Time Well Spent With (Learning) Breakfast Chats

I don’t know where the response came from and how it all started. I stopped and listened when I heard Sasha say ‘Who gives anyone the right to take an animal off the face of the planet?’. Sometimes that is what happens when we progress as a society, the answer came. An unfortunate side effect, Tony explained, brought upon by progress.

At that point the conversation got a life of its own: what is progress and what’s the most accurate way to explain the concept? All four of us agreed with the rather flat affirmation ‘You cannot stop progress.’ Indeed, you cannot. I find that unsettling.

Little boy argued for the goodness that is found in smaller communities: people know each other and the societal mesh can hold everyone securely. In big cities, some people get to live a very affluent lifestyle while others are chewed by life and thrown to the poor side of the street.

His brother argued that the immense leaps of progress humans have been accomplishing in the last century or so lead to better healthcare, lots of great scientific discoveries that make our lives easier and more comfortable.

I threw in a pebble for a bit of pondering time… A great few words by Ed Begley Jr. which I find intriguing and sobering. Clearly suited for our morning debate. “I don’t understand why when we destroy something created by man we call it vandalism, but when we destroy something by nature we call it progress.”

Oh? Both stopped to think. Hmm. I added my own: I wish that progress meant that we would use the knowledge and wisdom we have gathered over the years and bring our society (planet) to a higher level of well-being. They agreed, but… that is not the case. Why not?

Greed, egos, nearsightedness when it comes to life outside our immediate individual sphere? Our four people dialogue slipped into another realm: what makes us act in considerate ways versus acting for a certain gain (monetary for example)? I had read about how the human mind can either act out of kindness or for monetary gain but is never able to superimpose the two. Food for thought.

Can progress be made with consideration to life in all aspects and used to better everyone’s existence? It that feasible? Ethics and economics, progress and respect to human life and the environment, general well-being and societal growth… can they all be mixed up and moulded into a fluid, transparent yet warm and worthy of our complex nature, able to serve needs and keep us evolving towards better versions of ourselves as individuals and as a society (planetary society included).

The breakfast chat is to be continued. More reading, more talking, more listening… more to see and understand. Room to grow for all, brought through the gift of being free to think. Learning is amazing, isn’t it? The gift of freedom too. To make choices, to gather knowledge to choose in ways that prove wise and honour our humanity rather than stomp on it. My hope is that the boys will grow into understanding that. School as we know it…

Food Lessons On A Bright October Morning

Over the last few months the boys have been privy to the following:

  • Gardening Lilliputian style (I will explain below)
  • Saturday trips to the farmer’s market which include wild excitement over the first of the seasons, the goodness of fall bounty and everything in between
  • Foraging for berries in or near Kamloops (Saskatoon berries, raspberries and chokecherries)

They saw pots full of fruit that became many jars of jam and jelly.

They got to taste a modest crop of potatoes from our garden, as well as zucchini, chard, kale and strawberries.They sliced apples for drying, tasted the results and packaged the dried goodies for storage.

It makes sense that after all of that and after reading and discussing how people lived in Canada back in the day, before and after the Europeans came, we would dedicate some time to learning about food preservation.

YummyThe reasons why they would learn and understand the multi-faceted process that is food preservation go beyond the rather simplistic ‘because it’s cool to have a homemade jar of jam or…(fill in the blanks)’. In our little school, we are shooting for the big picture. The bird’s eye view if you will.

So our lesson went from brainstorming about all the ways one could employ to preserve food (canning, freezing, drying, smoking/curing (for meats), sand storage (root vegetables), with variations of each, to discussing about what happens in each of them, why, how and where does it leave food in terms of taste, quality, appearance and usefulness.

Relating the gist of it may sound dry, yet our conversation was anything but. Among others, there had to be an answer for the question: Why store food when you could buy fresh produce and other foods year-round without turning our house into canning central?

Care to guess? Here’s our side of it:

  • because we preserve food we grow or forage for ourselves (meaning it is picked at the peak of its goodness),
  • because the farmer’s market is a seasonal festival of exquisite tastes (everything tastes better when picked at the peak of its ripeness)
  • because of the incomparable quality of a meal you can cook using your own pantry or freezer. It ties a family together and it gives a different meaning to home cooked.
  • Plus, think of the stories that sprout from a steaming bowl of soup or a stack of pancakes carrying the purple veil of chokecherry jelly.

We discussed the meaning and necessity of local food versus food grown conventionally, most times in mono-cultures, and we tied it in with the health element.

20160509_090325What goes into growing food? Hard work, enriching the soil using natural methods (compost and manure), more hard work and plenty of fresh water, plus a community to sell it to or people to share it with. Conventionally grown food often comes with chemicals many of which can have effects on the brain, endocrine system and they can also increase the risk of allergies and chemical sensitivities. It also comes with a variable-size carbon footprint, depending where it is shipped from. Possibly some low-paid workers in there too. Another level of unaffordability you could say.

That was part of today’s lessons. From understanding why fruit becomes mushy when frozen and then thawed, to why meat and fish can be cured by using salt, we crossed into chemistry and back into biology, agriculture and spent a good chunk of time on ethics too.

It’s the big picture that counts indeed. Fragmented learning can be done by memorizing facts and phrases if needed, but learning that helps them make sense of the world we’re in only happens when facts are tied in with thinking and asking questions.

No self-consciousness, no fear of ‘stupid questions’; it’s all about thinking, wondering, bringing stories together, historical facts too, adding scientific explanations and leaving it all a bit open-ended so the conversation can continue at a next meal, at the next apple slicing or tasting of the apricot jam that invites itself to a cup of hot tea on a cold fall afternoon… To be continued.

Gardening in a clay-rich soil like the one we have at the moment where we live is a mighty challenging deed. Growth is stunted which makes produce small. Plus, deer traffic through the back yard… well, you know. They help themselves. If they don’t get to it, wild rabbits do. It’s both amusing and frustrating, with an element of awe which comes from realizing that we share the living space with wild creatures. A lesson for another day…