Archive for food security

People's Kitchen

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie was unhappy working for HOT TV. She knew that it served a purpose, giving single mothers a way to earn a living in otherwise job-scarce Lucerne; but there had to be a better way to use her talents as a producer. There also had to be a better way to use The Place – the renovated car park at the centre of the village – than filling it with girls in hot pants and bra tops.

She’d developed a concept called TOT TV, where the girls focussed on activities to entertain their young children, but it hadn’t acquired traction. It seemed that the greater demand right now was not for colourful boards with snakes and ladders, but for neon skimpies with shakes and judders.

The Place had really been smartened up, with water features spouting and sparkling, and spiky plants with bright flowers, but that was only the smiling centre, where happy families came to chat, stroll and snack. During her daily filming, Sophie noticed a ragged edge to the village. People on the margins of this community were struggling. The HOT TV girls had found one way of coping, but others daily visited gas stations, hardware and grocery stores asking for non-existent jobs. There was poverty and hunger here, leading to desperation.

As Sophie shot vignettes about how much fun it was to live in Lucerne, continually shouting “Action!” and “Cut!” – she developed a feeling of unease. She saw affluent families, a mix of locals and visitors, enjoying The Place’s new retail and dining options. Yet on the edge of this showpiece “communal” space, just out of view, hungry eyes were peering. Families at leisure wasted food; as soon as they left, but before the cleaning crews, swift hands pulled it into the shadows.

Restaurants around the square also wasted food. To attract the widest range of customers they featured extensive menus, with local, national, international and seasonal dishes. This required vast ingredient stocks, not all of which were used. The Authority’s health and safety regulations forbade re-use of ingredients. They were thrown into large bins that were locked immediately, for retrieval only by trash crews.

Sophie asked one of the girls, Jeannie, “Is there something we can do about this? It’s ridiculous that there are people hungry every day, and food gets wasted before our eyes.”

“I was chatting with the other girls,” said Jeannie. “We were thinking of cooking for everyone.”

“What do you mean by everyone?” said Sophie. “You mean the general public?”

“Yes, we could approach the restaurants for spare ingredients…” Sophie tried to interrupt but Jeannie kept talking; it was this determination that kept her dancing like a monkey in front of rolling cameras to feed her child. “I’m sure they would find a way around the regulations. Say once a month, we could have a People’s Kitchen, where we cook up whatever we have, and people bring whatever they can, and we all eat together.”

“Like a huge potluck?” said Sophie.

“Yes, but it’s not a matter of luck. It’s a matter of intention.” Sophie was impressed by her thinking and agreed to help.

On the last day of the month, when restaurants rotated their ingredient stocks, the HOT TV girls wandered around collecting ingredients, and developed recipe plans based on their haul. The next evening at the centre of The Place, they set up the People’s Kitchen and cooked dinner for everyone. Their free ingredients, with added herbs and spices, made fabulous stews, stir-fries, curries and roasts, accompanied by some salads and sweets.

“I have an idea,” said Jeannie. “Let’s make a monthly show to highlight what we are doing here, called LOT TV.” Sophie nodded her head upward indicating the need for further explanation. Jeannie said, “We were chatting while we were cooking. We believe in the Laws of Karma and Attraction. The more everybody gives, the more we all have.”

I underestimated them, thought Sophie. These HOT TV girls are on fire.


Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , on January 24, 2012 by javedbabar

Bruce was feeling sick this morning; he should have left that old takeaway in the fridge. It had something growing on it, but he’d eaten it anyway; it wasn’t even good to begin with.

The trucks annoyed him more than usual; there was always one on the road. They weren’t local drivers so didn’t know their way too well; they over-sped on Charlie’s Straight Stretch, and then pumped their brakes on Hutchins’ Curve. Bruce didn’t touch his brakes for thirty kilometres, all the way from Lucerne to the Golden turn-off. And these out-of-town truckers hogged the middle of the highway as if Knights of the Road, their reflective orange triangles heraldic signs.

Where were they going anyway? At first he’d thought they were hauling gravel. There was a truck every ten minutes, like a well-run road-building operation. But when a truck’s tarp came loose at the corner, he saw it was spuds. He didn’t recognize the variety; they were like Peruvian Purples but bright blue, looking like Space Spuds.

Why the hell were they hauling spuds up the Valley? They should be hauling them down the Valley, into the City, and across the border. He asked some people, but no one knew.

One day out hunting, he sighted a buck and was taking aim, when a truck’s grinding caused it to bound. Bruce was furious, and felt like shooting out the truck’s tires. As he was preparing to leave, another truck went by. Instead of heading home, Bruce followed it. That bright orange triangle would sure make a good target at night, he thought.

Just before the Golden turn-off, there was roadwork. The truck driver made it through, but Ben’s Frontier was stopped suddenly by the Traffic Control Person. He was annoyed but kept calm. “What are you doing here?” he asked her.

“Oh, just fixing up the road.”

“Why didn’t you let me through?” he said. “Wouldn’t it have been easier?”

“I’m just following orders. One in, one out.”

After five minutes, Ben was allowed to go. No one else appeared. “Where’s the ‘one out’?” he asked her. She shook her head and waved him on. He watched her in his mirror. On her back was a reflective orange triangle.

The next time Ben saw a truck, he followed it again. Once more there was the same charade. The Traffic Control Person stopped him suddenly, for no reason.

“One in, one out again?” he asked her. She nodded. “Listen, where are these trucks going?”

“How should I know?” she said. “I just wave them on. I’m not paid to ask.”

Again no “one out” appeared, and she waved Bruce on. In his mirror, he saw her speak into her radio urgently, and turn to face his receding vehicle, squinting. Was she trying to read his licence plate? When he exited the other end of the construction zone, the man there also spoke into his radio, and squinted at the Frontier. Bruce had noticed that there wasn’t much work going on at this roadwork. In fact there was none at all. What was going on then?

Now Bruce wasn’t a conspiracy theorist in the traditional sense – meaning alien contact, shadowy elites, mass brainwashing, etc. – but he was a conspiracy theorist. A conspiracy was simply a decision made in secret by people with something to hide. No doubt there were plenty of those. And something smelled fishy here. Were they putting in a secret hydro project, or a geothermal installation? Avoiding all the bureaucracy and public consultations. Or maybe an oil well; could it be a mine? The price of metals had rocketed; it could be silver, copper, or even gold.

Bruce followed the next truck he saw. Again the same charade. But this time he drove ever so slowly. If he crawled along, he thought, the truck behind would surely catch him. Then he could see where it went.

As he crept along, he spotted an orange triangle nailed to a tree at the side of the road. He was surprised that he hadn’t seen it before. Up close, he saw a little letter at each corner: A-B-C. But there were no tracks leading off from here, only dense bush on both sides. He pulled his truck off the road a little further up, and walked back to the triangle. The vegetation was strange – so flat that it seemed more like a landscaped hedge than wild bush. He heard a truck behind and took cover.

He watched as the truck simply drove through the bush! He realized that the bush there was a kind of projection; overlapping greens – some light, some dark – blending substantially. He walked right through it, and followed a sharp-rocked forestry road. He hid whenever a truck passed. He reached a rocky entrance, marked by another orange triangle. He considered walking in but felt vulnerable. He awaited the next truck, and when the driver stopped at the entrance to turn and reverse, Bruce jumped between the truck and trailer.

He was taken 500 metres down a dimly-lit tunnel, and into a vast cavern. It smelled very cold and dusty; a bit mouldy. The truck tipped its load of spuds. Bruce jumped out and hid in the lumpy blue pile. Was this a strategic food reserve for the City, he wondered? In case of natural or man-made disaster, people could eat for weeks. Farmers had told him that potatoes required little water to grow, matured quickly, and stored for a year. And they were as close as you could get to a complete food, containing dense energy, proteins, fats, vitamins, and fibre. Everything you needed to survive for extended periods. They were an excellent choice for a regional food store.

Something moved beneath him; then something to his right, and his left. Strong sinewy arms embraced him, his sharp breath only helping the arms to grip tighter. Other finer arms then crept up his body. These knobbly sprouts held budded points. They made their way to his body orifices – the accessible ones: nostrils, ears, mouth, and anus – and ones that required a push – genital, navel, and eye sockets. As the sprouts entered his body, their alkaloids altered his nerve impulses: a-solanine stimulating their firing, and a-chaconine retarding it, until they reached a perfect balance.

The orange triangles Bruce had seen were symbols of Project A-B-C, high-priority research to establish self-nourishing, super-organisms. They must be capable of surviving Armageddon on earth, or existing on inhospitable planets. Bruce was the latest human being the super-organism had absorbed. Its potato base ensured it had plenty of Calories: C; and substantial Body: B. It just needed to boost its A: Awareness.