Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the enormous role that community-building plays in eco-friendly and sustainable culture.
Making sustainable choices inherently means caring about something larger than yourself; acknowledging that we’re all a part of this big ecosystem that makes us interconnected and dependent on one another.
Although it’s been seen as trendy to “go green” lately, many of us (myself included!) find ourselves making “green” choices or buying “green” products without truly thinking green. We’re still working within a largely individualized culture, in which it’s all too easy to get wrapped up tight and cozy in our own little slices of life and lose touch with the bigger picture.
Out and about with local food organizations
If you’re ever feeling cooped up in your own kitchen, cut off from the outside world, and lacking that passionate spark, try seeking out a local food organization. There’s nothing more motivating and restorative for that sense of connection than getting a chance to speak with, learn from, laugh with and of course break bread sitting next to members of the local food community.
There are all manner of organizations out there, from slow food to urban farming to organics and community supported agriculture. There are even organizations simply dedicated to cooking and eating, like supper clubs or local Chowhound chapters. What sets them apart from digital communities (which are also fantastic, to be sure), is that face-to-face interaction that forges real, personal connections and experiences.
I write this post not only as advice to you, but also as a reminder and reinforcement to myself. I wish I could say that I spend my days farmstand-hopping, chopping it up with other foodies, and attending festivals and good eats meet-ups, but the truth is my kitchen is my date most nights.
Spotlight: Foodways Texas
That’s why I was so excited to score a seat at an 1840s-style farm dinner at Boggy Creek Farm a few weeks back, as part of the 2nd annual Foodways Texas Symposium.
Foodways Texas is a diverse collaborative of foodies—chefs, bloggers, farmers, food producers, restaurateurs, scholars, and all other kinds of food-lovin’ Texans—banded together on the mission to preserve and celebrate Texas food culture in its many flavors.
The theme of this year’s symposium was “Texas Preserved.” I had to miss the bulk of it to make my herb school classes, but got into the spirit with a pre-event canning class led by an old friend and very successful preserve-maker, Miss Stephanie McClenny of Confituras.
I knew absolutely zilch about making jams and other canned goods before the class. As I watched Stephanie and my classmates stir the sugary strawberries and asked them questions about acidity levels and natural pectin sources, I took note that there’s truly no better way to learn than from watching and working with other folks.
Boggy Creek is a historical site on the east side of Austin, and as its owner Miss Carol Anne Sayle recounted, it’s very likely that Sam Houston himself dined in the same beautiful courtyard we sat in that night.
It was an absolute overload of joy and inspiration. Aside from the (incredible!) meal of farm-fresh everything, the yard was filled with joking, chowing, chatting Texans passing family-style dishes, and sharing seats and stories.
I sat between my dad and younger sister and across from Lisa of Homesick Texan and Kelly of The Meaning of Pie. We ate pureed beet soup and oyster cornbread under strings of stars and twinkling Christmas lights. We wondered aloud what certain flavors and ingredients might be. We told dirty jokes and happily ate seconds (and thirds).
It was an unforgettable experience, and to think that it was only one small piece of the weekend-long Texas food fiesta! I heard great things about the many panels, which included such topics as the history of sugarcane, cocktail culture and craft brewery, and the effects of drought on the food supply. If you’re interested in more of the details, Kelly wrote a fantastic recap of the event with lots of pics.
Even after just one class and one dinner, I got a big taste of the Texas food community, and a big hankering for more. If you’re ‘round these parts, I highly recommend you join us. If not, take a look into your own local community for opportunities to gather with and get to know other foodies in town. No matter what your personal connection to food, you’re sure to find a fun way to link up with like-minded folks outside the kitchen.