Finding herself in financial straits, writer Susan Gregory Thomas discovers eating locally out of necessity, beginning with that perennial question, “…how hard could it be?” From the New York Times:
Back to the Land, Reluctantly
I’m not interested in being hip or a hippie. Nor does my happiness particularly hinge on artisanal cheese. (Odd, perhaps, given that I grew up a stone fruit’s throw away from Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif.)
As a 42-year-old Brooklyn mother of three, what I care about is lunch, and feeding my family on a tenuous and unpredictable income. And so I have 20 fresh-egg-producing hens and a little garden that yields everything from blackberries to butternut squash to burdock root.
My turn with spade and hoe started a few years ago when I found myself divorced and flat broke. My livelihood as a freelance writer went out the window when the economy tanked. I literally could afford beans, the dried kind, which I’d thought were for school art projects or teaching elementary math. And I didn’t know how to cook.
Luckily, my late father had hammered into me that grit was more important than talent. So, when I couldn’t afford fancy food — never mind paraben-free shampoo — for my babies, I figured, if peasants in 11th-century Sicily did all this, how hard could it be?
I researched how to raise hens from chicks so we could get our omega-3-filled eggs. I learned to stretch a single piece of cheap meat into nearly a week’s worth of dinners. I made my own cleaning products. Not because I liked it. Because it was cheap.
My goal was to have healthy, unprocessed food for $10 or less a day. Cereal was the first thing to go. It dawned on me that making granola was a matter of tossing oatmeal and nuts into a bowl with a little oil, honey and spices — and then baking until brown. No more $14 boxes of fancy grains with pomegranate antioxidants. Read more…