Kathleen Alcalá

The Clueless Eater

Winter Dreams

January 16, 2013

Tags: sustainable eating, Bainbridge Island, winter food, food, citrus, muktuk, California, Ometepe, oranges, berries, grapefruit

My winter dreams
I’m pretty sure my broccoli plants are dead now. After two mild winters, I thought I would plant some late in the season to see if I could get it to overwinter and provide an early spring crop. We are now in our second week of freezing temperatures. We managed to eat a few sprigs before the deer beat us to them.

Recently, there was yet another article on the benefits of eating blueberries – they cure cancer or dementia or something. But in the winter, what I really crave is citrus. I snapped this photo of what was on my counter late last month: tomatoes from hothouses in Canada, not too far from here; papaya from Hawaii; and tangerines – no wait – clementines from Spain. Yikes! I better check the labels more closely next time. The coffee on the counter is brewed with bean from Ometepe, Nicaragua. That is okay because Bainbridge has a direct exchange with our sister island. We import the beans, roast them and resell them on behalf of farmers on one of the largest islands in the world.

Since I grew up in Southern California, we always had oranges to eat. My father once described how, as a teen during the Depression, he was so hungry he stole out to the orange groves one night and gorged on the fruit, fearful the guards would catch him and beat him. Oranges feel like a very necessary food to me, so I wonder if there are regional differences in what our bodies think we need, especially in the dark, cold months of less sunlight. Most would agree that only Inupiats really enjoy muktuk (whale fat and skin, sometimes flavored with berries) but it is hard to tell if that is cultural or physiological. In Seattle, people make much fun of lutefisk, pickled herring, but I’m sure this Scandinavian delicacy came about out of necessity.

In a traditional culture, we would have canned or preserved what was left of our bounty from the fall. We would be eating pickled vegetables, smoked fish, and yes, all sorts of berries. I will eat dried blueberries with my breakfast yogurt, but I will dream of oranges and grapefruits, their sweet, tart juices running down my throat.
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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