Monday, August 29, 2011

Come on, Irene

I've never had a guest blogger here on the Bikeable Feast. One thing about having your own blog is that you have total control over the content. Moo ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, the power!

Actually, speaking of power, I am lucky to have it after this weekend's hurricane, unlike some of my neighbors who suffered quite a beating from Irene. The past few days' crazy weather has both tormented and inspired some of us in the DC area (and all up the coast, I suppose -- my best friend up in Montreal hasn't had electricity since yesterday morning, which her kids loved, as it meant lots of candles and marshmallow roasting). Sandbagged inside my basement apartment during much of Saturday, I got to thinking about how different people prepare for and react to natural disasters. It often brings out the best in people, some kind of latent kindness and helpfulness that we are otherwise too busy and caught up in our own lives to extend. (Like my next door neighbor Henry calling to see if I needed help or sandbags amid the torrential rain. Not that he isn't usually helpful or friendly, but he was concerned about my apartment flooding again.) I thought about writing a little something about this myself, but frankly the best encapsulation of the triumph of local community in the face of environmental adversity came in the form of the weekly email from my friend Michele over at the Crossroads Farmers' Market. I've excerpted her note below:

"Though most DC area farmers markets closed on Sunday (and understandably so!), a bunch of brave Takoma Park vendors loaded their trucks during the height of the storm and drove in for business as usual. Which meant that I was on for my regular Sunday gig, selling at the Takoma Park farmers market for Pennsylvania-based Keswick Creamery. At the time, I was wholly unimpressed. Ok, after a sleepless night of whipping winds, crashing branches, and no electricity, I was downright cranky at the prospect of setting up market on a powerless street with gusts of wind still swirling through. After all, who in their right mind would be out to shop?

My question should have been: who wouldn't? In sweatpants and galoshes, the neighborhood came out. With trees and power down throughout virtually all of Takoma Park, the market was the only game in town. While the rest of the area was at a virtual standstill, our local food supply was vibrant and intact, our local farmers still able to provide a brilliant array of fresh, nourishing produce. So, though grocery store shelves were wiped of bread, the local bakeries provided; though people had stocked up on non-perishables, the abundance of fresh, local fruit, tomatoes, greens, and dairy ensured that folks would be well fed with real, whole foods until power was restored.

And perhaps equally important? It didn't matter than the ATMs weren't working and that refrigeration was scarce. People came to the market to congregate, to share stories, to laugh, to find their friends and neighbors and engage within a collective space. The takeaway: while this weekend's storm could have been so, so much worse, it was a tremendous reminder of how absolutely critical, how non-negotiable and essential, it is that we collectively build and support a thriving, robust local foods system. And it was a wonderful reminder of the ways in which food, markets, and the allure of a perfect heirloom tomato create such fertile ground (no pun intended) for fostering community."

In tribute to our local food system, to our farmers who need some extra support after loss of crop and revenue in the storm, come check out the Crossroads Farmers' Market this Wednesday from 2:30-6:30pm. (7676 New Hampshire Avenue, rain or shine -- and shine seems likely!) I suspect there will be a good crowd in attendance, especially for the tomatoes following my first ever canning workshop on salsa making with the Padres Latinos group that morning... in Spanish. (Que bueno, eh?)

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