17 February 2012

Eat Here, Live Here...Belong Here?

This article triggered me to articulate something 
I've been mulling over since harvest ended.   Here goes...
We moved from home (Montana) to Quebec City about 1 year ago. We didn't know any French, and only 2% of the population speaks English!  We crossed international and cultural borders, and immediately realized how little we understood Canadian and Québec systems.  On top of it all, I didn't know much about living in a big city, either.  But we were fortunate to discover the community gardens of the city, and literally dug right in.  Considering the countless days of sweaty armpits, frustration, and situations where humility is the only thing on the day's menu - daily life when learning a new language and culture through immersion - having a garden was a godsend.  




When my husband left for 3 months of field work, the garden was my connection to what I knew and valued from back home.  Thanks to the universal nature of gardens, I worked alongside new friends.  I learned the French words for all kinds of garden vocabulary and varieties of veggies.  Perhaps more importantly, the earth, the plants, even the "pests" were familiar.  They were known factors, welcome aspects in a largely foreign place.  

Without a desire for local food, the transition from newcomer to habitant would undoubtedly have been more narrow, lonely, and isolated.  In order to make pickled beans, one needs dill, and our crop failed this year.  Being compelled to seek out something as simple as dill heads resulted in a "survey" of the city's farmer's markets, and the discovery of other seasonal bounty - enough hot peppers to pickle those, too; a screamin' deal on tomatoes; hand-picking blueberries and raspberries for pies and homemade jam; cranberries for the first time ever...

Months later, it is the honest-to-goodness dead of winter here - several feet of snow on the ground, and more falling thickly today.  And yet, we are still enjoying our homegrown pommes de terres (potatoes), hand-dug from local soil beginning to take on autumn's chill.  The last few spaghetti squashes still wait in the pantry, and our freezer and cupboards are loaded with fruits, veggies, herbs, and venison harvested and preserved last autumn.  

Combined with a local buying club which sources only foods produced within 100 km (~60 miles) of the city, the end result is local cheese, eggs, milk, meat, fruits and seasonal vegetables year-round.  The length of the growing season here is similar to Montana, unless you get a head start indoors.  Mind you, we don't completely exclude things that haven't been grown in the province.   That said, the buying club, where business is only conducted in French, adequately supplements our home-preserved food and locally made beverages.  This is our way to bridge the calendar gap.

Knowing I participate in a local food system speaks volumes to me on days when I still feel like a total outsider here.  After living for nearly three decades in places where my community and networks span the length and breadth of the state, transplanting here has been a big adjustment.  The concept of growing and preparing food as a way of perpetuating culture, and one's sense of self, has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  


As always, opening a jar of home-preserved food is a significant act.  This morning, opening apples we picked last autumn, just outside the city, has taken on added meaning.  It means more than seasonal fruit, more than a lower-impact lifestyle, more than a balanced winter diet.  These jars of apples attest to our efforts to become part of this multi-cultural community.  Harvesting, preserving, and now eating those apples is a blatant act of citizenship.  We are finding our niche - the soil those trees grow from is the soil we walk upon daily.  The weather that nourished, buffeted, and ripened these apples also warmed and soaked us.  This might not be the "home" from back home, but we eat here.  We live here.  A little more with each bite, we belong here.










14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm so proud of you. Brave, adventurous, determined and a damn good gardener! And cook! Those dishes look delicious, as always:)
Love, Staci

Jean said...

Yum! Thanks for sharing Bethann. I just found a local buying club in Winnipeg and we are now stocked with local flour, flax, honey and eggs with lots of other possibilities as well.

Heidi said...

beautiful Bethann!

JP (Manitoba) said...

Thanks for all your great posts on art and food. Your last blog was really inspirational and I wish I had preserved as much food as you!

fruit.root.leaf. said...

Thank you, everyone! Curious how you'd respond to these questions:
a) What's your take on winter local food where you live?
b) How do you (have you) express(ed) your sense of belonging in a new home?

fruit.root.leaf. said...

Jean said...Yum! Thanks for sharing Bethann. I just found a local buying club in Winnipeg and we are now stocked with local flour, flax, honey and eggs with lots of other possibilities as well.February 17, 2012 8:20 PM Heidi said...beautiful Bethann!February 17, 2012 11:57 PM JP (Manitoba) said...Thanks for all your great posts on art and food. Your last blog was really inspirational and I wish I had preserved as much food as you!February 19, 2012 5:57 PM fruit.root.leaf. said...Thank you, everyone! Curious how you'd respond to these questions:a) What's your take on winter local food where you live?b) How do you (have you) express(ed) your sense of belonging in a new home?February 19, 2012 5:58 PM 

JAG said...

Beautiful pictures, the wedge of cheese on the bottom one made me drool!

Ann said...

Once again the flow of your words kept me reading until the very end and only makes me want to read more.   I'd have to say between the two of us we have opened some amazing "French" doors here.  

Jacole said...

I love reading your updates about your adventure in Quebec.  Whenever I read your updates, I'm in awe of how you've embraced your new home with the same grace and beauty that permeates all that you do; it's something I've been struggling to do since I moved to Boston, and I can't say that I've been successful in feeling at home here.  You are such a wonderful writer, and I enjoy getting a glimpse of your life in Canada.

I look forward to reading more about your and Jerod's experiences, and I hope our paths cross again sooner rather than later.

Jacole said...

I love reading your updates about your adventure in Quebec.  Whenever I read your updates, I'm in awe of how you've embraced your new home with the same grace and beauty that permeates all that you do; it's something I've been struggling to do since I moved to Boston.  You are such a wonderful writer, and I enjoy getting a glimpse of your life in Canada.

I look forward to reading more about your and Jerod's experiences, and I hope our paths cross again sooner rather than later.

fruit.root.leaf. said...

Jacole, 
Thank you so much for saying so!  I would really love to catch up with you, too.  Who knows when, though, eh?  What are some of the highlights of your time in Boston?

fruit.root.leaf. said...

Yes indeed, Ann.  Amazing doors...thanks to your enthusiasm for scouring farmers markets, battling weeds, and generally, just putting yourself out there, I've had a partner for these transition experiences.  And of course, there's the fact that you pointed out the Francisation classes, when I didn't even know what to look for!

fruit.root.leaf. said...

Thank you! :)  There's always next year...that's my favorite part of harvest...knowing better what I want to do differently, or better, next time.

fruit.root.leaf. said...

Thank you!  I still find it amazing that I'm finally in your neck of the woods, and you're at the other end of the continent, growing amazing food and a baby, and staying true to yourself.

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