My Neighbourhood Pantry
Please enjoy eating these gifts from my community.
I have lived through fires, floods, and a global pandemic. I know the value of a fully stocked pantry. As we have dealt with more and more of these extreme weather events, what we used to call natural disasters, I have come to see my pantry in a new way.
I have come to see my pantry as part of a web of pantries in my local area. I don’t need to have everything in my pantry because my neighbours have other things. It is a different way of doing self-sufficiency, community sufficiency. This seems so natural now, but the first few events back in the early 2020’s remind me that we had a long way to go.
In the Covid19 pandemic of 2020 we had fights breaking out over toilet paper, a state wide pasta shortage, and I ended up with 20 cans of tin tomatoes because somehow that is what my anxiety made me buy. I remember being fully stocked with toilet paper, I offered it to my friends before my partner shot me down - what if we need i t? ‘40 rolls of toilet paper? I asked. We don’t know how long this thing will last. He was right and also no one wanted it, even when they needed it. They were too proud. Keeping up with Joneses sometimes meant pretending we didn’t need something. I laugh now. An age when people had too much and people had too little but no one was brave enough to be honest with each other.
Of course that has changed now. The extreme weather events throughout the 2020s changed us. Dead cows stuck in trees from flood waters. Houses razed to the ground, metal structures impossible twisted due to the heat. It was all so overwhelming, our normal lives, our normal routines, our normal jobs all seemed pitifully unimportant as we stood with our neighbours and surveyed the wreckage.
I remember calling my boss at the university “I’m sorry I said I can’t work for awhile, my community needs me more than you.” I stopped writing lectures and instead I cleaned people’s houses, I sorted through donations, I made endless cups of tea and listened to people worse off than me talk of their loss, and also their lives. By doing this I, and other like me found out interesting things. Neil and Abby were learning to forage for mushrooms. Simon and Aurelie have the best brassicas. Danny and Anna are keen picklers. Frank is good in a crisis, Barbra needs help to cope. We learnt each other's strengths and weaknesses and the weird competition over who had the nicest stuff fuelled by consumerism and advertising suddenly lost its power.
Because when we know people, we know we can share. The competition instilled in us to compete for jobs, to judge each other by the stuff we had, not the stuff we were made of was only ever an illusion to get us to work harder and buy more. Corporations don’t make money if you share. When this was lost we became people not defined by stuff, but by our characters. Our generosity, our resilience, our ability to care and nurture.
There are no billionaires today. In fact the idea that there ever was is hilarious. Why would people flaunt their selfishness and their greed? Wealth is not stored in one pantry, wealth is stored in relationships in a community - I have the riches of my neighbours pantries and they of mine.
And now you have my riches too. A selection in front of you from my neighbourhood pantry. Please enjoy, and if you would like to write a note to my neighbours please do, I promise to share it with them.
Big thanks to the Valla community for all of your goodies!
Retrosuburbia by David Holmgreen