the dark brown river

Sunday, February 13, 2005

and the edible irish house.

this is of course a fairy story, and owes more than a little to the gingerbread house of an earlier fairytale . . . but please accept that the world would be a better place if all houses were edible.

so how do you eat a house ? - how does a mouse eat an elephant ? a little at a time. we are allowed to put aside stone, because a builder never throws away a good stone. there is always a place for one, and there are many irish buildings to testify to the fact that a good stone is never wasted.

the rest is timber, thatch, wattle, clay, lime, plaster. much of this rots in the irish climate, and often while you are still living in the house. there is no reason to consign the remains of a house to skips and landfill. most of this - if dumped in or close to your own garden - will rot down slowly into the soil and blend with other compostible materials. the time scale for this is one generation. not a generation of people, but the time required to regenerate the timber and other biodegradable materials that will go towards the building of your house's successor, or the refurbishment of the present structure. within the lifetime of your present house it should be possible to biodegrade its predecessor - less anything that has been recycled. the materials rot into a compost and are incorporated into the soil. if you are a true freeborn irish person - and not just a weekly paying tenant of the tesco estate - then you will bit by bit consume the produce of this soil until you have eaten your house.

any upset to the digestion will immediately lead you to suspect that alien materials were used in the construction. so always take your materials, and your cue, from the natural forest - where everything that dies, degrades into the soil, because nothing that was not digestible to the soil was taken up from the soil by the growing tree in the first place.

so beware of the indigestible house, and when you are choosing an architect, always go for one with taste.


Saturday, February 12, 2005

an edible ireland


this is about a concept of ethical eating. it may develop later into an article or an entertaining rant.

a society - large or small - needs a group morality. this is a structure, a hard skeleton of rules, stated or unstated, that keep you out of the way of too much conflict with other citizens, players, or gang members.

when ireland was a british colony, the government army, and police all belonged to someone else - so there was a certain amount of lawlessness - but the society that was outside of the colonial law and felt that it owed it no loyalty, still needed structure, so a greater emphasis emerged on religious loyalty, the observance of funeral customs, and the observing of sexual morality, and the like.

likewise after the famine, the division of land was seen as potentially disastrous, so sexual morality played a part in holding population to within what could be sustained by the land. you did not bring a wife into the cottage/ farm while your mother was still alive, for example. you waited.

but sexual morality/ inhibition has been swamped by other imperatives of the consumer culture. the media, pornography, magazines in general, films and entertainment - all now have a massive financial stake in the general liberal sexual climate. none of them can afford to go back . . .

so the way lies open, for another of the great moral supports of society - food morality, food taboos, or ethical eating - to take centre stage again in structuring our society.

the irish smoking ban - ingestion morality if you like - is the forerunner.

healthy food lengthens life, enhances personal appearance, banishes obesity, - thus promotes sex appeal, and reduces exposure to carcinogenic chemicals.

motherhood and apple pie ? ethical eating is an alternative to obesity, ugliness, sexlessness, loneliness, cancer and early death. half a dozen conditions that will find few apologists. that is a good bunch of demons to run against.

the current buzz concept of 'sustainability' is already starting to look tired. the word is misused and overused.

the concept of ' edibility' could be its replacement.

did you know -( the gravediggers do )- that bodies are these days lasting longer in the ground. - pickled in the stuff that they are putting in food to prolong shelf life. . .

here are the first principles of the ethic of edibility -

you are what you eat - so,

the menu tells more than the agenda.

the menu tells more than the syllabus.

if a conference, meeting, course syllabus or other agenda supports local, decentralised, organic, or rural development initiatives - ignore what they are saying, and check what they are eating. beware the speaker who endorses sustainable practice, but eats a la tesco in the lunch interval. the menu speaks much louder than the agenda. if the two conflict - believe the menu. for if a speaker does not believe his or her own prescription - why should we believe them or be impressed with anything that they say ?

neither ethical eating nor casual hypocrisy is new -

' thou believest that there is one god - thou doest well. the devils also believe, and tremble. but wilt thou know, o vain man, that faith without works is dead ?' ( letter of james - written around 100 a.d. )

so this is fair warning to all organisers of sustainable food conferences not to include me on the invitation list, unless your menu is as carefully chosen as your speakers and your agenda.