Magdalen Street. I would lean out of my window at twilight and hear the slap slap slap of the chapati makers in one of the six Indian restaurants along the Grove and smile as our cat vainly licked his turmeric-stained paws, evidence of his tandoori chicken raids from their dustbins. My student life was spent among sweat shops and sweet shops in the slumland heart of Birmingham. Wherever I travelled thereafter the scent of cumin and coriander came with me: those Eastern spices became an indelible part of my kitchen.

So the “only South Indian restaurant in Norfolk” was the obvious choice when I invited Ed Mitchell and Gary Alexander from the Transition Network to meet over a Cobra and a dosa. “TN has organised a big celebration here next week,” I said and outlined the plan: puppet workshops, art exhibitions, craft stalls, local bands, performance . . . the street’s changed a lot, said Ed, who used to promote reggae bands just beyond the flyover where all the action will be on Saturday. Twenty years ago when he was in “Dev” at UEA there was a sharp edge. Now some of that edginess has softened, relaxed. There are rainbows in between the dark buildings. This neighbourhood restaurant is like that too. Light, spacious, colourful (predominantly a shocking salmon pink). South Indian food is feminine in comparison to the warrior cuisine of the North: airy dosas made of rice and lentils, fragrant fillings and dipping sauces, sweet coconut, sour tamarind. It’s a friendly place. Everyone was smiling. Even on the busiest night of the week we were left in peace as we discussed Transition comms for over three hours. I haven’t felt so relaxed in an eating house like that for a long time.

Afterwards we walked past Aladdin's, the café and patisserie where many of the Celebration’s planning meetings have taken place, and some of the street’s international grocers. If you have time on Saturday check out the great Indian spice shops: Mr Miah's and the newly open Spice Land where the owners are from the key spice territory, Kerala (the shop owners will be "Living Books" for the day so do ask questions about food). Cooks from the One Planet Community Kitchen buy sacks of rice and bags of cinnamon and cumin here. These are the exotic grocers that whet your appetite with their piles of world produce. The scent of a thousand dishes meets you as you stand among stacks of plantain and yams and gaze along the crammed shelves. For me, now a country dweller, this is the city. Something you can’t find anywhere else. A global meeting place where everyone can feel at home. Listen out for that different drum beat!

Spice Paradise No. 41 (01603 666601)- Aladdin's Cafe and Patisserie No. 3 (766112). A Miah & Co No. 20-20a (615395). For full information about the event To give a hand on the day or 07747 751656.

Spices from the One Planet Community Kitchen; marigold, cosmos and fennel seeds from the garden; Aladdin's interior; TN and Taiko (Japanese) drummers outside Forum in March.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

In Praise of the Great Tomato

In the Low Carbon Cookbook we'll also be looking in depth at ingredients. Taking certain key plants and following their tracks across the world and in our imaginations. Today I'm highlighting the Tomato because this new world fruit has made its way into practically every kitchen in the world since it's "discovery" (by Cortez in Mexico in 1519). The tomato is often the first plant people grow on their own and was the most talked about plant in the TN Seedling Swap in May. It's easy to manage, fitting happily into pots and town gardens, inside or outside. Brushing past the scent of its leaves brings the memory of greenhouses, childhood, summer, Italy. . .

It has an allure like all members of its family, the Solanaceae which include the edible (potato, aubergine, chili) to the mind-altering (datura, belladonna, henbane). Pretty, often deeply scented flowers, exciting dark foliage, mysterious fast-growing fruit and tubers. Today it is a mainstay of the global fast food system (think ketchup and pizza) as well as modern classic cuisines (think pasta and salsa). It is highly flexible, good hot or cold, and of course, delicious.

Like its poisonous plant relatives, containing tropanes and other hallucinogenic compounds, however the adored and fiery-coloured Tomato has a dark side.

Elena wrote about a tomato rethink in her post on Wholefood Coops last month. Tins of Italian tomatoes are a storeroom staple, especially in the winter. Like me, she had read Felicity Lawrence's Eat Your Heart Out. One chapter of this shocking book about the corporate food monopoly is devoted to fish and tomatoes and follows the trails of the African migrants, hounded out of their traditional fishing grounds by European trawlers (mostly for prawns) and landing in Southern Spain to work in the supermarket salad greenhouses.These men live in squalor in makeshift shacks on some of the most polluted land in Europe (tomatoes, like all glasshouse inhabitants, suffer from infestations, so are doused with huge quantities of toxic chemicals).

So last winter after engaging in Carbon Conversations and calculating the fossil fuel use and carbon footprint of unseasonal hothouse vegetables, I tried to kick my tomato habit. I decided to buy local tomatoes from roadside stalls, from my veg box and grow my own in the summer. I weaned myself off indoor tomatoes and just used dried tomatoes or an occasional tin for cooking curries etc. I thought I'd be desperate for the fresh ones by the time June came. But I wasn't.

Instead I began to wonder . . . How many of our foods are we addicted to, or eat by habit, or convenience, without considering our bodies or our fellow human beings?

Home-grown toms: Marmande, Bush tomato, Gardener's Delight on a giant basil leaf.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Low Carbon Cookbook - Fava

This is the dish I brought on Tuesday for our first Low Carbon Cookbook get-together at the Greenhouse. First eaten on an island in the Cyclades, this is a staple that is grown and eaten all over the world. It's simple to cook, nourishing, tasty, good-looking and very flexible as a dish. You can have it as part of a main course, among salads, or as a starter with pitta or crackers. For supper, for lunch or as a meze. Warm or cold. Oh, and it takes about twenty minutes to cook. You don’t have to soak the pulse either.

Construction Method
Put 250g of yellow split-peas into a pan with cold water (two inches above the peas). When bubbling turn to simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until soft. Skim any scum that rises (usually in the first five minutes). Stir if necessary to prevent sticking. The peas will either collapse of their own accord or you can press them against the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon. The texture is up to you. Season with salt.

Turn into a bowl. Shake some good olive oil over the top and garnish with thin slices of red onion, roughly chopped parsley, black olives and halved hard boiled eggs and lots of black pepper. Serve warm.

Deconstruction Method
These are some of the details we looked at during our exercise. Food connects and coheres almost all the Transition themes from Economics and Livelihoods to Zero Waste. It brings attention to the massive production system behind everything we eat and the number of questions that lie unanswered within every dish we consume. The exercise also highlights the number of relationships you engage in if you don’t shop in supermarkets.

Yellow split peas – organically grown in Canada. Produced by the co-operative Suma. Bought in local grocer’s Focus Organic in nearby market town. Can these be grown elsewhere? I asked myself. Yellow split peas grow all over the Med. What does the plant look like?
Packaging – light plastic. Suma have a detailed description of their new packaging policy on their website. This is one of the few items I use that go to landfill as light plastic snares up the local Council’s recycling machines. Some organic stores now have the American system of wholefood dispensing units which means you can reuse your own packaging. Transport - Cargo ship and truck to and from Suma (find out more about this).

Olive Oil – organically grown in Italy. Produced by Clearspring. Bought in Strangers’ Wholefood Buying Coop. Olive oil is the least produced of the oils we consume. The Cookbook will look at several of these including rape, hemp, evening primrose, sesame, sunflower. We’ll also be looking at how co-ops work and where they exist locally. Packaging – glass. Recycled. Transport – freight? More research needed here. Fairtrade – who picks the olives?

Red onions – organically and locally grown by Swallow Organics. Collected in a weekly veg box as part of an eighteen-mile shopping round car trip. Veg boxes are one of the smallest types of CSA and form one of the Transition Food Patterns. We’ll be listing schemes that operate around Norwich, including TN’s own CSA scheme at Postwick.

Eggs - from hens kept at a local allotment, sold on Sarah’s roadside stall (along with jams, flowers and organically grown veg). Transport is nil, but I know almost nothing about the hen’s feed. Typically hens are fed grain and scraps (70% grain grown in East Anglia is for chickens and pigs). Free range hens can forage for insects. Need to investigate!

Olives – grown and harvested by Zaytoun, a Palestinian fairtrade co-operative. Bought at the Peace Camp in the Forum. Zaytoun run an extraordinary scheme whereby people can help with the harvest that begins in October and stay with Palestinian families (the presence of foreigners in the orchards helps prevent land seizure and destruction of the ancient olive trees).

Parsley – home grown from a plant grown from seed by Erik in Hethersett. Swapped for a bag of Late Crop Cara seed potatoes at the TN Seedling Swap in May.

Salt – sea salt from Maldon, Essex. One of four traditional salt makers in Britain. Cardboard box recycled. Plastic inner bag to landfill. Salt and its harvesting will be one of the information boxes in the Cookbook.

Black pepper – organically grown in India. Produced by Infinity Foods, organic wholesaler in Brighton. Spices are one of the few things we cannot grow locally and have become almost indispensable in daily cooking (home-grown chili would be the best substitute for black pepper). However their lightness both in weight and use means less intensive long-haul than say, rice. Before oil – petroleum that is – and coal these goods would have come by sailing ship and been very much more expensive.

The Island’s Windmill, Cyclades, Greece (photo by Terry Harris). Naomi and Charlotte at Focus Organic, Halesworth - despite the rain! (photo by Mark Watson)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

One Planet Community Kitchen 1 - Deconstructing the Dish

Last night we had our first One Planet Community Kitchen meeting at the Greenhouse in Bethel Street. We met to discuss a new Transition Norwich project, the Low Carbon Cookbook. Twelve people came and we put our heads, hearts and hands together. Josiah shared his broad experience and knowledge of co-ops and laid out their basic structure and tenets. We introduced ourselves and the dish we brought with us to share.

The Kitchen is a regional hub that aims to start up food and arts projects in different Transition initiatives. All the projects will share three aims: 1) to work creatively as a co-operative group 2) to bring ecological awareness to the food we eat 3) to map local food patterns.

In the next few months we’ll be writing on the blog about some of the aims of the Kitchen and showcasing our work. Ways of calculating an ecological footprint for food – looking at carbon emissions, as well as other greenhouse gases, in transport, production and processing. We’ll be considering waste, packaging, the use of water. Several people who came were from the four Transition circles and were Carbon Conversation facilitators; Erik ran the original One Planet group at UEA.

We’ll be focusing on the Transition Food Patterns of Norwich and its hinterlands in the way we began in our Transition Food Patterns Fortnight. Building up a list of producers, talking to people, visiting city allotments and food projects. We’ll be writing information boxes that show why engaging in local market-diversity (as opposed to supermarket monopoly) creates resilient community, what exactly organic certification means. And we’ll be cooking! Trying out recipes that are sustainable, intelligent, delicious, meaningful. Bring a dish to share dishes that everyone can eat.

Last night we talked about many things - how to go forward as a co-op, consensus decision making, bread and bees. Tom talked about how low-carbon food needs to be vibrant and aesthetic, Mediterranean in its temperament. Christine brought the constriction of diets into play. Grower-cooks, Jo and Janet discussed what to do with damson and courgette gluts, Kerry with green tomatoes. Gemma talked miso soup with Donegal seaweed from the Ripple Food Coop she founded in Ipswich. Josiah talked venison sausages supplied by someone he once knew who was licensed to shoot deer in Thetford Forest. Mark talked about a local “omlit”with veg box onions and Cara potatoes we had just dug from the garden. Elena talked honey from the Fat Cat pub and showed us (and gave us to taste) a divine way with runner beans, delicately shredded and flavoured with home-grown chili and brown mustard seeds (didn’t mustard once grow commercially in Norfolk?). Erik showed us a circle that began and ended in compost, a cycle that included seed swaps and germination, weather and parties and snails. The earth is not linear. It goes round and makes extraordinary connections with all its constituent parts. How do we create a book that is non-linear?

The Deconstruct the Dish exercise kickstarts this creative process by putting attention on the material, engaging the imagination, our ability to cross-reference and make different pathways, asking ourselves questions. This is how it goes: everyone sits down at a table with a large sheet of paper (two people to one piece). You draw a circle and put all the ingredients of the dish inside. Then you take each ingredient and write everything you know about it alongside. You ask yourself and/or your drawing partner: Where did I buy this? Which land did it come from? How did it get here? What people were involved? What’s my relationship with them? When did I first eat this dish? Then you share what you discovered with everyone in the room.

I brought fava, a yellow split-pea dish I had once eaten when I was 20 years old. I had arrived on the Greek island before Easter and there was no food to be had in the taverna. Out of nowhere there appeared this dish cooked by the island’s poorest family. They brought it to us shyly, a steaming golden pile, adorned with eggs and olives and a loaf of bread that was baked in the side of the mountain. We devoured it happily. It brings good memories this dish and reminds me of the key to all good meals and creative works - generosity and essential ingredients.

The island was one of the most sustainable places I have ever been. There were no cars, few houses had electricity and everyone drew water from wells and a communal spring. The diet was rough and plain, mostly vegetarian with occasional meat and fish - Easter kid, snails, sea urchins, octopus and bream. The olive oil and thyme honey were the best I have ever tasted. In my picture I drew eggs from Sarah’s roadside stall, parsley grown from Erik’s seeds at the Seed Swap, olives from a Palestinian women’s coop bought at Norwich’s Peace Camp. It was food with meaning, with roots that sank deep in the earth. The industrial food system has no such connection, neither with place nor people, nor our heart’s memory. So to eat sustainably we have to remake those links. That’s one of the main purposes of the Kitchen. Last night some smart and sassy cooks and some essential ingredients came together. Our first project, TN’s Low Carbon Cookbook finally got on the stove . . .

Miso soup by Gemma (Transition Ipswich, Sustain, Ripple Food Coop ) and Green Beans by Elena (TN, CSA, Strangers' Circle). Josiah and Charlotte planning One Planet Community Kitchen at the Greenhouse.; banner - me describing fava; Mark's Cara potatoes; Venison and Puy Lentil Stew by Josiah (Sustainable Bungay, Provenance, East Anglia Food Link). Gemma and Jo listening to Tom from the Greenhouse; Apple and Green Tomato Pie by Kerry (Transition Norwich, Otesha, Greenhouse, Green Grocers)

Many thanks to Tom at The Greenhouse for making us so welcome.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Walking Home

“I didn’t turn to wildlife because I was bullied and oppressed, I turned to wildlife out of love, and love helped me in a bad time, as love will. But love is far more than comfort. There was more than mere escape here: there was meaning, purpose, beauty, and especially, love. I reached these things through the power of the wild world and through the power of my imagination. And so far as I was concerned, the two things were indivisible. (Simon Barnes My Natural History)

I hadn’t walked in a long while. One time in my life when we first came back to England, I walked everywhere. Down the coast, through marshes, across heaths, along empty country roads, tangled green lanes. Through long afternoons, at sunrise, in the night under stars, in the rain and snow, my feet following the tracks of deer and pheasant. I was walking myself back into the land, immersing myself in bird, tree, flint, the ancestral feel of things.

Sometimes you walk to connect yourself with a place, with your own creaturehood. And sometimes you walk when you don’t know what to do. Where am I going? What am I doing here? Is there any meaning to our existence? What does the planet feel about all these statistics we make about the future?

Somewhere along that walk you’ll find something that will answer those questions. It might be a small thing. And yet it’s a key that opens the door.

“What make are they?” he asked.
“What make?” I said, and laughed. They’re not machines, they’re animals! Red deer.

We looked, the two men and I, at the group in the field. The deer looked at us. They were young males and occasionally two would rise up and spar elegantly with their hooves, in that famous heraldic pose you see on coats-of-arms.

“Have you heard them roar?” I asked. I was about to say “you have to experience the deer rutting before you die,” but hesitated. They were already old.

As autumn comes the red deer of Britain gather in the forests of Suffolk: at Tunstall, Dunwich, Minsmere, Iken. As dawn breaks and the mists rise the stags meet in the clearings under the birch and pine, carrying their antlers aloft, to decide who should be running which territory. The sounds of their contests rumble through the land. To hear that primordial sound is to remember everything about wild things.

I write this because as equinox approaches some part of us, unmoored in the summer, comes back to earth. As I emerged from the tent (where I’m still sleeping) into the dark early morning, I noticed Orion glittering on the horizon and the owls calling down the lane. The dew was cold on my feet.

Where am I going? I am walking home. What am I doing here? I know the names of things. Is there any meaning to our existence? Ah, more tricky. Only if we remember that everything tracks back to the ancestors, to the shape of the wild world. What does the planet feel? What do you feel when people talk about you as if you are not there?

The men had been friendly. We talked about deer and the heath (we were at Dunwich, eight miles down the coast). But when they were gone, I turned my attention back to the deer. The deer are what I remember. Walking the bony track of white sand. The bees among the heather, the colour of the rosebay willow herb, the long curve of the beach, the crab shell in my pocket, the light on the river, the ropes of wild hops around a telegraph pole, the lilt of the water swimming, the taste of salty samphire in my mouth.

There was once a Jesuit who gave up his monk’s cell and walked instead into the mountains. His name was Anthony de Mello. De Mello wrote that nothing human can touch us where it really matters. We let our whole lives be shaped by the people who we think should love us completely and tell us we matter, and yet they cannot. Because no one can love us until we love ourselves and that Self is something mysterious, indefinable, ungovernable, Other that we can only reach in our own inner solitude, in the depths of ourselves.

When we realise that self, we realise that we did not come to love each other in the way we think we should, but something else entirely. We came to love our own nature, and that nature could only be found in the patterns of wild nature itself. This is not a nature that is accessible in any other way than with our own being - our own presence within its fabric. It is not something we can own, or control or manipulate, or put in our gardens on show, or use as a resource. We can only find it it by being at home with its Otherness.

It is a question entirely of relationship. Indeed as love always is.

Sun, Southwold Denes; mushrooms, Minsmere Woods; bell heather, Dunwich Heath; samphire, Walberswick Marshes

Monday, 20 September 2010

Transition Twitter - A Day in 140 Characters

7am Geese tracking across the sky, arriving from Siberia with their archaic sound- sharp tang of autumn in the air - shift of mood

8 A low carbon breakfast on the dark side- damsons, elderberries, blackberries. Wild fruit abundance in the lane. Great rosehip year too.

8.30 Prepping One Planet Community Kitchen meeting tomorrow. Josiah tells me wet rice means mega-methane - is this the end of basmati?

Mark busy editing 1st Transition YouTube of Bungay Library Community Garden Opening. Amanda and Christian cut the ivy ribbon yesterday.

9 At my neighbours' checking email, twitter, blogs. What pic shall I use? Field still bright with marigold and cornflowers. Bees too.

Elinor wrote Bungay Bees turned the other day (Heavy Syrup). Seems like no-one is looking forward to winter coming

9.18 Erik wrote Transition Circle Earham South are discussing Why we Disagree about Climate Change by Mike Hulme. Uploading onto calendar now.

9.27 tnnorwich has just started tweeting. 1 of 77 Transition world inititatives - fast glancing into how everyone is doing . . .
rt@robintransition The first 'Transition as a Pattern Language' pattern now online for your comments: this one is 'Measurement'...

About to tweet Tom Foxe’s Cycle Dynamo Workshop and party. Meeting up with Ed, Gary and Josiah afterwards for a network east exchange.

But first my morning on this new hybrid comms tool - twitterblog . . . . stay tuned!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

A Useless Generation

This is a picture of a bridge in a place I used to live in the desert called Turtle Ranch. It’s made from scrap wood and metal and leads across a wash that is usually dry but in the monsoon season roars with rainwater from the mountains. The house was built by hand from adobe and mesquite, old glasshouse frames and by a pragmatic attitude that some might call pioneer and others recognise as a mix of 70s ideology, permaculture and a Transcendental connection with nature that Chris Hull talked about in his post on rainwater last week. It had a rough beauty all of its own.

Today we live in different times and different places. The spirit of the enterprise that led many to live closer to the land and to take matters into their own hands has dissipated. “I am part of the most useless generation that ever walked this planet. I’m very good at moving pixels around on a screen… and fixing bikes…” laughed Ben Brangwyn at Transition Norwich’s Unleashing almost two years ago. And though there are amongst us skilled gardeners, menders and darners, people who are fully aware of the consequences of their actions, we live within a time of bourgeois tastes, where shops and services for everything abound. To travel and live in another’s country, on borrowed time, is easy. To downshift and live in a house where everything is chipped, cracked and falling apart is challenging, especially when you are the only one in your street doing it.

Last month, just before our Give-and-Take Day in Bungay, my friend-in-Transition Elinor gave me a night-dress that she had been given that didn’t fit. And I can’t tell you what that felt like to wear something that hasn’t come from a charity shop. No one had worn it before me. It was fresh, clean, and a clear sky blue. It belonged to me utterly.

We live in a culture that loves such moments. And we would be foolish if we didn’t recognise their power, for it builds on our every desire to inhabit the lovely and the new, to escape into a realm far away from the toil and sweat of human existence, the ugliness of the world.

We would be foolish if we didn’t recognise how easy it is to throw things away that break, to ring up and ask someone else to unblock your drains, mend your machines, to clean your windows. To lord over what we control and possess like haughty princesses.

We would be foolish if we didn’t realise all our desires to pull ourselves out of poverty (as most of our families have through history) was a powerful motivating factor in our present materialism. And that to put on recycled clothes and to eat off cracked plates as a necessity meets strong social resistance in ourselves, as well as an instilled fear of humiliation.

We would be foolish if we didn’t face the fact that we like to lead lives that keep us apart from our neighbours, secluded in our fairy towers, no matter what platitudes we utter about community.

Only if we have another kind of attitude, one that matches the idealistic, individualistic 70s can we actually make this Transition voluntarily and with good cheer. In 2010 that’s a planetary awareness and an innate sense of social justice for our fellows. We can’t do this within the consumer dream. Because the cultural aesthetic of the clean and the new and exclusive is too strong. We have to put our values in another dimension entirely and think differently. We have to expand our consciousness in a way that human beings that never done before together. Because engaging in our collective intelligence will be more absorbing, more urgent, more satisfying, a greater work, more completely useful than feeding those desires for individual pleasure and possession. Our attention will shift naturally and we won’t worry anymore about the colour of the wallpaper, or the state of our shoes.

We’ll be too busy making do and mending those broken relationships with the planet. Making bridges across the invisible divides that separate us from one another, with parts we discarded on the dustheaps long ago.

Bridge at Bisbee Junction, Arizona; Give and Take Day at the Chaucer Club, Bungay; Heavenly Blue morning glory.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Confessions of a Peri-Urban Forager - A Conclusion

So here we are at the end of the feast. The close of our two Food Patterns weeks (keep an eye out for Week 3 - chicken clubs, community orchards and more!). Listening to Shiv Chopra, as Andy skillfully guided us to yesterday, you could think the bigger picture about our food supply is a grim one. But Chopra ends his analysis on a positive note: we hold something dear within us. A knowledge of how to live on the earth. We just have to remember that "lost" art.

The logic behind Transition's use of A Pattern Language is that it highlights key elements that can make human settlements work in harmony. The logic behind engaging in Transition food patterns is you get to eat happily with your fellows. You’re not only cooking and eating the kind of food that keeps you on track, you’re producing and procuring it in certain communal ways. And those ways are what make up the pattern for a graceful shift into a low-carbon future.

Once I roamed the markets of the world like a high-carbon conquistador, bringing home exotic booty to share with friends and magazine readers. Now I glean the neighbourhood for humbler fare. As I walk out this September morning the small roadside stalls are full of plum jam, cherry tomatoes and gladioli. My eyes flick upwards at trees and hedgerows, down on verges, across into gardens. A forager's Spring is all about leaves. Summer means flowers. Right now it's fruit and mushroom season: I’m out picking Autumn elderberries, sea buckthorn (both terrific tonics), blackberries. windfall apples, cherry plums. Later I’ll be searching out damsons, rosehips and crab apples, dandelion and burdock roots, samsphire and chestnuts. A compote is forever simmering on the stove.

Foraging, even the peri-urban kind, goes deep into our hunter-gatherer roots (that’s a physical memory of millions of years of living in synch with the eco-systems). Our archaic bodies thrive on a huge variety of food sources – plants in particular. Foraging takes us walking into the world, talking with people, the way Mark spoke with Norman about his market garden - which is to say about food and exchange. We stop to talk with Sarah on her bike about the perils of strawberry jam (we’re buying her eggs and horseradish), I make a woman laugh when I wear one of Norman’s curly cabbages in the old post office (“my Dad used to grow kale just like that!” she cried), I wave to David as I pick up some of his runner beans, put some mirabelle plums in my pocket for breakfast. This is why Helen talked about Anna’s Farm stores as daycare. Food and relationship. Food and belonging. Later walking down Marsh Lane, grazing on chickweed, collecting blackberries, two red deer suddenly break out from their resting place under a hawthorn. They are huge. Their hooves shake the earth. My heart thumps. Food and encounter.

Why do we end on a wild note? Because wild foods bring connections that the global industrial food system breaks deliberately. They weave together, where the system distorts and unravels. They hold memory, desire, meaning, resonance, childhood, people and place, and most of all our place on the planet. We are taught to live as alienated urban creatures in our city minds (from the Sanskrit cit meaning “to think intensely”) and lose our way, but our real beings flourish in connection with nature, within the cycles of natural time, wherever we live, as Erik so cleverly spoke about this week. They bring us all back.

The wild things will bring us into alignment if we let them, back into fellowship, into the heart where all the connections with life are. These are some of the deeper meanings of food we’ll be looking at as well as the ecological footprint data in the One Planet Community Kitchen project. Good food writers begin, like all good alchemists, by looking into the matter. You don’t transcend your material. You go into it and transform it into gold by your attention. You value the carrots and leeks you grow like John, or the pigs you keep like Josiah. And you don’t do this with grimness you do it with light-heartedness and wit, the way Elena lies down in the road at the thought of filling in the wholefood co-op form.

That way we’ll find out how to make this massive downshift. By valuing what we hold in our hands – the real bread that Jane was celebrating – the patterns we have already like the Earlham Street farmer’s market Jon wrote about. By making commitments like joining the CSA Tully and the Food and Farming group have worked so hard to set up. Making these patterns “stick” in our daily lives, makes that shift and the amount of things we need to let go of not only bearable, but noble and joyful.

The hardest food I gave up was fish. Wild fish connect you to the planet like nothing else. But one day I just couldn’t eat it anymore. And salmon most of all. I couldn’t eat a beautiful creature who was kept in a filthy cage and denied its true destiny. Now I know other costs of farmed salmon – the pollution of rivers, the diseases passed onto wild trout, the massive trawling of sand eels for fishfood, the inflammatory effects in our bodies (omega 6 changes to omega 3 in caged animals). But mostly I don’t eat salmon because I want to honour him as he was once honoured, as a free and sacred creature, like ourselves.

Why has wise salmon been revered through the centuries? Because he shows us how to live. He rushes downriver in his gay youth, he lives out his mature life in the ocean, but the greatest and most remarkable feat is the journey he makes when he heads upriver to find the source of his beginning, to bring the treasure he has inside him back against all odds. That’s our journey as human beings. The return journey. We have to go against the flow, leap impossible and dangerous barriers. We’ve got to find our way home. And the creatures and the plants will be with us all the way, as they have always been. We just have to tune in, get in synch with the patterns that cohere us with life. So I’ll leave you at the end of our full fortnight about food with a Twitter message I found yesterday from a fellow Transitioner and bio-community organizer in Vancouver, Shelby Tay:

" RT @Vcrow: Yay for the 30 million Sockeye Salmon making their way up the Fraser River in B.C. the largest run since 1913! Welcome home."

One Planet Community Kitchen first meeting is on 21 September at the Greenhouse, Bethel Street, Norwich at 7pm. For further details contact Charlotte at Find us on Twitter at tnnorwich.

Parasol mushroom; what all fashionab;e fpragers are wearing this season, Curly Kale by Norman; berry banner –bistort, elder, blackberry, bullace; nut and green banner – hazel, chickweed, acorn. Mirabelle and other gleaned plums ready for the (com)pote. all photos by Mark Watson.