Sunset's One Block Diet Competition
by Gibsy Beckett
Kids, chickens, worms, beer, goats, neighbors, vegetables, and the promise of catching fish from paddleboards.
These were the selling points my neighbors touted to win us a coveted spot in Sunset Magazine's latest "One Block Diet" competition. The rules seemed simple enough: grow, brew, forage, or catch all the food to serve our families (within a neighborhood block) for one big feast on or before September 15, 2011.
The mastermind behind the hoopla, John Diodati, organized a few families in the beach tract of North Morro Bay and convinced us we were perfect for the competition. Being naïve little lambs, we took the bait and promptly gazed out at our rock yards brimming with potential. Then we plucked up our courage and posed for a group picture—CHEESE! We were going to be urban farmers for Sunset Magazine!!
The Beach Tractors
Well, at least that's how it started.
Hoards of over-qualified applicants from all over the country applied for this honor. Sunset chose 10 teams spanning the West Coast to follow, document, and ultimately judge for a chance at the Grand Prize Pot of $500!!! Wait, that's a typo, right? No. Nope. It's $500 alright.
Oh well, it's not about the money, it's all about winning!?! No, that can't be it either—oh, yes, it's the thrill of the journey! The learning experience! It's the arrival of a magic thumb that will turn molt from dull, plant-killing grey to an electrifying green, able to bloom and sprout anything it touches. It's the education of raising, slaughtering, and cleaning our first meat bird. The thrill of harvesting a yard full of wheat and brewing beer, growing carrots and broccoli on a timeline, milling cornmeal, and making our own sea salt. That can't be too hard. Right?
The Beach Tractors—our self-proclaimed title for the Sunset Competition—have an immense amount of learning to do alongside all the planting, growing, harvesting, milking, fishing, brewing, and God-knows what else we're committed to for this feast in the upcoming months!
The last time I checked, I was a stay-at-home mom with a laundry habit and a snail infestation. My garden boxes happened because my husband had too much time on his hands (two years ago) and my parental instinct said "plant some seeds with your children, it's good for them." I'm sure I read that somewhere. Or maybe it was brought on by an encouraging picture in Sunset Magazine of a quaint do-it-yourself veggie garden (as easy as 1-2-3!). Anyway, we pulled a few radishes and carrots last year, harvested four ears of corn, and a whole lot of nothing from the much anticipated strawberry plants. The only thing that seems to thrive on a diet of neglect and infrequent rain is the herbs, which I've become dependant upon on those rare days when I take the time to prepare a meal.
Cilantro, Thyme, Mint, and Parsley (in that order from background to foreground)
My home's overgrown garden is par for the course in a neighborhood where family comes first, sunsets come second, and that garden—well, we'll get around to it one of these days. We have a few members of the Beach Tractors who look forward to transforming entire expanses of landscaping rock to lush food-producing meccas in the spirit of this competition. We also have a resident "Real Gardener"—Chicken Dave—who will guide us in all things garden with his wisdom of corn and wheat growing, hen laying, and general expertise in urban farming. Chicken Dave has been churning his soil and planting various foodstuffs for nearly a decade in and around his small beach tract home. We are grateful for this figurehead of urban farming experience! So we've pooled our resources as neighbors and friends, banded together, discussed, organized, and planned. After two extremely insightful neighborly meetings, I've come to realize a few things:
#1. This competition provides the impetus for hands-on experience in animal husbandry, urban gardening, and various food projects (to be named in the next column), none of which I would have the motivation to approach on my own.
#2. Reading about it is one thing, doing it is an entirely different beast! As we speak, I am shoveling fresh manure. Pee-euuww!
#3. What better way to build an even greater admiration and respect for the qualities and talents of my already lovable neighbors? Sure, I think I know my neighbors because we've waved good morning from our driveways for years, sold them Girl Scout Cookies, and borrowed their lawn mower. But, what I didn't realize is that I live in the midst of passionate scientists, historians, website designers, artists, aspiring chefs, accountants, amateur brewmasters, adults who can quote Shakespeare correctly, speak multiple languages fluently, and a whole slew of other admirable qualities I look forward to learning more about.
And so it is with equal amounts of anxiety and eagerness that I embark upon Sunset's One Block Diet Competition alongside my capable and enthusiastic neighbors, family and friends.
Follow the competition both here and on Sunset's website.
A list of competitors:
Abby Peterson’s group, Sausalito, CA,
Elizabeth Staton’s group, Aurora, CO,
Jennifer Harvey’s group, Bellevue, WA,
Joellen Reineck Wilhem’s group, Olympia, WA
*John Diodati’s group, Morro Bay, CA
Karen March’s group, Newman, CA
Maryanne Welton’s group, San Francisco, CA
Max Wong’s group, Los Angeles, CA
Michele Senitzer’s group, East Oakland, CA
Tina Keller’s group, Campbell, CA
All content copyright Slo Coast Journal and Individual Writers.
Do not use without express written permission.