But if I’m privileged, then so are those yupsters who follow the blog, those who adore Wild Kitchen and its sister club that supplies the food, forageSF. Thus arises my contention that Wild Kitchen/ forageSF ought to realize their potential despite their major pitfall.
Essentially a scavengers’ co-operative, forageSF harvests food from the wild “to build a local food economy based on a true respect for the skills of our rural neighbors.” They “hope to create a situation where foraging full-time can be a sustainable lifestyle for those who enjoy it (and who doesn’t like to spend all day in the woods?)”.
In a city where rent rises as the national economy tanks, who the heck can afford to live and forage full-time for food in the urban/suburban wild? Probably only the founder of the club. Not even techies could do it- they need to continue to work and drive up rent around arbitrary shuttle stops. (This type of gentrification damages public property through frequent use of streets unfit for heavy buses, but doesn’t compensate the city for road deterioration.) The naivete of Wild Kitchen/forageSF reveals what they – what typically people of middle or upper class – take for granted: the privilege of not being poor, of not worrying how the next paycheck will cover rent and health insurance.
It’s a privilege to have time to search for edibles in the urban wild on your own. It’s a privilege to have the disposable income to pay $32.64 for a Wild Food Walk. It’s even more of a privilege to pay $50 for someone else to cook the food that you paid $32.64 (plus travel expenses) to forage. The average American cannot afford this type of activity on a regular basis. So forageSF, don’t kid yourself on creating so-called sustainable lifestyle when what you really mean is a living an alternative privileged lifestyle.
This food-scavengers co-op has the potential to be more than just a fun and interesting club. They’re essentially exploiting common goods- picking wild food and turning a small profit. It has the potential to give back to the public what technically was public property. Instead of upholding a pretense of aiding the public through education, Wild Kitchen could choose to feed those who are less fortune, those who economically cannot afford to forage and live a sustainable lifestyle even if they would enjoy spending “all day in the woods.”
Wild Kitchen and forageSF should look beyond the buzzwords of local food economy to the issue of local food security. The food that this organization collects is no doubt fresh and of high quality- why not donate the food so that wild food can truly be accessible and appreciated by people of all classes? Don’t be just a trend and a passing phase: redefine the potential of a startup kitchen.
*Unless of course, this foraging thing was started by someone who couldn’t afford to purchase food. Then forageSF is really just exploiting a genuinely sustainble activity.