Farmer Chef and Brother Penguin

Da plane just landed and I have 17 minutes to run the entire length of the Vancouver Intl’ Airport from gate A1 to gate E79. A few escalators, mile-long hallways, dodgy 90 degree turns pass construction zones and US customs. I ran, a cowboy in rabbit fur moccasins running across Canadian to destination known, a chocolate farm in Hawai’i. I picked up a salad and fruit bowl along the way. Hot with sweat and heavy breath I arrived at gate E79 right before the door to the plane closed. I gave the guy my ticket and hopped on board the metal eagle. Sat down in my seat, took off my sweatshirt, buckled the seat belt and took a sip of water. Soon we were in the air bumping to cruising altitude. Hungry, I put the plastic containers of freshies on the plastic table in front of me and everything stopped. The most primitive, basic question in life stared me in the face, again. 

Who or what made this food and drink?

Photo: 'Pictures of the day: 6 October 2008. The Telegraph. AFP/GETTY. 
< http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/picturesoftheday/3144855/Pictures-of-the-day-6-October-2008.html?image=32 >

From the moment we come out of the womb, we need food. Our first milky lifeline comes from our mother, or from a syringe, sometimes an IV and bag depending on birthing circumstances. In my daughters case, she was given an hour to suckle, but then was placed under UV lights and given an IV with basic fluids to feed her little body over the night. I remember holding her little toe, smaller than my pinky finger, telling her it won't always be like this and that I will grow her a garden to eat from.

6 months later I'm in the small Koloa grocery store looking at all the ingredient labels on baby formula and the first ingredient on all the cans is... corn syrup. Corn, is the most prevalent GMO crop grown today and none of these cans were labeled 'GMO Free.' I thought to myself, what would a traditional Hawaiian kapuna do to feed a babe before the advent of formula? I went to the produce section and bought a banana, avocado and tub of local poi. A couple years later these foods are a staple in our kitchen and Rosa helps me harvest bananas and avocados. This week I plant organic GMO free corn seed in hopes to have a yummy mid-summer harvest and make masa with the tri-colored kind.

Back to the airplane seat...

I’m starving and staring at the only 'fresh' fruit and vegetable option that I could find at the airport. My body is hungry like it's a 3 minute old baby since I'm going on 20 hours of awake mode and flying at 37,000 feet in a cramped, cold itsy bitsy coach class airplane seat, but my mind is like, wait a minute... this food could be toxic or at least cost more than what the Earth can handle. Grown with pesticides, cleaned with machines, shipped across the world, radiated, wrapped in plastic and sold for a crazy cost… and why? Why is this the only option?

Because, I left my farm and kitchen.

Within walking distance of this farm and kitchen I call home is: pineapple, sugar cane, cacao, vanilla, honey, chicken eggs, duck eggs, duck, pheasant, pig, chicken, white guava, pink, strawberry guava, meyer lemon, tahitian lime, orange, blood orange, grapefruit, ice cream bean, sugar apple, strawberry papaya, thimble berries, lilikoi, apple banana, purple banana, plantain, longan, coconut, palm fruit, mango, avocado, lettuce, arugula, red mizuna, tomatoes, kale, parsley, cilantro, thai basil, garlic, beet, carrot, watermelon radish, daikon, turnip, rutabaga, scorzonera, green beans, winter squash, kambocha squash, purple sweet potato, nasturtium, red shiso, green shiso, mejiso and more. 

I left home to spend two weeks in Ohio and Canada to visit family and see penguins at the Newport aquarium.

Penguins, in Kentucky, who would have thought?

Flashback to spring when of 2013 when I lived with a colony of penguins in Antarctica. 

After the penguin visit I flew to Toronto to see snow, since in Hawaii we don't get snow and I need a dose of it once every few years.

My last few days in Toronto before the journey back to the island gave me a dose of numbness that I never want to feel again. Grey concrete, grey roads, grey cars, grey smoke, grey sky… building after building after building. I try to reason that my carbon emissions for this vacation will be sequestered by the sea and feed the trees.

Now I'm awake, back where the penguin journey began... in the Garden of Eden.

With a big deep breath I walk outside. I make my way up to the nursery and lettuce patch. It’s only been two weeks, or a half moon, since I've been gone, but the color green in the landscape no longer looks like the green I knew when I left. It looks radiant and alive, like it's a tidal wave of shades of green. Many shades growing at once, not just, green. The forest is thicker. It must have rained while I was gone. I fall to my knees with natural environmental overload and reach towards a carrot in the ground. I pluck it out of the Earth, eat it, it grounds my soul. 

How simple the pleasure of eating is and how hard it is to obtain it.

I’ve spent 10 years in kitchens and several years in the fields growing food. I’m no chef or farmer, though. I see myself more as one of the human beings that lived a few generations back, before the industrial revolution and before Donald Trump, when money wasn't the thing, and access to food and water was. I find more ancient deer bones in old cooking fire pits and arrowheads for hunting in the woods in Ohio than I do colorful wampum, a similar story to money. Oh, boy, have the times changed. More money is being spent on bombs and gas these days than it is food. 

I dream of the day the family and I go out to the orchard to pick apples, then gather honey and grind flour and churn the butter, to make the best apple pie ever made.

I dream that the chefs no longer rely on farmers to bring them their ingredients and instead, chefs grow their own ingredients and farmers cook their own food. 

I pray that the seeds we sow now bring fruit and good health for the generations to come.

Photo: 'Early Tribes: Teequesta.' Artist: Theodore Morris. PBS. 
< http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/tequesta >