Monday, March 10, 2008

Local Food

Organic Turnips, originally uploaded by iLoveButter.

So I have finished the book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. If you don't know about this book, click on the link to visit the website. Barbara Kingsolver and her family spent a year trying to eat locally and ethically and the book track the who, what and why of it. It was really inspiring and very worth it. I know I will be begging people to read it. Especially interesting are the agricultural essays by Steven L. Hopp outlining just how crazy our food system is. I kept thinking also about the numerous articles I have read over the years connecting processed foods with all sorts of ailments. Not to mention the number of things found in our meat supply and as a by-product, our water supply. It's scary. It also re-enforced my decision to stop eating meat because the mainstream meat supply is dangerous. Every time there is another story about tainted meat (like the one last month) I am thankful I gave it up. I am also thankful we made the decision to only purchase cage-free eggs several years ago. I have been less vigilant about where my milk products come from and this book has definitely taught me to be more careful about that.

Here is the thing: purchasing or growing local fruits and vegetables gets much more complicated in every day life. First, I live in an apartment, in a city, with no ground of my own. Add to that the fact that I kill every plant I try to grow, especially if I start it from seed. The only plants I seem to keep alive are those I have in my office. For some reason I pay more attention to them at work. Do you think I can grow a vegetable garden in my office? Would anyone notice? So, I have decided, I will try to do as much as I am comfortable with and not get too rigid. I think I can grow some herbs and maybe some tomatoes in planters on my patio. Not enough to live but enough to make a small difference. We also discovered a food co-op near our home and are planning to purchase a share. 24 weeks of fresh produce grown at Cromwell Valley.

I will also get off my lazy butt and actually visit the local farmers markets. There are several around, Waverly, Towson and Baltimore. As for the book's suggestion of buying seasonally in bulk and canning for winter, this is probably not going to happen. I don't really want to spend all of my free time pretending to be Laura Ingalls Wilder no matter how much I did want to as a child.

Adding to this is the fact that Miss Gimp needs some new food and has been forced to participate in our new plans. Since before we got her, poor Mr. Boo was forced to eat prescription food from the vet so Miss Gimp had to eat it too since they always shared their food. Well, the massive bag we bought in December is finally almost gone and we have been researching new brands of cat food. While I have never tried to force my vegetarian beliefs on my pets, after reading this book I have been re-thinking the complicit purchase of pet food with factory farm meat. So, we have discovered Pet Promise. Now, Miss Gimp is quite picky when it comes to food so I hope she likes it, if not we continue the research.

All of this is very funny when you consider the fact that I was once in charge of a historic garden at my last job, not by my own request you can be sure. I was, however, interested in the research on historic plant seeds and planning the garden to be historically correct. I was less interested in actual gardening. That I pawned off on a series of revolving staff. I did plan the yearly public program based around the historic harvest where I actually (gasp!) cooked over an open fire and churned butter. I have been thinking about this garden and this event a lot while reading the book and am kicking myself over the missed opportunity to connect past and present in a meaningful way. The garden could have represented more than just a quaint glimpse into the past. It could have fostered neighborhood discussions about where our food comes from and debated which system is better for families, economies and the environment.

In other news. a late Valentine's Day update: we successfully survived a handmade Valentine's Day in our new tradition. Mark emailed me a funny valentine and cooked an excellent fancy meal from our favorite cookbook, the Candle Cafe. I made a paper heart card and a felt robot valentine for him. I also posted on my flickr a picture of us from 1995 which may even be the first pic of us together ever, in celebration of V-day, the anniversary of our first date. Was going to blog about it on V-day but had a little wine and Mark correctly convinced me not to drink and blog. Could have been disastrous.

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