In the epilogue of The Art of Eating In, I bemoaned my oversight of home gardening as one of the restaurant-free food subcultures that I explored in its chapters. Thinking that my outdoor space-free residence would eliminate the option, I’d left out the very preface to cooking: growing the stuff. Fortunately, there have been many sage leaders in doing just that, even in the tiniest urban crevices they can find, and their voices are getting some much-deserved attention. Last month, Just Food paid a lively tribute to the pioneering food advocate, Joan Gussow, who at one point during the ceremonies quipped that she’d originally wanted to title her classic memoir, This Organic Life, “Eating My Lawn.” So since writing the book, I’ve been inspired to close the gap between agriculture and what’s on my plate, both in theory and actual, trowel-wielding practice. This time, I am so not alone in my quest.
From community plots to schoolgrounds to offices to the White House, edible gardens are cropping up all over the place. Which means a lot more food is being produced and prepared at home. Whether for economic reasons, a distrust of processed foods, or pure fun, home vegetable gardening is taking off — and it’ll take us straight to our kitchens, too. Who else is going to cook all the stuff you grew? And what better reason to not eat out than a couple black beauty eggplants hanging from the vine, a confetti of ripe cherry tomatoes, and a fragrant basil plant in need of some trimming? You’re three-fourths of the way to some killer eggplant parm.
If you don’t have a yard, lawn or acreage of your own, you can still forge your way into growing a few goodies for yourself this season. Fire escapes and windowsills are good places to start. You can join a community garden, or spend a day volunteering at community farms like Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, Added Value and the soon-to-be Brooklyn Grange for more extensive gardening exposure. Live in Detroit, and you can guerilla-garden in a vacant lot, as many have done. Sign a petition for the Peoples Garden NYC if you want to see fruits and vegetables in front of City Hall. Or, check with your landlord if you can use the roof.
The roof of one local brewery is where I’ve been greening my thumb this spring, and I hope to share that journey with you. Sixpoint Craft Ales based in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to be exact, and all the photos here were taken on it. There are dozens of varieties of mostly organic and heirloom vegetables growing on it, a rainwater collection system (so as to not waste tap water), a compost bin, and now, four egg-laying chickens in a rooftop coop, which I recently wrote about on markbittman.com. They’re all doing great.
It would seem I’m not the first one to spill this news to you, but I will share another update. In the next month, I’ll be transitioning out of this blog and into a new one, which incorporates my rooftop endeavors. Lunch at Sixpoint, where cooking, green roof gardening, and beer collide. It should be hella fun, and I hope you’ll follow my move there. I dearly love Not Eating Out in New York, but in the three and a half years I’ve been writing it, feel that it’s evolved far from a diatribe on restaurant culture in New York, to a more fluid conversation about food, what we value about it, and how to have lots of fun cooking and sharing it. So it just seems ripe to give this dialogue a new home base. There will still be plenty of recipes, and budget-savviness will still be king. In the meantime, posts may slow down on this blog as it gets ready to launch. Stay tuned, pitch in any suggestions, and as always, be excellent to each other.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” –Albert Einstein
(Still gotta love quotes.)