Eat Your Sidewalk

NEWS!

The EAT YOUR SIDEWALK COOKBOOK is finally ready for publication!

Take a look.

Eat Your Sidewalk is just what it says. We believe that it is time to change everything about how we eat, think about food and engage with our urban ecosystems. We believe it is time to start foraging and eating our sidewalks. Change needs to begin right where we are. Foraging the weeds in the cracks of our streets right under our feet, and not in some far off pristine forest,  is a delicious joyous activity that has the capacity to spark deep and far reaching ecological change. When you bend down a pick a dandelion growing from a crack in the street, what has happened to this plant now happens to you — your fates are joined. You are of this place in a way you have never been. This is a profound act with important consequences for us, these weeds, our eating habits and our sense of place.

Eating your sidewalk is about the complex and entangled ways of being alive. This extends beyond us to include the very active participation of plants, animals, histories, technologies, ideas, other worlds and practices. For far too long we have held ourselves apart from these worlds — socially, politically, economically, and ecologically. We wish to change this in a direct, engaged, and joyous manner.

To help foster a sense of being of a place that could open us up to the wonders of meeting radically distinct worlds and remake our own world we have developed a program we call EAT YOUR SIDEWALK. It is one part foraging and one part commons building and all centered on the social and intraspecies pleasure of eating.  This initiative has different aspects to it:

  • We lead community tours workshops, challenges, and dinners, where we take groups out to forage their sidewalks. We identify, dig into histories, share stories, taste, and have a wonderful meal together. From one hour to one week. We have led these walks all across the country (NYC, San Francisco, Detroit, San Diego, Montreal, Sherbrooke) and internationally (Denmark, Poland, Japan and elsewhere). See The Civil Appetites
  • We make food meadows and food forests full of wild growing edible and beneficial weeds. These are  co-develop urban landscapes from small patches on city streets to entire college campuses. See PITZER MULTI-SPECIES COMMONS
  • We lead systems analysis and engagement workshops for communities. See Entangled Citizens
  • We are in the final stages of publishing a beautiful coffee table cookbook: Eat Your Sidewalk. This will be a four hundred plus page full color book with over a thousand photographs of foraging expeditions from the high arctic to the inner city, dozens of diagrams, and nearly one hundred recipes. If you would like to preorder a copy please drop us a line.
  • We consult on the commons, urban ecosystems, participatory design, and strategic initiatives to tip systems into new states with organizations, communities, architects, universities, and many others.

We would love nothing more than to work with you, your organization or community at any scale or in any capacity. Our Facebook page has much more information on the various ongoing Eat Your Sidewalk projects.

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Here are some other things we have said about this program:

What does “Eat Your Sidewalk!” Mean?

For us it is in those three simple words:

EAT: eating is what links us to all life — when we eat a dandelion growing on our street what has happened to it now happens to us. Our health and its health are linked. Its concerns and ours meet. We can no longer separate our fates.

YOUR: You are not alone as you pick this plant — others want it (both human and non-human), you have to negotiate, work together — this means forming a community based on shared concerns (health, sustainability, pleasure…). Not a top down community, or a community in name only, but a co-evolving community of partners.

SIDEWALK: So often we talk about local but we skip over our actual place to get to the parts of our environment we more easily recognize because they are more like products or have been defined for us as important. But this means we are not addressing our actual environment fully. How do we do this? Begin with where you are — your sidewalks, yards, neighborhoods, and the systems that they are part of — and pay attention to everything. When this really happens a place comes alive.

!: Lets not forget the thin bit of punctuation! The exclamation mark is there because it has to be as urgent and as it is fun. (It can’t be all doom and gloom). Eat Your Sidewalk! celebrates the excesses that just might come with a less dependent way of life.

 

What are the Big Ideas Behind Eat Your Sidewalk?

1. Foraging: Eat Your Sidewalk begins with the simple act of sleuthing for and gathering wild things. This is not just plants for eating, it also involves sleuthing out material, ideas, and habits.

2. Become Local: When you eat what grows under your feet you become part of your environment. This form of Eating links us directly to other living things. When we eat a dandelion growing on our street what has happened to it now happens to us. Our health and its health are linked. Its concerns and ours meet. We can no longer separate our fates.

3. Re-skilling: As we became consumers we lost many skills. Eat Your Sidewalk has a core set of techniques to helps us regain lost skills and invent new ones that take us beyond a passive consumer approach to reality and evolve skills from foraging to permaculture, civil disobedience, urban gardening, preserving, fermenting…

4. Community Driven: All of the skill building activities, locations, and concerns come from the community that hosts the Eat Your Sidewalk Challenge. We work with as many local partners as possible to foster an initiative that lasts and evolves long after the challenge is over. The deeper the collaborative becomes, the more robust our skills for foraging can develop.

5. Immersive: This is critical for us — there is a difference between a workshop or a class and an intensive week long challenge.  It takes time and an intensity of experience to come to certain insights and to break old habits and form new ones. The challenge is somewhere between a “Tough Mudder”, the “100 Mile Diet” and foraging with your grandparents.

6. Making Community Making Commons: When we forage we have to become sensitive not only to what we are gathering but to who else is gathering. And this is not just fellow humans, we have to negotiate with other critters. At this point a new form of collective begins to form. This collective consists of people, plants, other critters, habits, practices, ecosystems, ideas and much else. We enter a wonderful and complex dialog across species that co-shapes our shared environment.This is what we consider to be the “commons”.

7. Wayfinding: With foraging your perception of a place really changes, you move differently and the world becomes a lot more concrete — full of actual plants and not just general stuff (the lawn, the field…). You become tuned to the weather, the seasons, chemicals,  and social dynamics. A very different reverence for place develops, a reverence that it is active, and engaged (not just the “take photos and leave only footprints…).

8. New self: It is hard to say “me” or “I” when foraging — what I pick is not something I grew, nor do I own it, and in a real sense I didn’t even “find” it. As well if what is happening to a plant is also happening to me then in a very real and concrete sense we are interconnected. Foraging makes you less of an individual and much more of a distributed creature where it is very hard to separate the self from the environment.

9. MacGyver the World: Remember that crazy tv show in the 80′s where MacGyver transformed random things into planes, lock-picks, bombs, phones and the like? We need to think more like that: a couple pens, some matches, an old phone book and gum… Take nothing at face value — MacGyver everything!

10. Nature is Urban: So often we forget that we are part of nature and that cities are complex ecosystems. We have reached a point where the majority of us humans live in urban environments. We need to reconsider these environments beyond seeing the concrete jungle.

11. Here Comes Everything: With foraging you start with where you are — you walk out the front door, you pay attention to your surroundings rather than imagine you could be elsewhere. You deal with your world — the good and the bad — the everything (but concretely and pragmatically). Race, pollution, globalism, unwanted critters… You celebrate and you transform the best you can.

12. Problems Are Created: Yes, you read that right — we want to make problems. It is a mistake to think that problems pre-exist. Problems need to be created. The goal of Eat Your Sidewalk is to create problems worth having and worlds worth making with a community of humans, plants and other critters.

 

Eat Your Sidewalk is one of our core on-going initiatives, launched in 2008, to foster large scale social and ecological transformation in an emergent bottom-up manner. The focus of this initiative is to develop an alternative way to address our pressing socio-ecological issues by developing alternative practices of place, the commons, multi-species actions, and urbanism.