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Food, disability, and responsibility

April 21, 2011
A cardboard box full of vegetables, with spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, a leek, and a paper bag of apples visible

A cardboard box full of vegetables, with spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, a leek, and a paper bag of apples visible.

I was originally going to post this at Dreamwidth, since it continues a theme of “making things easier on myself through reasonable accommodations like ordering food in” over there. But, it’s promising to turn longer than I like to post there.

Nigel is away for several weeks on a business trip. (Too bad there’s only the intro post at!) It seriously frustrated me that I honest-to-goodness started having anxiety attacks before he left. I haven’t liked feeling that physically dependent on any one person anyway, and was more than a little irritated at finding myself having such a clingy and rather hopeless-feeling reaction to not having some of the physical support and relief from social isolation available. (Besides just missing having him around, which I do–but this reaction went well beyond that!) With the way my physical health has been, apparently mostly from the D deficiency, I have been relying on him a lot for little things like picking up groceries and medication. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but I’ll say again that the nuclear family push hasn’t been good for a lot of people, IMO, particularly kids and disabled people.*

Over at Dreamwidth, there’s the post with comments in which I figured out that yes, it really is both possible and reasonable to hire somebody to walk the poor old dog when I’m in no physical shape to do so. (And thanks again to jesse-the-k for support!) And that it’s also unreasonable not to get people to deliver food when I’m having pain, fatigue, and overload problems that are making it hard to get out shopping. (These are improving, unevenly and slowly. But, it took years to get in this shape to begin with. :-|) In the most recent one, I waxed enthusiastic about the convenience of; Dairy Crest will still deliver milk in reusable glass bottles, and have added a lot of other stuff. Including potting soil, which ties in with the theme of this post.

Today I got a trial mostly locally-grown organic veggie box, and am very pleased with it! Excellent quality, and not too bad a price even if I hadn’t been taking advantage of a half-price introductory offer. Which I did find via The Guardian, leaving me with even more of that “might get confused with the stereotypical guilty liberal” feeling. 😉 Which reminds me of a good recent post elsewhere: Why Environmentalists Hate Native Americans –and (IME) Horrible Hillbillies, and Native Hillbillies (and…) for many of the same reasons, and some feel totally free to be open about that. Obviously not all, but I have also had enough run-ins with entitled know-better jackasses in various environmental, social justice, and radical circles. And needed another mini-rant about it, apparently.

As I’d suspected, the small box which is supposed to be good for 2-3 people probably won’t last me the week on my own, even with other veggies in the house already–I feel deprived with the five daily servings they’re pushing here! (not 5-9, just 5)–so I will probably put in a regular weekly order for the medium one. I’ll be eating more of it than Nigel will.

It’s tricky with “all locally grown” this time of year, unless you want a box full of assorted brassicas. (Have been eating a lot of them, since they’re cheap, fresh, and seasonal–but, no.)  This week’s contents, BTW, since most of it was covered up in the photo; I added the apples extra:

  • robinta potatoes UK
  • carrots UK
  • onions NL
  • batavia lettuce FR
  • purple sprouting broccoli UK [substituted spinach]
  • vine tomatoes ES
  • closed cup mushrooms UK
  • leeks UK

Not too bad an assortment for April.

Since this was my first order, there were a bunch of leaflets and brochures crammed in there. One of them really gave me pause:

description to follow

Click through for bigger versions. My hands weren’t as steady as they could have been. I even tried holding my breath before snapping.

Text of the page to the left:

life with a box

getting the best out of your box

If you haven’t tried a box before, it can be a challenge when you’re faced with a pile of veg fresh from the soil. Customers tell us they get the most out of their box with a bit of planning…

  1. Unpack and store the veg (see the chart opposite for storage info).
  2. Plan your meals around the vegetables that need eating first.
  3. Got something weird and wonderful-looking? Give us a call — we’ll tell you what it is and what to do with it.

[URL for recipe ideas]

The facing page gives storage advice for different types of vegetables and fruits, with how quickly they need to be used. I’m not inclined to type all of that out, unless someone wants the info in text format.

Now, on one level I realize that most of their customers are probably longer-term urban humans who might benefit from this kind of advice. But it still gives me a start every time I see this kind of thing. (Besides the comments elsewhere that, yeah, a lot of the vegetables have very loamy dirt on them, with suggestions on how to wash it out of the leeks. Seriously.)  I mean, my first thought when I saw the box was “gee, guess it’s spinach tonight!”–well, after “glad  I was home, with this warm weather and multiple bunches of fragile leafy greens”. 🙂

Besides musing again about how disconnected a lot of people are now from the realities of their food supply, that pretty quickly brought me back around to feeling compelled to push myself too hard in certain ways.

I didn’t grow up on a farm, but my biodad and three out of four of my grandparents did. (The  remaining grandmother went to visit both sets of grandparents’ farms a lot, and they’d send/bring all kinds of produce to the deprived town-dwellers. 😉 ) By the time I came along, my Nana and Granddaddy had scaled back to a huge garden, fruit trees, and my aunt next door’s horses and few cattle; they still mostly bought things like potatoes and onions, with my Nana growing and canning/freezing/pickling/etc. the rest.  All the people who moved into towns kept planting gardens as big as they were able to, and some even continued to keep chickens mostly for the eggs. Combine that with having grown up downwardly mobile with extra gardening/wild food collecting going on out of necessity**, and, yeah, on some level I feel guilty over not growing my own food.

BTW, since my mom was shopping out of the reduced sections as much as possible, I’m even more used to planning meals around what’s cheap and decent-looking at the moment. (Frequently reduced for quick sale, too; some habits die hard! I do try not to get too grabby with it, being well aware that some people need it if they want things like fresh vegetables and meat.) Beyond the seasonal variation from gardening. The idea of sitting down and planning menus for, say, the next two weeks has always amazed me. The same with trouble using up odds and ends of food, which also warranted a tips section in the veggie box brochures. (“And the gods made soup”?)

Where we’re living right now, that is a difficult proposition on any kind of larger scale. Thanks to a previous owner who really disliked gardening and sold what would have been our yard off to upstairs , our (up-and-down duplex) place doesn’t have any open ground. In past, I have asked the people upstairs if they’d mind my planting a few things around our patio wall (no problem), but unfortunately upstairs is a rental with less-than-rare turnover; the guy up there now is a puppy-kicking asshole whose ex has a restraining order, and I just try to avoid him. (Besides preferring the idea of nonviolence anyway, I really don’t want to get into a fight with him when I’m gimpy and relatively weak. Know thyself… :-|) I do grow herbs and some veggies that are hard to get–or hard to find decent quality, like tomatoes!–in containers on our walled patio, but that’s about all that’s possible. Luckily, there are allotments available here within easy walking distance, but I have yet to get on a waiting list. Which is just as well, since my physical health and stamina have just not been up to messing with a garden lately. Still, I seem to feel like I should be doing so.

What’s sad is, I actually really enjoy gardening, too–but really don’t enjoy feeling like I must do it.

As an alternative, I also seem to keep feeling like I should go on hunt-and-gather expeditions to the local street market, even when it’s difficult to (a) get down there on foot or by bus with still a decent walk involved, (b) physically stalk around the marketplace in search of the elusive 20p giant bucket full of mushrooms, (c) navigate the shovy crowds and noise without getting seriously overloaded and/or whacking anyone with my cane, and (d) lug home multiple bags of fruits and veggies without a car. Yeah, that hasn’t been happening a lot the past few years. The past year or so, I haven’t even been stalking the supermarket reduced sections very much.

Yes, more perfectionism and expectations that I wouldn’t place on anyone else.  It was way past time to get more things delivered!

In this case, I’ve been (far more reasonably) telling myself that it doesn’t matter how the food gets here, I’m making sure it does! *shakes head* Pragmatism can be refreshing.

It also occurred to me again that being responsible for provisioning the house, including growing some of the food, is a very gendered expectation in my mind. Still, once the clearing and heavy digging is done, most of the people I know back home who are responsible for gardening operations are women. Very longterm pattern there, which includes feeding people in general. I hadn’t thought about it quite this way before, but I think a lot of the same idea still carries over even if social arrangements have changed quite a bit these days:

Cooking is an important part of life for the Cherokee woman. Not only is it necessary for nourishment, for life; it is part of the social fabric of the Cherokee people…

Visit any traditional Cherokee home, and the woman of the house will provide a delicious meal. As a matrilineal society, it is the woman who carries the clan, she who gives nourishment to the growing infant by providing it with her milk. She continues to nourish all who come to her home by providing lovingly prepared food.

And lest that sound like more of the same “work your ass off while your work is devalued and you’re rarely even given credit”: The Power of Cherokee Women, which goes into the imposed idea of “true womanhood” (which didn’t take too well, in a lot of ways). Similar applies to the Eastern Woodlands in general, and while most of the rest has been eroded, I’ll quote again part of an excellent post from Reclusive Leftist:

What I want to talk about is this notion that feminism is some exotic thing, some intellectual latte that none of the rubes could possibly care about. Bullshit.

You know what feminism is? It’s fairness. It’s about giving women a fair deal. Every woman in this country wants that, and the only women who don’t think they deserve it are the brainwashed fundie hostages.

Look: I, too, know from RedneckLand. I come from crackers and hillbillies and trailer trash. My folks are the salt of the South: Scotch-Irish and Melungeons and Indians, all mixed together in the farm villages and mill towns of Appalachia and the piedmont. This is a culture where women work and have always worked. You wanna talk about strong women? I tell you what: there ain’t a woman in my family that doesn’t think she’s worth a fair shake and equal pay and some damn respect.

That’s feminism. That’s popular, grassroots, redneck, middle American feminism.

I ended up leaving more of that passage in than I’d intended to quote because it’s just that good.  And it describes my own experience so well.

Some of these internalized expectations (especially when twisted, like the “don’t be lazy” one) have caused me a lot of internal conflict and frustration when disability keeps me from being able to fulfill them. And I can get very, very stubborn. 😉 This has been another interesting point of low-high context cultural misunderstandings with Nigel too, not surprisingly–and frustration when he needs to take over jobs I feel like I should be doing.

Yes, this gendered responsibilities business also becomes very complicated when it runs up against my fundamentally agender self. I’ve been meaning to write something about how not just the gender-related interpretations and expectations other people lay on me change depending on social setting, but how my own ideas (and levels of demand resistance 😐 ) also seem to change. Hopefully, I will get around to that soon.


* The major reason I’m not planning on having any kids. With the support available, I have trouble taking care of myself sometimes. With more people around to divide tasks up according to what they’re actually good at and want to do–and to happily look after the kid(s) when I just need a break, as everybody does sometimes–it wouldn’t be a problem. That’s how a lot of my family managed, AFAICT, and started having more problems with it after they moved into nuclear families from extended family farms–even with relatives usually living just up the road. Fuck eugenicists.

I found it kind of interesting how similar the shifts from extended family living to urbanized (frequently modified) nuclear family living have been in Korea to what I’m used to. Well, other than the starting organization being patrilocal rather than mostly matrilocal. Though it still seems to be more common there for grandparents to live with their kids, and do things like look after the kids and cook supper while the parents are working. (Win-win!) Growing up, my family just did similar with separate households; I stayed with my grandparents before and after school, and usually we ate supper there because my mom was so tired getting off work–plus, we were downwardly mobile, and in retrospect that must have helped a lot with expenses. I had to cackle at this one: A Korean Grandmothers’s Unauthorized Visits. Frankly, I hadn’t considered that they could be “unauthorized”, per se; IME, that’s just what grandparents do. (Which also made my maternal grandmother’s total lack of reasonable boundaries and respect less obvious. :-|)

So, I did end up having more to say on the subject, intending to or not. 😉

** I also have to fight hoarding food like my mom, but that’s only a loosely connected story. Combine some financial and perceived food insecurity with a recent history of people needing to preserve and store a lot of food for the winter and other hard times, and you can get some troublesome hoarding going. Oh my. I honestly have to consciously limit myself to buying 2-6 cans per kind of food, two bags of pasta, etc. at a time these days. In case of apocalypse, we may be low on canned peaches, but there will be a lot worse things to worry about.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2011 9:03 am

    This might seem random, but do you have any messenger handles?

    Trickster Gun is my AIM name


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