I do quite a bit of reading on the future of cities, and the factors influencing change. Since 2008, more people live in cities than in rural areas. That trend is expected to accelerate.
There is another trend, less talked about, that I think I personally exemplify. Cities foster foodies. Here in Chicago, I have resources I never had growing up. In my own neighborhood, I can eat outstanding Indian, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Pakistani or Israeli food. And that’s before I take a long walk. In the years I’ve lived here, I’ve come to believe that if you pay for a meal in this city, it had darn well better be great. There are too many fabulous things to eat here–at every price point–to settle for anything less.
So for me, living in a city has enabled me to have new ideas about food. And along with questions of quality in restaurants have come questions about fresh ingredients. My favorite meals at home are cooked by my husband (who cooks much, much better than I, and for that matter much better than most people or chefs), and his best meals are sourced carefully. They’re best in the summer, when we have access to local produce from farmers’ markets, and our favorite meat and seafood vendors: Zier’s, or The Fish Guy.
This year, I hope to take things a step further. I hope to cultivate an urban garden that is both beautiful and edible. I’ve been reading like mad, and my favorite resources are books including All New Square Foot Gardening and Edible Gardening in the Midwest. Gardeners.com has a fantastic garden planning tool that I’ve put to good use.
My idea is simple: I want to put my yard to better use than I have in the past. I really don’t see why I need grass, and planting annual flowers seems frivolous. Can I plant flowers and veggies that are edible and beautiful? Can I manage to grow a crop of vegetables that will feed my family this summer? And: can I contribute to a more sustainable city by using water from a rain barrel, compost from my own heap, and reducing my trips to the market by cultivating our own food?
This year, I’m determined. I’m going to grow my garden and eat it, too.