My friend Johnny Gallo is pretty old school. He composts and has a vegetable garden. He can also fix just about anything. Weekends together with our families often prove embarrassing for me as I possess none of these skills. John is a soft-spoken and deliberate man with an easy temperament that belies a very quick wit. And given my propensity to shun earthly work such as gardening I have found myself on the receiving end of several well-deserved and good-natured wise cracks.
Perhaps one of John’s best qualities is his unabashed curiosity. Our families have spent many evenings discussing the benefits of natural food and the shift toward green living in our country. Both of our households have altered our diets due to sensitivities our children exhibited early on and our awareness of the natural food movement has matured as we watch them grow. In our joint family gatherings John might have been the guy who brought vegetables from his own garden, but I was the guy who brought steak to the barbeque—as the proud owner of the first all-natural steakhouse in the country my knowledge of natural and organic food was far greater than my ability to prepare it.
When my restaurant closed down at the end of the year I was not only heart broken but I no longer brought anything to the table – literally.
But the closing has given me time to explore organic food outside the confines of four walls—to get in touch with the oldest and most basic of human nature. The Iroquois have long believed that there will come a time when only those who know how to grow their own food will survive. That mankind will have degraded the earth and become so detached from the hunting and gathering instinct that it will no longer be able to flourish as a species.
Perhaps the seminal work on the subject of our food supply is Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. It is an eye opening guide that shows just how much the American industrial food complex has ruined the global food chain. It brilliantly illustrates how far food has to travel to get to our plates and painstakingly describes what it goes through to get there. Learning this and witnessing several signs that the Iroquois prophecy is fast approaching reality has led me to the conclusion that the time has come to get my hands dirty and to learn to grow my own food. Either that or suffer through an entire summer of ribbing from John Gallo.
The rainy weekend afforded me the opportunity to begin sketching and planning our family garden. A basin for rainwater. Fresh flowers on one side of the yard, vegetables in rows on the other side. Fruit trees lining the back. An area for compost. Any avid gardener or proficient farmer would know that I’m already in over my head and doing too much at once. That’s okay. Every addition made to the sketch brought a flood of memories long forgotten to the front of my consciousness because I had sketched my Grandpa Charlie Morey’s yard in Canada.
I wish I could show him because he would be quite amused. Charlie was a soft-spoken and deliberate man with an easy temperament that belied a very quick wit. I wish I could talk to him again and introduce him to my friend John. Charlie would have liked him.