Ten friends gathered around the Thanksgiving table at the Williams Street Farmhouse on Thursday to share delicious food, hearty laughter, and stimulating conversation. Matt and I don’t eat factory farmed meat, so we pulled the chickens out of the freezer that met their demise last spring in the jaws of Maya, Craig and Anna’s yellow lab. Luckily, Maya didn’t eat too much, and there was plenty left for us. Matt stuffed the yard birds with wild rice and I added sides of roasted beets and carrots, squash gratin, and celery salad.
As we each shared what we were thankful for at the beginning of the meal, I was overwhelmed by how special it is to share the bounty of our very own garden with our dear friends. In fact, it has become a bit of a joke among our friends that everything we serve must have come from our garden.
“Oh, I bet you grew these olives too,” they exclaim in mockery. Or, “Where’s the lime tree?” Actually, it’s in the sunroom, but it hasn’t started to produce limes yet, give me a break!
And yet, Matt and I continue to be more aware of where the food we are eating is coming from, and trying to become more and more self-sufficient. We are learning to cook with, and love things like turnips and kohlrabi. We are getting more creative with our frozen zucchini and experimenting with lacto-fermented chard stems. We make cheese and yogurt from the goat milk we get from the valley. We’ve stopped depending on things like chips and salsa, canned tomatoes, and bananas.
All of this has me thinking about what a local diet would look like. What if everything we ate came from Alaska? I took a look in my pantry to check out the global offerings it contained. Jars of beans and grains, cane sugar, chocolate, and dried fruit, mushrooms and seaweed. We have local barley, honey, and I’ve been meaning to learn more about harvesting our own locally abundant mushrooms and seaweed. Why do I rely on these shipped in from China, that may be contaminated, and certainly took a lot of energy to pack and ship?
I talked with some like-minded friends. What if, as a group, we made a commitment to eat primarily Alaskan food for one year. We could share resources, recipes, and support. We could prove to the naysayers that it can be done, not just by one person but by many. We could split a local pig or elk, and could actually help create markets for things like locally grown barley for human consumption, which doesn’t really exist yet. We could break our last dependencies on processed foods, and perhaps even other bad habits like coffee and cane sugar.
The more we talked about it, the more excited we became. We would really be walking our talk and hopefully inspiring others to do the same. We also decided we needed more time to prepare, find resources, recipes, and clear our pantries of their global fare. We will begin this spring, as the first greens are springing from the earth.
If you are also inspired to help find and follow the Alaska diet, we welcome you to join us. Or, you can just follow this blog as we chronicle our adventures!