Top 5 – Ways in which Kitchen Gardening is a political act

I am a big fan of talk radio, I have been since my early 20s.  Not sure why so I’ll blame my parents.  They are equally addicted, so I grew up with the radio emitting mainly voices rather than music.  During the week I tend to listen to ABC radio (774) but on Sundays this simply isn’t possible as they allow Macca onto the air.  Now I truly believe that radio should dedicate more time to rural issues but in my view this should take the form of Country hour taking some of Richard Stubbs afternoon slot rather than the interminable Ian McNamara being allowed anywhere near the airwaves.  Happily 3RRR have a wonderfully talky Sunday line up, highlights include Dirty Deeds (gardening), Einstein A Go-Go (science), Radio Marinara (Sealife) and Eat It which is what I found myself listening to last Sunday.  Eat It featured an interview with the writer of Whole Larder Love blog who has recently been published in book form.  Anyway during the course of the interview one of the hosts mentioned that he felt that processed food had become so widespread that it had almost gotten to the point that cooking a meal from scratch was a political act.  Now I have to admit liking this concept very much.  So much so that it forms the basis of this week’s Top 5.  (Apologies for the long winded intro for all those non-Melbourites who will be unfamiliar with the Sunday line up on 3RRR or indeed those non-Australians who mercifully escape having Ian McNamara thrust upon them on Sunday mornings).

I have to admit a slight tendency towards fairly inane quasi political gestures.  From burning pages from the Joy of Sex with accompanying rants about men’s subjugation of women as a teenager (my father was not pleased and rightly gave me the ‘no burning of books in this house’ lecture), to on again and off again boycotts of all manner fast food retailers, supermarkets and multi-national conglomerates, I do like a bit of middle class protest.  So imagine my excitement to be able to think of kitchen gardening in those terms.  Admittedly I’ve only been thinking in those terms since Sunday so much of this may be ill thought out and perhaps a little silly, so with that proviso I bring you: Top 5 ways in which kitchen gardening is a political act.

1. I will borrow from Eat it and make the point I think the presenter was making.  There are a lot of companies making money out of effectively deskilling (cookery being the skill in question) people through the provision of processed and fast food.  Kitchen Gardeners generally cook their own food,  thus retaining the skill of cookery.  They also deprive the food manufacturers who want to convince you that you are incapable of roasting your own chicken or indeed flavouring it without purchasing a roasting ‘bag’ made of goodness knows what and filled with a few dried out herbs and a bucketful of salt, some of their potential revenue.

2. Every vegetable you grow yourself is one you’re not buying from somewhere else, and if that somewhere is one of the supermarkets better still.

3. Kitchen gardeners control the means of production (of produce anyway) which from a leftist perspective can only be a good thing.

4. Every dollar lost to conventional farming methods is another reason for farmers to switch to organics.   Whether you grow your own or buy organic, falling revenue for conventional farming makes organics more attractive which has the added benefit of potentially depriving the agrochemicals industry revenue.

5. Kitchen gardeners often grow heirloom varieties and/or save seed.  The wider range of varieties grown and the number of people actively saving and swapping seed helps work against multi-nationals which aim to gain control of the world-wide seed market.  Information on seed sovereignty and the campaign against seed patenting can be found here and here.

Happy World Food Day to all and for a complete change of paceThe New Goodlife has her Top 5: Autobiographies and Biographies this week.

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34 Responses to Top 5 – Ways in which Kitchen Gardening is a political act

  1. L says:

    I love it! I can’t believe that people purchase little packets of spices like you can see here:

    I have steered clear of talkback radio, but I get the impression from popular media that it is all right-wing trash. Am I wrong?

    • Liz says:

      Oh yes please let me buy the herbs in tiny amounts so that when I try to make the beef balls and realise they are hideous at least my cupboard wont be fill of things I’ll never use again..he, he, he. ABC talk radio in Melbourne is reasonably even handed – yes the occasional right-winger and the occasional left-winger but mostly pretty centrist (although whether you agree with me will probably depend on your definition of left, right and centre). Melbourne does have a right-wing trash station and that I give a wide berth. I would have though there would be a Sydney ABC radio equivalent.

  2. Barbara Good says:

    I’m a recent convert to 774 (though it’s all my parents had coming from their radios as I grew up… including Macca!) and can’t get enough. I even stream it through my iPhone and listen with my headphones at work. I hate the Sunday line up, so thanks for the heads up on 3RRR.

    I love this concept, and it so is. Growing food, from organic and heirloom seeds, and then preparing it for my family is totally a political stance against ‘food’ that isn’t really food earning multi-nationals billions of dollars making health claims that are blatantly false and all these being sold in businesses with a monopoly in the marketplace forcing small producers and individual farmers out of business.

    I love that my money is staying out of that vicious cycle and instead going into compost and potting mix from a small local business or direct to the farmers at the Saturday farmer’s markets. I do however have some concerns with the whole ‘certified organic’ thing. Firstly for some farmers in some areas it’s next to impossible or insanely expensive or impractical to get certification despite they’re practices actually being pretty much organic. Secondly some farms have been ‘contaminated’ by neighbouring farms through either sprays blowing over boundaries or seeds self-seeding from other farms (worse if those are from GM crops) so are ineligible for certification. Instead I think if you are aware of where you food is being produced and using what methods you can buy ethically and environmentally friendly produce without an actual organic certification. But that’s probably another issue entirely.

    As for roast bags with dried herbs that might as well be bits of paper for all the flavour they impart, I can’t believe anyone goes in for that. Who would want to cook their meat in PLASTIC! Obviously some people I guess….

    • Liz says:

      I actually agree with you re: organic, my issue with it is from a purely environmental perspective rather than a certification perspective. It is the entire chemicals for chemicals sake as a default position that I have an issue with. I haven’t seen the ads for those bags recently so maybe they didn’t sell – we live in hope…

      • Barbara Good says:

        Oh, well I totally agree with that. My rant was coming from a more pragmatic view (having family and friends in the farming business). It’s a bit like the ‘green’ and ‘free range’ marketing – it’s not all it seems, just to make things that much more difficult for the consumer trying to do the ethical and environmentally responsible thing.

  3. Mark Willis says:

    Contentious stuff, Liz! I’m not going to enter the debate…

    • Liz says:

      It’s interesting I actually am not particularly sure that I’ve written anything particularly contentious with the possible exception of the need to favour organics. To my mind I reckon that most FMCG companies would insist they are trying to save us from the ‘bother’ of having to cook for ourselves. Like it or not Marx did want the workers to control the means of production. There are agribusiness applying for patents for seeds and in Australia at least the general consensus would generally be that having two supermarkets control the market is not neccessarily a good thing. Maybe the contention lies in whether or not an individuals actions really make much difference, in the grand scheme of things they probably don’t but then if like you me you grew up believing ‘the person is political’ then your basic buying decisions and indeed how you spend your leisure time will always be political whether or not you intend it to be. Or maybe not…

  4. I like this. From your mention of a fondness for “fairly inane quasi political gestures”, to the “deskilling” that is going on, I heartily agree. Sometimes I plant things as a “fairly inane quasi political gesture”. The corn I planted last year was that. I was protesting GMO corn. Not that my measly efforts made a dent in the problem, but I was taking a little symbolic stand.

    I was making a chicken pot pie a few weeks ago, and forgot to pick up a pre-made pie shell. I didn’t want to run back to the store, so I looked up the recipe in my cookbook. After all that dribble I have heard over the years about how hard it is to make pie crusts, the recipe only had three ingredients. And one of them was water. Um. Not a difficult recipe. I felt duped, I tell you. And I will be making my own from now on, despite what the Pillsbury dough boy tells me on TV.

    • Liz says:

      Good for you and yay for home made pie crusts (says she who used shop bought pastry only this evening…). Good for you for protesting against GMO corn too. Although I don’t have an in principle issue with genetic modification in itself (its what plant breeders have effectively been doing for time immemorial) I do have a big issue with who uses the technique and to what end the genes are being modified (and indeed with what). For example: Creating Round-Up resistant crops so that we all get to ingest more Round-Up doesn’t sound all that great to me.

      • No, I don’t like to think of crops mixed with other items completely unrelated to the plant. It would be bad enough, in my mind, if they mixed corn with lightning bugs to make glow-in-the-dark corn. It’s even worse when the motive and the production are handled by the Round Up type companies for the purpose of making their crops resistant to that herbicide. They have a new one they are trying to pass off on us. Agent Orange. Beautiful.

  5. Sarah says:

    Any political act that increases awareness of where food really comes from gets my vote ! And if growing your own takes some control over what we eat away from the multinationals that’s all to the good too.
    Did you see this video –
    It’s an American perspective on the issue and has some interesting ideas.

  6. Greenearth says:

    Good post. Out to work on my food garden right now.

  7. foodnstuff says:

    Bill Mollison, of permaculture fame, says growing your own food is a subversive act. I love being subversive! Agree with everything you say, even to not liking Macca!

    • Liz says:

      Funnily enough I was going to call the post – Ways in which kitchen gardening is quietly subversive – now I wish I had. Subversion is fun isn’t it?

  8. Bek says:

    I love this post! I agree with you that food production currently is geared towards big business, with many products supposedly making life easier for time poor people are contributing to the poor food knowledge of many people out in the general community. In my work I spend most of my time talking to people about food and it frequently amazes me how little knowledge people have about food and cooking. I love growing my own not only because I pretty much entirely avoid the big supermarkets (I also mainly shop at farmers markets for my food – I love being able to directly support farmers; I think they get such a crappy deal from the supermarkets and I absolutely will not buy factory farmed meat or eggs!) but also because I know what real food tasted like. But like Barbara I do feel for producers who are organic (or almost organic) not being able to accurately label their produce because they aren’t in some way accredited.

    • Liz says:

      I agree with everything you’ve said. Perhaps its my social circle (or my age) but I actually don’t know many people who can’t cook but I when I do meet someone who can’t I find it interesting how they’ve managed to get to the point they are in life without much food knowledge at all and the answer is invariably a mixture of ready meals and take-away, in other words someones making a lot of money out of their inability to prepare a meal.

  9. Lrong says:

    I am very much a radio addict too… Japanese ‘country’ songs are my favorites though, compared to politics…

  10. Louise says:

    Doing it yourself, growing , cooking and sewing and or ‘making do’ ( or supporting those that do at our Farmers Markets etc) is all subversive – quietly subversive. I am ok with being quietly subversive.

    I also listen to ABC ‘talk’ Radio ( I call it talk radio becasue I think it is slightly different to ‘talk-back radio’) , it’s not right -wing on the ABC ( not all of it anyway) . In Sydney it is 702 but after living in Melbourne for 15 years I am used to 774 too. I can’t abide Macca either, but LOVE ‘Bush Telegraph’ and the ‘Country Hour’ on Radio National 576 in Sydney. In Sydney , I love Simon Mahoney and the Saturday ABC 702 morn line up of growing and cooking and market people and home handy men and those who ‘fix things’.

    It’s a quiet revolution we are involved in , of making and growing and re-using and ‘making do’ and fixing and also of buying quality and respecting and looking after it..

    I too in inner city Sydney and amongst USyd workers, surprisingly find those who don’t cook, who couldn’t or don’t make a tomato pasta sauce from scratch and who buy their garlic peeled in jars, who marvel at my 70% sewn work clothes… it is quite amazing how easy it is to do many things for ourselves ( not everything but where we can and know how and we all have different skills ) and how ‘alienated’ (another Marxist term) we are or can be from our labour. But that lack of alienation is exactly what makes growing or sewing our own so satisfying. And why we blog.

    Our acts of veggie gardening whether we like it or not, are subversive, celebrate it in its small subversion, and enjoy. ( And forgive me if I rant I have had my first shared bottle of wine after a two-week Flagyl-enforced abstinence.)

    Keep being slightly , mildly , quietly subversive.

    • Liz says:

      Oh I do enjoy a wine induced rant – just flows better with a drop of two I find… I really must get out my sewing machine – I feel the need for more subversion coming on.

  11. Maree says:

    Just love this banter! Would love Libby Gorr to replace Macca.I love my 774 an RN, yay ABC.

  12. Liz S says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post – including all of the comments. I find it really irritating that big business treat consumers as though we are all stupid! I love my roast chicken cooked with fresh herbs and vegetables that come straight from my garden. A plastic bag is not going to improve on that thankyou! My Nan jokingly says we are “posh” as we cook with fresh herbs… but if anyone ever asks me for a place to start in growing your own food, I always recommend herbs. They are so simple, and just add so much more flavour to a meal than a jar of processed pasta bake sauce – not to mention the difference in cost bewteen a jar of sauce and a stroll in the garden. Thanks for great read!

    • Liz says:

      I love the idea of being posh for using herbs – my partner always tells me I have snobbish tendencies, he would definitely agree with your nan. I absolutely agree though about them being the a great place to start growing your own. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  13. Disengaging from the military agricultural industrial complex through gardening and cooking always feels like I’ve chosen the Matrix’s red pill — hard to ever turn back! If you’re not already familiar with it, you might enjoy this video, “A Subversive Plot: How to Grow a Revolution in Your Own Backyard” by Roger Doiron of Kitchen Gardeners International, and who gardens here in Maine:

    • Liz says:

      I am particularly taken with the phrase “disengaging from the military industrial complex”, it takes me back to me more radical years…. Thanks for the link I will check it out.

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