Did you know Earth Day is today? Are you doing you’re part to help clean up the environment? I wanted to write something along this theme related to food, of course. The thing is, I’ve written this post 150 times. At one point it was a rant against our current food systems, the evils of mass production and lamenting the loss of foodstuffs that make our country unique, blah blah blah. I was annoying even myself. Yes, this is all true and happening and there’s a ton of information out there – Academy Award nominated Food, Inc, TV’s Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, books like Fast Food Nation, the startling movie Super Size Me, Michael Pollan’s books Ominovore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. And that’s just for starters. Yes, we should all be aware and make informed decisions about what we eat, how we eat, where we buy our food. Hell yes.
But there are even easier things we can do and hopefully we’re already doing them. Like using reusable bags at the grocery store. Experts estimate that 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed and discarded annually worldwide—more than a million per minute – and one of those plastic bags takes over 1,000 years to break down in a landfill. Startling isn’t it? Stash some of those reusable bags in the car – it might take a while to become a habit but once it does you’ll never go back. Places like Whole Foods will even donate that 5 cent bag fee back to a charity. That’s a solid double-double right there!
Or how about we all stop buying bottled water? Remember in the 80’s when we thought it was ABSURD to pay $2 for a bottle of Evian when we could get water right out of the tap for free? I used to joke that in France somewhere, a little old lady was filling bottles at her sink, laughing at how stupid we all were. What happened? We got lazy, that’s what. Think about where all those used plastic bottles go. Americans buy an estimated 29.8 billion plastic water bottles every year (yeow!) and nearly 8 out of every 10 bottles will end up in a landfill. Ugh. So buy a water filter or Brita pitcher for the fridge and some Sigg or Nagalene bottles and fill the dang things yourself. C’mon, we can do that.
Most importantly, buy seasonally and buy locally. Here’s a good one – try not to eat tomatoes or strawberries in February. They’re generally from South America and just think about what it takes to get them to you. Hours and hours of driving, burning fossil fuels to get to your store. Let’s put this in perspective: the distance between Santiago, Chile and Chicago, Illinois is 5309.57 miles. I don’t know the mileage rates on large trucks but let’s say 10 mpg conservatively. That’s roughly 530 gallons of gasoline to get those strawberries to my store, not including any efforts I make on my end. I realize that’s a very simplistic and not terribly accurate formula but it paints a picture of the hidden costs inherent in the decisions we make. And you know what? They don’t even taste that great. Even cheap food has hidden costs. I prefer to spend my dollars where they’ll count, on something that tastes good. Call me crazy. Like local strawberries in June from a farmer I know, who works very hard for very little reward. Strawberries that are lovely and sweet and a deep juicy red all the way to the core. Yum. When’s the last time you saw that at a grocery store?
And you know, there are folks all over the country doing things right – small batches, local ingredients, raising animals humanely, taking the time to craft really unique products. Those on the outskirts of the overhyped food world, who are out there doing really cool things. Those that step away from big business (lots of former lawyers, computer science and financial folks … hmmmmm) and create truly amazing things on their little plots of land. People you should know about and support. There’s a lot of them out there. Just go to your local farmer’s market. They’re all there – the farmers, the ranchers, the cheesemakers. You bet they’re there and you should should make friends with them and support their business. It’s not cheap but do we really want to eat cheap food? Think about the real costs in that statement.
I’ve been a long supporter of farmer’s markets and have been touring some local farms recently, putting together some fun outings for the American Institute of Wine & Food. In the coming posts, I’ll share some of these folks with you. They’re amazing and deserve to be known. They’re making/growing/raising some fantastic things and we need to support this kind of stuff. Just wait ’til I introduce you to Willi’s cheese cave at Mont Bleu! Very cool.
Now go on folks! Get out there and do you part, no matter how small. Everything has to start somewhere and these are easy things we can do in our own homes. Every little bit helps.
Do you have a great farmer, cheesemaker, rancher or someone making great things? Please share!
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: ok, this may be a stretch from a stress therapy factor, but I find enormous satisfaction is supporting my local peeps. The things I make from their products are always just over the top amazing. To compare a strawberry rhubarb pie using local fruit vs. grocery store crap from South America does not even merit a study. They are two completely different things and I don’t even have to tell you which is head and shoulders above the other. Now then, throw in some organic lard I picked up at a lovely butcher for the pie crust … I’m telling you, you’ll swoon. (That’ll be a later post, I promise.)