Local honey, a bag of fresh greens and peppery little radishes – that was my haul from the first Pemberton Farmers Market for the season. (Wednesday nights, 4pm-7pm, outside the Pemberton Valley Grocery store.)
So, now we’re fully stocked on salad greens – exposing the joy and the challenge of eating locally, in season – the tomatoes are still weeks away from being ready. But if refraining from eating tomatoes out of season will keep the polar bears alive, I can suck it up. Michael Pollan backs the eat-local-for-climate-change call up with an invitation to also “Eat your View” – to preserve agricultural landscapes by eating from local farms.
As a soft-core locavore, I have been gradually eating myself local for a while now. Which is why it’s so exciting to see Pemberton’s food ecosystem flourishing with local restaurants like Western Promises, Mt Currie Coffee Co, The FoodLovers Bistro, the Pony and Mile One Cafe popping up, sourcing produce from new farmers like Ice Cap Organics, Rootdown Organic Farm, Riverlands Market Garden, Skipping Rooster Organic Farm, the Bathtub Gardens (joining the local stalwarts Helmers, Across the Creek, North Arm Farm, and Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef) and from local food producers like Blackbird Bakery, Bubbees Honey, the Flour Pot and Schramm Vodka. Especially when all of those new growers, makers, movers and shakers are under forty years old.
When Feet Banks, editor for the award-winning Mountain Life magazine, asked me to do a summer write-up of cool local foodstuffs, I was stoked. I love turning the spotlight on these passionate producers. The hardest part was deciding what to leave out. So I focussed on smugglable foodstuffs – the stuff you could take with you if you’re visiting family or friends this summer. The angle was inspired by an old ski client who seriously had smuggled 1kg of English breakfast sausage into Canada, because he did not believe that Canadians could make sausage good enough to fuel his skiing’s caloric requirements.
I’m going to Australia for a visit in the fall, so I began to wonder what will I be stuffing in the pockets and crevices of my pack? I imagine me and the Customs dude at our inevitable encounter: “Ma’am, do you have anything to declare?”
Innocent face: “No.”
“Well, why is your bag clinking?”
Break out the dumb and confused face.
“How about I ask you again? Do you have anything to declare?”
“Actually, I do. I’m a locavore.”
The first time I rode A River Runs Through It (fist-pump! Cleared the bridge! Husband pushed his bike across… ), I should really have been somewhere else. I had blown off the second half of the Slow Food Cycle, an event I had organised, to switch the road cruiser for a squishy bike and go charge with some friends. It was a blissful day of riding. But it was kinda naughty.
I think that kind of punkass commitment to mountain biking should make me eligible to win Bike Parks of BC’s Ultimate Summer of Free Ride contest, that was just announced today. Alas, I work for the marketing agency that is helping run the contest, so I am automatically disqualified.
As such, I will redirect my passion to spread the word around. This is the most amazing prize. A summer of downhill bliss. I would enter if I could. You definitely should.
WHAT WOULD YOU BLOW OFF THIS SUMMER TO WIN BIKE PARKS BC ULTIMATE SUMMER OF FREE RIDE?
Get Hooked Up With Cash, Accommodation And Season Pass At Five B.C. Bike Parks
Bike Parks BC is throwing down a season pass at five of BC’s best lift-accessed bike parks – Whistler Mountain Bike Park, Silver Star Bike Park, Sun Peaks Resort, Fernie Alpine Resort and Mount Washington Bike Park – plus
$1,000 spending money, two nights accommodation at each resort, DH rig rentals, a half-day with a guide for a proper introduction to the mountain and even two lift tickets at each park for the winner’s riding buddy to be used over the 2011 summer season.
“This year we are looking for Bike Parks BC’s most fanatical and obsessed riders,” says Martin Littlejohn, Executive Director of the Mountain Bike Tourism Association. “The big question is what exactly would you blow off to take on British Columbia’s best bike parks this summer? Your grandparent’s fiftieth anniversary, your best friend’s wedding, the birth of your first born?”
So ‘fess up. What would you blow off to ride all summer long?
William Roberts had asked me to talk about the writer who had most profoundly shaped my understanding of the environment. But I couldn’t stop thinking about loss.
I had just finished reading Brian Brett’s Trauma Farm. A farm is both theory and worms. But his essay Tasting My Father kept shuffling its way to the top of my pile of papers. Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meat did more to vegetarian-ise me than Michael Pollan or Eric Schlosser’s manifestos, both of which were sitting on my desk, but it was Ozeki’s article, The Art of Losing: On Writing, Dying, & Mom, that kept drawing me in.
When I sent William a brief outline of my talk with links to the readings I planned to reference, he called, confused. “I don’t really understand what this essay has to do with the environment.”
“This Brett essay, about his father dying…?”
“I know. But these things keep putting themselves in my face. I’m trying to trust them.”
William’s a shaman at heart. So he agreed to go with it.
As did the room full of people that Wednesday night in the reading room of the Nita Lake Lodge, when William opened the dialogue with an invitation to introduce ourselves by talking about the landscape we first belonged to. Strangers dived into deep-memory, told stories about places that don’t exist anymore, have been paved over, suburbanised, fallen into the hands of hostile governments… Places that, even if they had been preserved, cannot be returned to, because we’re not ever able to crawl back into our 6 year old selves.
The sense of loss and longing rippled amongst us like a shoal of hundreds of tiny fish.
In One Art, poet Elizabeth Bishop wrote:
Then practice losing farther, losing faster;
Places, and names, and where it was you meant
To travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! My last, or
Next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And vaster,
Some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
The solution, resolution, I had proposed, when confronted with the sense of loss that comes with being displaced from the landscape of childhood, is to start a vegetable garden. Michael Pollan answered the question: Why Bother? with an invitation to press seeds into the soil, to reconnect, and commingle our identities of consumer, producer and citizen back into a healthy compost. Michael Pollan would be the last word for my talk.
William called me back, immediately after we had talked. “Guess what just came on the radio?” He started singing a riff: we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden…
Why was it so successful, people asked, when 400 cyclists wheeled into Pemberton in 2005 for the first Slow Food Cycle. They asked again the next year, when 1000 people came. And the third, when the event had begun to spawn spin-offs, into other valleys, like the first Slow Food Cycle Agassiz.
The ingredients are pretty basic. Easy biking. Good food. Beautiful farm homesteads opening their gates. No cost to participate. An open invitation.
There was no fixed order in which the ingredients had to be added. No particular start time. No precise directions. No specific requirements of the participating farms. One invited a musician to bang away at a piano on the porch for a few hours. One fired up a barbecue. One toured people through his fields, answering questions. One offered iced coffee. One provided raft-rides home.
We weren’t trying to save the world, to make millions, to stop traffic. We weren’t trying to write the manual on how to host an agritourism event.
We were just trying to celebrate Pemberton.
Because good things grow here.
Good things, like the people who jumped in to add their own contribution to the mix… the spice and flavour that turned those basic ingredients into something completely unique. Something that can’t be duplicated in Agassiz or Comox or Tuscany or the Hunter Valley when they put together their version of the Slow Food Cycle. Because those places don’t have Coffee Paula or Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef or Helmers Organics or the Pemberton Search and Rescue, or firecracker France Lamontagne or Marnie Simon, or the Pemberton Rotary Club, or jewellry maker Leanne Hachey who made hundreds of Slow Food Cycle magnets for riders to take home as souvenirs. Those places don’t have a local grocer named Mark Blundell who supports local growers and local events and signs in visiting Slow Food cyclists to the Legion so they can enjoy a cold lager after their ride. They don’t have artists like Lisa Komuro and Ulla Clark who can capture the essence of the event on a t-shirt or a tote. They don’t have Mount Currie or the Lillooet River or the Pemberton Museum or One Mile Lake…
They have their own secret herbs and spices.
And this is the failure at the heart of the model of the fast food industry. In the ambition to serve you exactly the same-sized, same-flavoured sandwich, in exactly the same kind of wrapper, in the same kind of chair, in an identikit restaurant in a town that is fast becoming Everytown. The failure is that it ends up being a flavourless experience. Because not all of your senses are invited to participate.
To turn everything into a commodity, right down to a slice of potato, we must forfeit so many things. But at the top of the list, we forfeit the pleasure of connection and community.
This is not Everytown. This is Pemberton, British Columbia. In the Lillooet River watershed, in the traditional territory of the Lil’wat people.
Add something to the mix. Yourself.
(reprinted from the Slow Food Cycle Sunday Almanac, 2007.)
The sixth Slow Food Cycle Sunday invites people to step out of their vehicles and put their hands on the handlebars in Pemberton August 15 2010.
My favourite food gurus and local-eating advocates, authors James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, are now TV stars… Shooting this clip for the Food Network marked the 3rd time the couple have taken part in Slow Food Cycle Sunday... we wrangled them to write the intro for the Almanac, featured them in a locally produced movie Eating Myself Local, we hosted them with the Pemberton library for an amazing kick-off reading and farm-fresh dinner, and now they’ve returned the favour and turned the lenses on Pemberton!
Get down and dirty in Pemberton this summer – Slow Food Cycle takes place Sunday 15 August.