Friday, April 17, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle pt. 1

Like The Omnivore's Dilemma that I read with my bookclub last year, this book, by Barbara Kingsolver and family, proved to be both extremely informative and fascinating. For me it was quite a page-turner. I discussed the book this week with two different bookclubs. I have decided to post a couple blogs with highlights from the book that need to be shared with a wider audience. If this blog resonates with you, please post a link to it on your own blog or email a link to it to your friends.

Kingsolver makes a great argument for eating food that is in-season (as does the LDS Word of Wisdom) and produced locally.
"Pushing a refrigerated green vegetable from one end of the earth to another is, let's face it, a bizarre use of fuel. But there's a simpler reason to pass up off-season asparagus: it's inferior.
It's hard to reduce our modern complex of food choices to unifying principals, but this is one that generally works: eating home-cooked meals from whole, in-season ingredients obtained from the most local source available is eating well, in every sense. Good for the habitat, good for the body.
I am not sure how so many Americans came to believe only our wealthy are capable of honoring a food aesthetic. Anyone who thinks so should have a gander at the kitchens of working-class immigrants from India, Mexico, anywhere really. Cooking at home is cheaper than buying packaged foods or restaurant meals of comparable quality.
Buying goods from local businesses rather than national chains generates about three times as much money for your local economy. Studies from all over the country agree on that, even while consumers keep buying at chain stores, and fretting that the downtown blocks of cute mom-and-pop venues are turning into a ghost town. Today's bargain always seems to matter more."

I have started shopping differently since reading this book. I have recommitted to buying only cage-free eggs (not "free range") and trying to get more of my meat from local, grass-fed sources. I have also made a point of asking if my grocery store is carrying any local produce every time I go. I want to support local farmers and make green houses a more normal, affordable thing in an area with such a short growing season. I did not join a CSA this year (the one that I joined last year only delivers in Park City and the one that delivers in Heber is significantly more expensive) but I have committed myself to shopping at the local farmer's market all summer.

Tod Murphy, owner of The Farmer's Diner in Vermont, which buys everything it sells from businesses within an hour's drive (except for their fair-trade, organic coffee) says, "We have the illusion of consumer freedom, but we've sacrificed our community life for the pleasure of purchasing lots of cheap stuff. Making and moving all that stuff can be destructive: child labor in foreign lands, acid rain in the Northeast, depleted farmland, communities where the big economic engine is crystal meth. We often have the form of liberty, but not the substance. If every restaurant got just ten percent of its food from local farmers the infrastructure of corporate food would collapse."


Klin said...

You hit the nail on the head here, Emily. When you find a local beef grower that is affordable, will you let me know? I'd get a freezer full of meat for my family if I could know that it isn't full of hormones and crap.

Andrew Winningham said...

One need only watch a couple episodes of Gordon Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares" to know that fresh, local ingredients are necessary to make a dish worth serving at a good independent eatery... and that doing so can often save a restaurant in food costs.

However, I really have a hard time faulting people for bargain-hunting on their daily meals. Part of the reason that "[b]uying goods from local businesses rather than national chains generates about three times as much money for your local economy" is that you'll spend significantly more to do so - which the speaker admits a sentence later with the comment that "[t]oday's bargain always seems to matter more."

In my opinion, it is a tough case to make that local grocery owners / farmers / bag boys / etc. deserve my dollars (the extra money I spend to shop there rather than a big chain store) more than my church / homeless shelter / etc. - since they are all essentially competing for charity.

Yeah, I said it. But I'm not a hater... there's nothing wrong with giving to your local grocer.

victoria said...

Yes, I agree with this SO much. As Americans we have gotten SO spoiled! I hate to say it, but I think it is fun and more exciting when I have to wait for something. Like cheap ripe Strawberries in the spring, and good locally grown tomatoes in the summer.

I am going to try to commit myself to the farmers market this year too! I LOVE VEGGIES!! We used to have a farmer come and sell eggs to us when I was at Sabolich and I LOVED them too. Regular eggs just aren't as good.

god book..

Lacey said...

I completely agree to this and I have recently committed to farmers markets also. I also feel strongly that people need to consider victory gardens also. It provides many benefits. Great for the environment, pocket book, and the familys health, learning for children and just because I live in an apartment, I'm still going to grow things in containers on the balcony. AND a family (living in the city) I know just purchased some chicks to keep in the backyard for eggs! The kids love it.

Sheryl said...

I'm pretty sure Pollen set the stage for Kingsolver. These are very good points that you bring up, I just wish it were more reasonable to carry out. This is the challenge we've made for ourselves in a world of "big box" retailing and mass production.

Thanks for sharing!