Notes from Windward: #67


Preserving Fruit and Community

Some of Lindsay's thoughts on "preserving" community


     When you walk into Windward’s main kitchen and dining room, you will face a shelf lined with containers full of dried fruit, all of which has been picked and processed this summer. Strawberries and cherries from June, July’s blackberries, peaches from August, September’s elderberries, apples and plums; the remaining days of September and October will bring pears, more elderberries and apples, and perhaps some quince. Many of the fruits grew wild in Klickitat County, others were cultivated on farms and orchards run by long-time friends of Windward, and all were lovingly washed, sliced and dehydrated by Windward members and interns over the past few months.

     Browsing in a health food store, you may be able to find a similar display — bins or bags full of all kinds of varieties of dried fruit, from good old raisins to tropical mangoes or pineapple. Much of the fruit seems to be intended for eating just as it is— a sweet snack while on the go, or to be mixed with breakfast cereals or granola. Hikers and campers commonly bring dried fruit along, as it is lightweight, compact and nutritious.

     While all of these may seem to be reasonable or common uses of dried fruit, it is not the use intented for the fruit stored on the wall in Windward’s kitchen. After participating in the process of preparing dried peaches, plums, apples and elderberries, I can understand why making an afternoon snack out of the dried strawberries that were so carefully processed in June may not be an appropriate use of a very valuable (and delicious!) resource.

     Instead, the fruit is intended to be used for baked goods and cooking, enjoyed by the entire community, throughout the winter months. The only thing better than peach cobbler on a lingering summer evening, is warm peach cobbler made from the summer’s best peaches enjoyed on a cold wintry afternoon with friends.

     Most people live in a world that's disconnected from the products they use and the food they eat to the point where they do not understand how a certain appliance works or where their food comes from. However, a lifestyle in which we have the opportunity to participate in the process of creation adds tremendous value to, as well as a greater appreciation for, the products that make up a wholesome and fulfilling life.

     In Aldo Leopold’s essay "Good Oak", he powerfully describes a similar observation, "There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace." Living on a farm, Leopold suggests, is one way we can continually create, whether it be fuel or food, and thereby not only learn the " how to" in transforming one product into another, but also gain a greater understanding of the larger system in which this whole process takes place.

     The dried fruit in Windward’s kitchen fundamentally connects us to the living history of Klickitat County. The dried apples carry with them a story of an abandoned homestead along the Klickitat River; the blackberries a painful ecological lesson about plant adaptations to protect their unripened seeds from herbivory; the peaches an indication that today’s over production and over consumption allows good food to be considered waste. The dried fruit is just a fraction of the summer’s abundance we've preserved; for along with dried peaches, there are jams, marmalades and chutneys stored too.

     Throughout the entire process of preserving this fruit, we are reminded of why these recipes evolved as a method for securing fresh, wholesome food for families throughout the year, and the sense of community that this practice creates in the process. Leopold describes the spiritual dangers of not owning a farm. So, by participating in these processes of creating food and fuel, we gain the spiritual opportunity to not only connect to, but to actually engage in creating the world in which we want to live.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67