Going through the experience of the 160km diet raised a few things for me. Firstly it has really shown me how little I know about my food origins. It has shown me how our eating habits have become so detached from the actual seasons. I have also discovered though a wealth of food that is grown and produced locally around Melbourne.
Starting out a month ago, I was pessimistic as to what I would actually be able to eat, and found myself falling an almost survival mode in the intial stages. I remember going to the supermarket and scouring the whole place for something, anything I could eat. The only locally edible source I found was yoghurt. I remember having visions of myself withering away. However once I did a bit of research and began asking around, I slowly began to create a web of food sources. What I enjoyed about this experience was finding out the stories behind the food. The market holders at Vic Markets especially I found were really open about where their produce came from, and seemed to enjoy talking about it. By going through this, it brings another social level to the interactions you have around food.
On the social side of food however, I found the diet had an isolating effect as well. Within my sharehouse, we cook together, generally sharing dinner each night. Before this experience I tended to do the majority of the cooking for shared meals. Once I began this month long exercise, I cut my self off from the rest of the household, food wise. This was because of the uncertainty of what I’d actually be able to eat, and prepare as meals. All being on tight budgets, we decided it would be simplier for me to do my own thing food wise for the month. I’d considered trying to rejoin the house’s food web, once I’d established a few local sources, but this never eventuated. So what eventuated was a fracturing of the meals within the house. I would create my own meals, but I noticed for the first couple of weeks that the others didn’t seem to be doing much in the way of communal cooking. I’m not sure if this perception was because I was no longer part of it all. Our house is generally pretty socialble, but it felt a bit more isolated with the lack of common eating. On an interesting aside however, now the house is more cohesive, and the cooking role is being shared around.
Another social element to the whole experience was that most people I mentioned it to were intrigued by it, and that led to many discussions about what the reasoning was behind it and so on.
The menu for this month ended up being quite familiar, some might say repeatitive. Many of my staple foods were off limits, and even many of the vegetables, that would normally be on the plate, weren’t in season. So it has to be said, a lot of potatoes were sacrificed over the course of the last month. It highlighted though, how we have managed to artificially distort our food systems, so that either a crop lasts a lot longer then it would naturally, or else is shipped in via an intricate transport network that we have built up. It makes issues such as the drought, water management, agricultural practices more real, and highlights the systems that our cities rely on for their survival.
However its not all gloom, within Melbourne there is a quite a variety of locally grown and produced foodstuff. However because of the the marketing of it, it tends to come at a premium. While the food at the markets is cheaper then what you would pay at the supermarket, if you want to have a broad diet, you have to pay for it, if you want it to be local. This creates a perception that this sort of preoccupation with eating locally, is only for inner city yuppy types. Its an interesting how things have shifted so. My parents have told me stories of having the chooks in the backyard, and how they’re dad would kill them for dinner for special occasions. We seem to be a cycle of of old traditions interpreted with a new angle. On the cost of eating locally, this can be overcome, but it comes at the cost of time, and how we wish to use it. I’ve been meaning to start a vegie garden ever since moving in, and this whole experience has spurred me onto actually getting it underway properly. One major aspect of the diet I found trying was having to plan every meal, which took out the spontineaity of cooking a bit. Also the preparation that had to be done to make even a snack (that wasn’t fruit) I found fustrating at times.
Overall however I enjoyed the experience, and gained a lot from it I believe. It is something I wouldn’t want to abide by religiously, but elements of it all will definitely stick with me. The whole blogging experience has been a new thing too, so hopefully a few people have found it, had a read and got something out of it.
Now time to move to the next hurdle, what will be my Social Innovation? Any ideas?