Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Greenmarkets in the Times

Today's Times has an article about the Greenmarkets in New York that is fairly interesting (though I really, really hate that they refer to organic farmers' concerns about Walmart's organic initiative as "handwringing"). Here's my take: I don't care if a farmer's market includes jams made from imported sugar or pottery or corn husks dolls or bread baked with non-local flour as long as 1) local farmers are not turned away in favor of vendors of non-local products and 2) everything is clearly labelled.

Transparency is the key. Not everyone cares about whether the flour is local, and I would still rather support a local baker using non-local ingredients than a national chain that also uses non-local ingredients. Just let me know what's going on. At least in the Northeast, the easiest way to find out how things have been grown is by asking the vendor. In most cases, they are deeply involved in production and can tell you everything you need to know.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Thank you

I wanted to thank everyone who has sent best thoughts, wishes and prayers while my friend has been in the hospital. The outpouring of kindness and sympathy from people I have never even met has just been unbelievable. Unfortunately, I have bad news. My friend died on Saturday morning. Her parents, sister and I were with her. She was a funny, smart, incredibly generous and loving person, who liked seafood, Tom Waits, Jane Austen, cats, Edward Gorey, romantic comedies, dark humor, rainy days, breakfast at diners, and Vermeer. She was thirty-three years old. I will always miss her.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Eating locally and world poverty

An interesting article in Salon today about, among other things, eating locally. (This will bring you to the main page, but you have to watch the commercial to read anything.) The argument against eating locally seems to be that 1) shipping is much more fuel-efficient than trucking; 2) growing stuff in the irrigated California desert is worse than shipping stuff grown in places that have water and arable soil naturally, and 3) if even 2 cents of every dollar you spend on imported food gets to a Kenyan farmer, that's going to make a big difference in world poverty.

Hm. Okay, here's my take: Eating locally shouldn't be any more mindless than eating "organic." Every choice has to be examined on its own merits. But I don't think the only choices are between arid desert forced into work as farmland and natural farmland 10,000 miles away. Eating more foods that can be grown sustainably locally seems to me the goal.

As for the shipping versus trucking issue, I would find this a heartening argument for the purchase of Italian olive oil over Californian olive oil - if I knew that the oil wasn't shipping to Los Angeles and THEN trucked across the country.

And the point about the Kenyan farmers is encouraging for coffee-drinkers. But I can't say that most of my food-dollars-abroad are heading to Kenya. Are the New Zealanders is eqaully desperate need of my money, or am I justified in thinking an apple from the local orchard makes more sense than the supermarket Granny Smiths?

Finally, there are other arguments besides shipping fuel costs for supporting New England farmers, particularly the maintenance of biologically diverse (if the farming methods are sustainable) land in areas under threat of overdevelopment.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Still not cooking

I'm still not cooking. I'm one week and three days away from the end of my classes, which I am looking forward to passionately. My friend is still in the ICU, so I'm pretty much always at work, in class, or at the hospital. Culinary ambition = nil.


Except that I keep thinking about the Eat Local Challenge. There's just no way to do it in New England in May, but by the end of June, when the strawberries show up, I can. So one-week-and-three-days-from-now, I'm going to start stocking up, gathering a pantry-worth of local foods. I need this sort of project, something to focus on, something that matters to me. And it gives me an excuse to buy all sorts of local foods, just as the season is opening. I also expect that, without white sugar and white flour and cocoa and coffee and hard liquor, I might lose some weight. Which, frankly, I really need to do.

My biggest concern, lack of bread, has just been allayed by the discovery that Wood Prairie Farms*, of the fabulous potatoes, also grows and sell wheat flour. Woo-hoo.

*Yes, these good folks are located 378 miles from Cambridge, which is a good bit further than the 100 miles the Eat Local people recommend. But for godsake, the Eat Local folk are in California! Land of plenty! Not hardscrabble New England. Other than some flint corn from Rhode Island, this is the only grain I can find grown in New England. And if I want to use the Challenge as a chance to change my habits in the long-term, I'm going to need some local grains. Most wheat in the U.S. is grown in North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and South Dakota. Minnesota is 1500 miles away, Montana 2600. 'nough said.