Should I Go Rural to Get Closer to My Food?
In the spirit of pursuing things that matter in the new year, I’ve been distilling my priorities. I am the type of person whose home reflects the state of her inner monologue. If my home is clean and orderly, so is my head and heart. I can work, cook, and generally have a more positive outlook. I love my current house, but I’m starting to grow restless.
I am fortunate to live in a single-family home that is very near the nucleus of Seattle and all she has to offer. I can be at Pike Place Market in five minutes flat. I do much of my shopping there, from farm-fresh eggs to esoteric cuts of meat like veal shins and Moulard duck legs to foraged produce such as fiddlehead ferns or morel mushrooms. On the rare occasions when I can’t get what I need at Pike Place, it’s likely that Uwajimaya, the most well-stocked Asian grocer in the Northwest, will have it. I am there at least three times a week, and they keep me in pig’s heads, Buddha’s hands and chicken feet as well as pea shoots, yamaimo potatoes and all manner of sea creatures, from urchins to smelt roe.
If many of the foods I just mentioned sound like astronaut kibble to you, chances are you don’t live in a city that is cresting the extended orgasmic wave of the farm-to-table movement. The ironic paradox here is that the deeper our appreciation for food grows, the more we want to take part in cultivating it before it hits the market. People in the woods and on the prairie produce this food and yet the vast majority of it winds up in the smoggy core of some urban epicenter. I try to take my three-year-old outside the city to see where his food comes from as often as I can, and every time I do, I lament my lack of control over what I put into my own body, but especially his. For example, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find raw milk in Seattle, and I’m told we’re fortunate to have it at all compared with other places across the country.
Sure, I have my little pea patch wherein I try and fail at tomatoes every year and I grow a passel of potatoes big enough to make pommes du terre de Robuchon for four people, but it’s quite the hobbyists endeavor. I yearn to get my hands dirty. I am eager to feel the warm pulse of a goat teat excreting milk beneath my fingers. I hunger lustily for space.
And there are more practical concerns. Our house has no garage and is open and lofty, which means it lacks storage. My (un)healthy obsession with kitchen appliances is steadily encroaching into the living room and office. My husband is annoyed that we share our bedroom with my curing chamber, but I really have no place else to put it. I’m clueless as to where the meat slicer, cryovac and combi oven I’m steadily saving for will live.
Of course there is the whole motherhood thing, too. In two years I’ll send Bentley to school. If he went to public school in our neighborhood, he would be attending the lowest-rated elementary in the state. We could probably scrape together the pennies to pay for an obscenely-expensive private school, but I’m not sure I want him growing up that way. Even if we take measures to ensure that he doesn’t develop a sense of entitlement, there would likely be other kids at a posh school like that whose parents’ values don’t match ours.
A logical option might be suburbia, and for a time I tried to wrap my mind around that. As a family we drove around neighborhoods in “good school districts” and saw houses that were indiscernible from the one next door or down the block. I grew depressed at the thought of that soul-crushing life. I am certainly not condemning people who send their children to private school or live in ticky tacky houses, I just know if it comes down to it and I wind up in either of those positions for the sake of my child, it won’t feel right.
Last weekend we spent an afternoon in the car hunting for character in the suburbs. We came home dejected. And then my husband got on the computer and found an intriguing homestead deep in the woods. On five acres. With a lake pond. It’s a half an hour east of downtown Seattle, which is really not too far. And it’s in an excellent school district. The exterior of the home is copper and it was built by an architect with an appreciation for modern design. The inside is unfinished- a classic case of a home built during the boom but then the bottom dropped and the money ran out before completion. This is a great thing for people like us. I have very specific needs in a kitchen. The kitchen in this house has enough space that I could install commercial appliances without dwarfing the room. And who are we kidding here; I also have specific needs in a closet. Just because we might move to the country doesn’t mean mama is retiring the stilettos!
There are some problems. Much of the lot is considered “wetland” thus making clearing difficult in order to do any large-scale gardening. But the house has a large “green roof” that is meant to host the garden. I’m frantically trying to learn about the legalities of raising goats and chickens on a wetland, because if we move out there, that would be a huge part of it for me.
We found out yesterday that someone else was putting an offer on the place, so we scrambled to get ours together too. It’s been submitted- fingers crossed! Apparently we won’t hear anything for 60 days, as it’s a short sale subject to the bank’s approval, so now we wait.
I plan to pass the next two months assessing our needs. Is it selfish or trite for me to want to get closer to my food? Will I really be able to live so far away from all the little things that make creating cockamamie cuisine possible? Would I be a better mom if I bought a Koolaid house on a culdesac with a picket fence in the ‘burbs? And the most important question of all: does Hunter make wellington boots in chartreuse, and if so, how do I get my damn hands on a pair?
I suspect this quandary is not unique to my family. Do you have aspirations for a more serene life? I’m curious to hear whether anyone has taken the plunge, and if so, do you love it? If you desire a life like this and you haven’t “bought the farm” yet, why not?