Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather

Imagine losing your job on the heels of ending a marriage and needing to take stock of yourself. Robin Mather exhibited real fortitude in  The Feast Nearby, as she dealt with these life altering situations by retrenching.  She packed up her dog Boon, an African Gray Parrot named Pippin and moved to a 650 foot cottage on a lake in Michigan.  There, with much ingenuity, she lived well on a more than tight budget of $40.00 a week... all the while concentrating on what is most important in life.

Mather was lucky to have had grown up in a family that knew a thing or two about stretching the family food budget.  More importantly, she is lucky to have been schooled by her mother in those food traditions.  She knows her way around the kitchen and relied heavily on the almost lost art of home canning - a valued skill for homemakers in the past.  She deftly plies the arts of putting foods by, taking full advantage of the seasonable harvest to extend the availability of foodstuffs long after their season has ended.  These are definitely secrets our mothers and grandmothers knew long before the practice of global food shipping.  Not only was she able to control the quality of what she was eating by canning but she saved money on the season's bounty.

Mather also economized by foraging for wild native foods as well as bartering with friends that had a garden surplus as other key components in stretching her food dollar.  By carefully managing her food options she didn't have to compromise eating well. In true Locavore fashion, she embraced the concept of making responsible choices, reducing the carbon footprint we leave on this planet.  Supporting local growers in her area insured that local food sources would flourish.  Carefully planned trips to the local farmer's market allowed her to look out for the environment opting for the healthy and responsibly grown food, reinforcing the adage of knowing the farmer to know the food.   Do you read the COOL labels (or country of origin label) on the food you purchase at your local market? You might be surprised to find how much of your food comes from outside of our borders.  Even food grown in they US may travel far across the country adding to costs of food handling and storage with extra cash spent in energy costs of fuel for transportation and refrigeration.

The Feast Nearby follows the seasons, starting with spring and is full of good sound advice and smart tips for stretching that dollar.  Also, recipes are included with each chapter as well as information on canning and preserving.  Gone may be the days of the large dinner parties she had enjoyed in the old life she'd left behind, but you have to admire her spirit!  Even when faced with a minuscule budget, which might cause some folks to lend to tendencies of stingy behavior, she shares her bounties with those around her and in turn is blessed with much kindness and the company of new friends.  
Robin Mather's first book was about the importance of living a greener life entitled A Garden of Unearthly Delights: Bioengineering and the Future of Food.  After reading it, it is easy to see where her convictions come from and that she was able to achieve her goal in re-launching her new life with confidence and grace.

A good book that calculates the Carbon Footprint of just about everything is How Bad Are Bananas? by Mick Berners-Lee.  He states that he is not your conscience but provides the information that you can use as a tool to make the earth friendly choices that best suit your family's needs.

For finding a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in your area, try the site Buy Fresh Buy Local or pick up their bulletin carried at the local libraries to help you tailor your fresh produce shopping list for your family.

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