Mette Ivie Harrison: Food Storage & the Apocalypse 

click to enlarge NIKI CHAN
After reading a post-apocalyptic novel in 2008 that resonated strongly with her children, local young-adult author Mette Ivie Harrison and her family have devoted a month each year to subsisting solely off of food storage. Harrison talked with City Weekly about food storage and the end of the world.

How did you decide to go a month eating only from food storage?
It really came out of my children’s fear after reading Life As We Knew It that something like that would happen. This book was one that felt really real. It’s written as a diary, and the author just got into the mind of what it would really feel like day by day as you live through a situation that gets worse and worse, and every day you think, “This is the worst it can possibly be,” and then the next day, just by these gradual degrees, it gets worse. I didn’t realize how frightening it would be. My son would go downstairs at night after we’d read the book and look in the pantry and reassure himself that we did have enough food. And I started to notice also that the kids had a different view of our dinners. There was a new appreciation for food.

Will Mormons have the upper hand when the apocalypse comes?
I did not realize how much my view of Life as We Knew It and the idea of having food storage were influenced by my LDS upbringing until I started talking to my agent about doing this month. He thought it was the most insane thing ever, and told me that I was torturing my children. The thought that we’d go without buying food for a month sounds like we’d be starving to death. For me, there was never a question of us going without food.

I’m always trying to convert people, even within the Mormon Church, to my way of doing food storage. They should try to go for a month and see what they learn about what the problems in their food storage. But so far everyone thinks that I’m a little extreme. Even within the Mormon Church I’m a little extreme. Everybody [in the LDS community] has the food storage, but nobody ever uses it. It’s very strange to me. I talk to other people, and they have wheat, but they never ever bake bread. Or, they have dried beans in storage, but they have no idea how to use dried beans. Partly because I’m a vegan, I eat beans all the time, and I cook bread. So it wasn’t that different of a lifestyle.

What’s prompting the recent rash of dystopian/apocalyptic fiction?
I think that it’s a fad. It’s a cycle that seems to happen. In the ’70s, dystopian was very big. There was a lot of it being produced—not on the young adult level, but on the adult level. I grew up in the ’70s, and that has been in the back of my mind, my whole life, the idea that there will be bombs, and what to do when the bombs come. I’m not sure what causes it to become a new fad. My guess is that it’s the economic crisis. People are acting as though it’s the Depression again. I think this dystopian literature is being read and becoming more popular because it strikes people as being real in a way that it didn’t 10 years ago. People have a sense that they want to be prepared. Literature is a way for people to experiment with things that they think may happen to them in real life, but experiment in a safer way. So they don’t have to experience it for the first time without being prepared, they’ll read literature that scares them, but just a little bit.

How do you think the world will end?
I don’t actually think the world is going to end anytime soon. I think we’re going to be around for a very long time. I think we humans are very adaptable. And even if there were some catastrophic event that happened, I think that we would find a way to save a few people. I think that’s one of the reasons people read about apocalyptic fiction. It really is about hope. Under the worst possible circumstances, what do people do? And it turns out that people do these amazing, wonderful things when they are against the wall.

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