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Food Is My Anchor

I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday.  Not the kind that solves all of life’s problems and allows you to live happily ever after.  I’ve been waiting for that epiphany for years and suspect it will never come.  No, this epiphany was just a small one, but it has led to some serious reflection and, although it’s really too early to tell, perhaps somewhat of a paradigm shift.

I had a tough day yesterday.  While I took Saturday ‘off” to catch up on house chores (and spent the entire day hauling wood, and working on my house & in the kitchen), I put long academic work days in on Sunday (8 hours), Monday (10 hours) and Tuesday (18 hours).  This after working every day the previous week.  Not surprisingly, by yesterday morning I was a mess.  I haven’t felt that bad in a long, long time.  Exhausted and frustrated, I choked back tears on the way to work.  Well, actually I let them flow, worried that if I held them in I’d end up bursting into tears in the middle of a lecture or some other horror.

There’s a reason they call what I’m doing the ‘sessional trap’, for that is exactly what it is.  I’m working way too much to get my dissertation done, and as a result am not going to be eligible to apply for full-time jobs for next year.  Not to mention that last week I found out that the position I had hoped would be opening up likely won’t.  And while I really love teaching – I mean, I am enjoying this more than anything else I have ever done in my life in return for a pay cheque – the thought of doing another year of sessional work is overwhelmingly depressing.  Despite how much I’m working right now, I’m not even earning enough to make ends meet.  To be financially solid, I’d need to add one more course to my workload.  I simply cannot imagine doing this without going insane.

As such, as I was driving in to work yesterday, I was trying to envision other options for my life come April.  Exhausted as I was, everything looked pretty bleak.  I saw myself in the sessional trap for years, wasting away, my dogs getting old without ever getting a chance to seriously work sheep.  Or even get exercise.  Me getting old without ever… well, doing anything else but work.  Yes, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself!

Once in London, I remembered that I needed to pick up cream for my class. I bring a kettle and a coffee maker to class, and provide light snacks for my students.  Bringing snacks for 25 students when I can barely pay rent is not exactly a financially savvy thing to do, and I’ve debated with whether or not to continue.  However, I strongly believe that eating together, and eating good healthy food, is necessary for this type of setting.  Without something to prop them up, they simply cannot make it through a 3 hour class.  So I’ve been going to the market and picking up big baskets of pears or apples, or fresh bread and the like.  And I’ve noticed a huge difference in their ability to participate and last the full length of the session, not to mention a lovely atmosphere in the classroom as they gather around the coffee pot, and discuss philosophical topics while  munching on local fruit.  Every crumb and drop is gone by the end of class, so clearly they need it.

Not wanting to risk the political implications of bringing in raw milk, every Wednesday morning I’ve been stopping into a health food store and buying a small bottle of Harmony cream.  Yesterday, however, I was very tempted to skip getting the organic cream in a glass bottle and just grab a bunch of creamers from the cafeteria.  In my miserable, self-pitying state, I thought I could cut myself some slack just this once.

I thought about it, and thought about it.  And then I realized that this just made me feel more miserable.

So I turned a few blocks early and stopped in to Lyn-Dys’s health food to buy cream.    There was one bottle, and it was marked down half price due to a pending expiry date.  Perfect.  Serendipity?  I then poked around the store for a few minutes and spotted some fair-trade, organic bananas.  I decided to get a bunch of those as well.  I almost never buy bananas, but figured the students would enjoy and I’d hold a couple back to make muffins for next week.  Bananas are good brain food after all.

As I got back into my car, I noticed that I was feeling a lot better.  I’m sure in part that talking to another human being after several days of complete isolation helped quite a bit.  My solitary life in the country can get downright lonely when other things get out of balance.  But I think what really made me feel better was sticking to my guns about food. I wrote in my last post that I can’t bring myself to buy industrial food because of the knowledge I have about it’s social and environmental destructiveness, but I realize now that this is not exactly it.

Perhaps it’s not it at all in fact.  I realized at that moment that the reason that I am sticking so doggedly to this way of eating is because, sometimes, it’s the only thing I can do that seems to make any sense.  It’s something I can control.  Something I can believe in.  Something I can do to slow the out-of-control spiral our world – and at times, my life – seems to be caught in.

Healthy, local, ethical food gives me something solid to stand on.  Cooking, baking, preserving.  Fermenting.  Eating.  This gives me a base on which I can build the rest of my life.  It gives me a platform upon which to rest.  I don’t know if this makes any sense to anyone else, but it is now quite clear to me.  I hear people every day lament that they don’t have time to cook or prepare food from scratch, or go to the market.  Letting these things go, these essentials to life, is giving up a basic element of control.  The most basic perhaps, and intimate; the control over what we put into our own bodies.  Giving this up is giving in to the system, the system that demands that we work such crazy long hours, that we live apart from those we love, that we put off doing the things we hold dear in our hearts, often until it’s too late to ever do them.  The more I study the structure of our extremely messed up social system and the more I understand the forces that tear apart all that once made sense in the world, the more I need to hang on to this.  To food.  Real food.  I’m not supporting it.  It supports me.

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3 Responses

  1. I’m glad that you had your epiphany. I had a very similar experience this past weekend. I went to Walmart (I know..bad idea!) and became really stressed by the environment. Just seeing what other people had in their carts made me cringe. On my way home I bought some pumpkins on the side of the road. This is when I realized that I’m definitely on the right track. I’ll continue to do what I believe is right and doing this makes me feel good!

  2. I too love your epiphany!
    I’ve been working to get local product into our small town for 14 years now & it seems every year another obstacle jumps in our way, whether its the opening of Walmart or another butcher shop 6 km away(who uses stockyard beef).
    I have been dedicated to making sure our product is home grown & yet the comments I get about Walmart having cheaper beef (ugh, it is from Argentina or US) not Bruce county..
    I find with most of my customers it has taken something big to bring them back to basics, that could be an illness or having a child….
    It seems in general, the most basic thing we do is eat..
    & yet the big marketing ploys have made it the most complicated thing we do in the end.
    unless we search for that return to basics

    Thank you for sharing with us
    I always appreciate!!
    Sue

  3. Lovely post, H. This is really one to keep for the future. And, by the way, one of my older colleagues always makes tea for his students for similar reasons to yours. And some of the libraries here still continue to serve tea at 4pm sharp, so there’s a tradition (ritual?) behind your intuition.

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