Kathleen Alcalá

The Clueless Eater

The Earth is Flat

April 7, 2017

Tags: trees, sustainability, development, Sound to Olympics Trail, Bainbridge Island

Breaking Ground on the Sound to Olympics Trail
The Earth is Flat

It seemed like a good idea at the time. A non-motorized trail that would run all the way from the ferry terminal to the Olympic Peninsula, providing a safe way for bicyclists, wheelchairs, and pedestrians to get closer to the ground. Wilderness would be accessible to all, and cars would be kept in their place. I supported it. I thought it would maintain a green corridor through the middle of the island.

This was a case of “be careful what you wish for.” (more…)

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 (more…)

Decolonize Your Diet

October 19, 2015

Tags: food, sustainability, health, indigenous diets, cookbooks

Squash growing in my garden.
Luz and Catriona's story started in sorrow. Luz, who had been a vegetarian for fifteen years and considered herself very healthy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. As Luz endured surgery and follow-up treatment, Catriona struggled to find food that her partner would eat, and that would enhance healing. Their research showed that Latinas have (more…)

Clean berries and dirty carrots

July 14, 2014

Tags: garden, sustainability, island, Bainbridge, carrots, berries, Minedoka

Clean berries and dirty carrots
It is that time of the season when, if you are in the right place at the right time, someone will hand you a bag of beet greens. Or a handful of berries. Or leave a dozen fat oysters at your back door!

It took four to five months to reach this point, but every cloudy day, every seed that refused to sprout, every insect, is forgiven when we bite into a salad of our own growing. (more…)

Hope for Trees

March 10, 2014

Tags: trees, Bainbridge Island, sustainability, development, tree ordinance, future

A tree was saved today.
A miracle might have occurred today. People who have worked in opposition for years were smiling and agreeing on something. Solutions were suggested and accepted. A tree was saved.

After years of e-mails, public meetings, and tense confrontations on the street, and a final sit-down meeting at City Hall, the city agreed to spare the lone tree on Cave Avenue that straddles the edge of the city right-of-way for a sidewalk. The sidewalk will bump out four inches into the street to maintain the four-foot width required in order to meet ADA standards.

What’s more, as the work began, the developer asked for his arch-nemesis, renowned arborist Olaf Ribeiro, to come out and consult on how to handle boles found at the base of the tree. They can be safely flattened, he said, using a diamond saw for a smooth cut. The one-hundred year old tree probably formed the boles in reaction to the street first being paved sometime in the 1970s.

Four inches of gravel now wind along a path between (more…)

Happy Vegetarian New Year!

January 24, 2014

Tags: vegetarian, pescetarian, Molly Katzen, The Heart of the Plate, Japanese American, Woody Allen, Kokon Taiko, rice, cholesterol, sustainability, Bainbridge, Mochi Tsuki, Lunar New Year

I’ve been meaning to write a New Year’s entry! I guess I haven’t missed the lunar New Year, which is Friday, January 31. Each year Mochi Tsuki, held at Islandwood, an environmental education center, attracts more visitors. This year it was held on January 5.

Sweet rice was steamed over a hot fire (more…)

The Rock Farm

August 29, 2013

Tags: Bainbridge Island, local food, sustainability, farming, Rockefeller, community, garden

Anita and friend at The Rock Farm, a community garden
In July, Phil and Anita Rockefeller invited me (okay, I begged) to see The Rock Farm, a portion of their property that has been turned into community gardens.

When I arrived Sunday at 10:30 am, Phil and Anita were hanging what looked like prayer flags along the eight-foot high deer fence. Up close, I could (more…)

The Next Big Thing

May 22, 2013

Tags: Bainbridge Island, local food, sustainability, sailing, why I write, Wendy Hinman

Apple harvest
I first met Wendy Hinman at the Seattle7 Novel Live! Event, where a number of us wrote a group novel, The Hotel Angeline, as a fundraiser for literacy. We each got up and flailed away at an unfamiliar computer on a stage with a camera pointed at us. The result is still pulling in (more…)

Walking the Food Forest

April 22, 2013

Tags: Food Forest, Bainbridge Island, sustainability, food, Friends of the Farms, land use, Todmorden, Beacon Hill Food Forest

The philosophy behind a food forest is that of abundance, rather than scarcity.
Last week, I took a sunny day to walk land designated for a Food Forest on Bainbridge Island. What is a food forest? It is land on which edible plants will grow using the fewest artificial resources, while attracting and supporting insects, animals, and people to enhance its well-being.

I first heard of the idea from (more…)

Hearing Moles

July 30, 2012

Tags: mole hills, Bainbridge Island, sustainability, childhood, San Bernardino

Building mighty mountains
As you can see in the photo, there are three mole hills along the edge of our driveway, and a small one closer to the mailbox. There is a matching set on the other side of the driveway: front doors, back doors. I suppose the little one by the mailbox is a skylight. (more…)

Abundantly Green

March 3, 2011

Tags: local food, sustainability, Bainbridge Island, Washington, food, agriculture, Helen and Scott Nearing, Sweetlife Farm, Holt Ranch, CSA, Abundantly Green

I continued my questions by driving out to see my friends Marilyn Holt and Cliff Wind, who inherited a farm from Marilyn’s father. About four years ago Holt Ranch became a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture farm, which means that individual families pay at the beginning of each season to receive a share (more…)

Sweet Life

February 16, 2011

Tags: local food, sustainability, Bainbridge Island, Washington, food, agriculture, Helen and Scott Nearing, Sweetlife Farm, Holt Ranch, CSA, Abundantly Green

Sweet Life
Bainbridge Island curls like a fist of rock around Eagle Harbor on the western edge of Puget Sound, thirty-five minutes from downtown Seattle by ferry. Over half the working population commutes to Seattle every day on a Jumbo Mark II, either the Tacoma or the Wenatchee. The ferries resemble floating airports, they are so large and stable, each capable of carrying 2,500 passengers and 200 vehicles at a time.
I have joked that, if we were completely cut off from the mainland, Bainbridge Island, with its population of about 25,000, could live off of locally made white wine and goat cheese for quite awhile. Every April the farmer’s market reopens, and we have our choice of – goat cheese, honey, and a few vegetables. The truth is, our growing season is short, and there are just some things that won’t grow here in quantity. The soil is bad, and the local gardening guru, Ann Lovejoy, recommends buying good soil and dumping it directly on top, rather than attempting to work it into the rocky hardpan that dominates the terrain.
As a result, most of our produce is still purchased through the locally owned Town & Country Market, and a Safeway store. Once, Bainbridge was famous for its strawberries, but a blight, along with the forced internment of Japanese American farmers during World War II, ended their production. By the fall, a greater variety is available, but as Americans, we are used to having seasonal products year-round: lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, avocadoes, citrus fruits, things that grow in limited quantities or not at all in our cool, wet climate. “There are no seasons in the American supermarket,” according to the movie, Food, Inc. (2008). (more…)

The Clueless Eater

January 11, 2011

Tags: local food, sustainability, Bainbridge Island, Washington, food, agriculture

In the spring of 2010, I began a series of essays based on the question, “Why did you become farmers?” asked of two couples I had known from their previous, book-related lives. The answers were both interesting and surprising to me.

Along with biographical questions, I found myself asking somewhat apocalyptic questions such as “If there were a food shortage, is there some way I could earn food from you?” and “Can this island support its own population?” (more…)

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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
Fiction
"...a mesmerizing tale... the author explores the fascinating confusions and contradictions plaguing a culture precariously poised between tradition and modernization."
Booklist
"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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