The July Challenge Reprise

Difficult as it may be to believe, it has already been nearly a year to the day since the start of our sustainable eating challenge first chronicled in the blog Happy Simple Little Life, the jist of which was to only consume what we could grow and/or what we could procure directly from those who locally and organically produced it in what we could reasonably determine was an ethically and responsible way. Though the idea seemed a novel one when first it occurred to me, in fact, such challenges are routinely undertaken not only locally but also all around the country and around the world.

As was described in Happy Little Simple Life, the motivations for the experiment were many and were also an attempt to learn a great deal more about many things about which we’ve long been interested and somewhat conflicted. We hoped to gain a greater appreciation and understanding about a lot of issues and subjects as a result of this project, writing about them in addition to chronicling the project on a more visceral level—namely, the food, and perhaps the recipes, the challenges, and the surprises.

On a fundamental level, though, the primary motivations for the experiment included, in no particular order:

  • becoming better organic gardeners;
  • expanding our knowledge of new foods and of creative food preparation;
  • increasing our sense of self-reliance;
  • more fully appreciating the impact of our consumptive habits from physical, psychological, environmental, social, and political perspectives and reducing those impacts accordingly;
  • analyzing its potential impact on our overall health and wellness;
  • increasing our mindfulness of and gratitude for nutritious food and also understanding and appreciating more fully just how much we take for granted in these and in other areas of our lives;
  • increasing our quantity and quality of social interaction; and
  • learning what else we want to learn more about.

Implications of food transportation? Implications of manual production versus large-scale mechanization? Treatment of production employees? Treatment of and impact upon animals, insects, and the environment as a result of various models of food production? The costs of fresh versus processed food? Food safety and regulatory issues? Corporate control and widespread manipulation of the global food supply? Genetically modified organisms? Nutritional challenges and benefits of various models of food production?

Food has become, at least for many, the fourth taboo subject (joining the ranks of religion, politics, and sports) in many circles. What, how, and why a person chooses to eat—frequently subjected to a myriad of religious, social, physical, psychological, economic, and political forces—is often astoundingly complex and the cause of feverish debate. The ways in which we nourish—or abuse—our bodies with the foods we consume are deeply personal and are often sources for ridicule and judgment, and conflicting research, resources, and opinions about this vast subject—not to mention varying availability of foods—often serve only to compound the problem. Dizzyingly prolific and seemingly infinite information—and misinformation—about food and the endless impacts and implications of its production, transportation, and consumption creates a situation in which making decisions about food is often complicated, confusing, and cause for considerable inner, interpersonal, societal, and even global conflict. This is especially disconcerting considering that food has, at its very essence, the roots of physical and social nourishment; we need it to survive on a basic biological level, and societal structures have traditionally been strengthened by its collective production and consumption. It has historically been deeply associated with nurturing and celebration and hospitality. How has the issue of food—something so fundamentally important and so conceptually basic—become an issue of such ubiquitous contention and angst?

So what were some of our lessons learned through the challenge?

And would we do it again?

Stay tuned for another installment, coming soon.