Kathleen Alcalá

The Clueless Eater

Desperation Salad

December 17, 2015

Tags: Bainbridge Island, sustainability, climate change, sustainability, kale

It's been a long road and a long week, but I am almost finished writing my book about our relationship with food on Bainbridge Island.

I started out as The Clueless Eater, and now I am - slightly less clueless. Almost thirty people indulged me in interviews where I asked about their families, their histories, and what they do for a living. I also asked what they thought the island would look like in the future, and if we could support ourselves with food grown on the island. One friend, writer and anthropologist Ruth Behar, called it an ethnography, and in a way, I suppose, it is. But I asked very specific questions in an attempt to answer my own questions about how we can live in balance with the world around us.

Farmers, grocers, fishermen and restaurant owners all gave me thoughtful answers, and I did extensive research on the history of the island, including the deep knowledge of a people who have lived here for around 10,000 years, the Suquamish. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I hope that by showing these ideas in conjunction with each other, we can start a dialogue to preserve the qualities that make this island a food oasis. With the recent climate change accords in Paris, more and more people and governments are realizing that it is up to us, right now, to live sustainably if we are to survive.

If we are to save this planet, the most able, those with the most flexibility, wealth and knowledge will need to show that it can be done. If not us, then who will?

I left the island a week ago to spend time in a cabin by myself to write. On the way out, I grabbed some groceries, including kale, yogurt, granola, dried fruit, split peas, and other easy to prepare food. The cabins are furnished, sort of, and usually have salt and pepper. But no! What was I to do with this naked kale? I tore it up and washed it, and chopped up some of the dried fruit and mixed them. Pretty good. I'll call it desperation salad and fix it more intentionally another day, maybe with a few nuts and a little vinaigrette.

Until then, no more blogs until Love Song to an Island Food Oasis is published by the University of Washington Press, in the fall of 2016. But feel free to write to me if you have questions. When I have a schedule of readings and appearances, I will post them.

Be well! Eat well! And ask questions...


  1. February 26, 2016 8:22 PM PST
    I look forward to your book, Kathleen. Such an important topic. Friends of the Farms it totally "there" with this topic!
    - Bobbie Morgan
  2. February 29, 2016 12:26 AM PST
    Thanks so much, Bobbie! It gets a little closer every day!
    - Kathleen Alcala
With Cowichan Elder Hyamiciate, Della (Rice) Sylvester at the The Living Breath of wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Indigenous Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposium


Selected Works

Creative nonfiction, memoir, environmental sustainability.
Combining memoir, historical records, and a blueprint for sustainability, The Deepest Roots shows us how an island population can mature into responsible food stewards and reminds us that innovation, adaptation, diversity, and common sense will help us make wise decisions about our future. And along the way, we learn how food is intertwined with our present but offers a path to a better understanding of the future.
Creative Nonfiction
Essays on Family and Writing

The Desert Remembers My Name makes an important contribution to discussions of ethnicity, identity, and the literature of place.”
Bloomsbury Review
"...a mesmerizing tale... the author explores the fascinating confusions and contradictions plaguing a culture precariously poised between tradition and modernization."
"She never forgot the power of storytelling as testimony."
The Utne Reader
"Kathleen Alcalá's Spirits of the Ordinary is an enthralling book..."
–Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Books

"This book entered my dreams."
–Alberto Rios
Short Fiction
"Thoroughly satisfying."
The New York Times Book Review

"By turns touching, entertaining, and surprising, and uniquely her own."
Publishers Weekly

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