Omnivore, locavore–yes, invasivore! Already on the list of new words for 2011, an invasivore is someone who eats species that are crowding out natural species. Click here to google the term (otherwise Google will try to convince you you’ve misspelled invasive) and you’ll find clever articles and www.invasivore.org ‘s tasty recipes for Himalayan blackberry (a pest in Washington state and 24 others), garlic mustard, kudzu, and annoying animal species like the Chinese mysterysnail, now invading many freshwater lakes.
While you’re smiling, note the bottom line: We humans are great at eating species out of existence, but when we’ve depleted their stock, we “farm” them or introduce a new, similar species from somewhere else. Thus, we farm tilapia for our dinner plates—but the little fish make the invasive list when they escape their “farm” and start dominating their immediate environment. And the Himalayan blackberry introduced to our country by Luther Burbank in the 19th century is making a mess of everything.
Friends of mine are working hard to get the Himalayan blackberry out of their woods. I’m thinking hard about the wisdom of humans moving plant and animal species to new parts of the world—and planning to make a lot of blackberry jam and pies this summer.
Conflict food is another emerging trend. (Too bad conflictarian isn’t as catchy as invasivore.) Started by artists in Pittsburg, the Conflict Kitchen only serves food from nations with which the U.S. has conflicts. Every four months, the look and menu changes. The Kubideh kitchen, serving Iranian food, was first. Now open is the Bolani Pazi Afghan takeout restaurant, created with local Afghan refugees and featuring events and discussions about culture and conflict. Coming soon: North Korea and Venezuela.
Food not Bombs, which I heard about last summer from a young woman at Holden Village, collects and cooks surplus and wasted food and serves vegetarian meals for free in many cities. You’ll get the basic story but not the specifics on the web, because it’s controversial; some of the food comes from dumpsters, and FNB often has skirmishes with local municipalities over food licensing. But I appreciate their strong challenge to our wasteful system, which wastes or discards about 40% of our food.
Lenten supper season will soon be upon us. How about replacing the same old thing with meals of invasive, conflict, or scavenged foods? As a cook, I’d love to investigate and prepare local invasive plants and animals. Or learn about a different culture, a conflict, and its implications as I cook a dish from a conflict country. Or even find out firsthand how much food is wasted in my town, by trying to scavenge something for a meal! Besides challenging the cooks, all three would open bold new conversations around hunger. Shall we give them a try?
Anne Basye, Sustaining Simplicity