>>>Disclaimer: In the following post I am not claiming to have vast knowledge about all things food, nor am I suggesting that my practices or opinions are foolproof. Don’t be haters, be thinkers. The end.<<<
So the past couple of years I have been on what might consider to be an interesting string of “diets”. (And no not “diet” in the sense of I didn’t eat sweets for this long, or I only ate popcorn for four weeks, or drank various concoctions of honey and cayenne pepper, etc.) I guess you could stay in all started in Africa.
The food there, for lack of a better word or rather one not so offensive, was–interesting. Spicy to be sure (no wonder we Americans have so many stomach problems there–no elaboration necessary), a lot of carbs–like fries with your potatoes and yams, and potatoes and yams in your “veggies” oh yeah and rice with all of this. There was meat too, however after visiting the markets where this was sold and seeing it sitting in the 100 degree sun for 12 hours a day, complete with flys, other insects and the random people deciding it would be a good idea to touch it–I couldn’t stomach it anymore.
After returning home, I maintained my vegetarianism, except I ate fish (every Northwest girl needs their salmon after all). But, after going through a string of stomach issues and finding that my body was telling me “Please eat a turkey burger”, I decided I would heed its call and eat meat once again. (Not important but worth mentioning is the fact that I haven’t eaten red meat since high school, so I really only eat “white meats”. Nothing against the good ol’ beef world, I just don’t really like it that much. If you set a really good steak in front of me, we could probably work something out.)
However, after having my spat of vegetarianism, and then jumping back into the meat world–I really started to think about what I ate and why. It seems like a fairly general question, but me thinks you’ve either never asked yourself this or if you have, quickly answered with, “Well, because it’s good.” Adequate answer though it is, it doesn’t really get to the core of it. I came to the conclusion that generally speaking, a lot of our food habits, good or bad, came from our upbringing. Lucky for me, my step-dad-extrodinaire-cooking master would whip up everything from thai chicken to greek gyros (and yeah he’s that good.) However, a theme in each meal I ate, whether at home, at grandmas, or at a friends house, was that meat was the main course. Now, there was and is nothing wrong with this. But is it necessary for every meal? I think not.
Americans eat 200 pounds of meat every year according to the dept. of agriculture. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. In fact, it’s over 75 pounds more than it was a century ago, when the dept. first began keeping tabs. A number of factors have contributed to this phenomenon of course–the primary being the prevalence of fast food and eating out.
Now, that all said, its actually not necessary to eat this much meat. In fact, eating less meat is not only beneficial to your health, it also can be a much cheaper way to eat. (And I know from experience that it forces you to cook more often, which is obvs better for the bod than fast food or eating out.) PJ and I have been doing this for the last six months and both feel really great about it. We will usually make one or two “meat” meals a week and then do the rest veggie style. It might sound like a lot harder to those of you who are used to steak and potatoes, but I assure you it isn’t–especially with the vast resources and recipes available on the interwebs. (I can also be contacted for delicious meatless entrees!)
But, as is the problem with asking questions, I have begun to dig deeper, much deeper, into what I eat and why. The vast debates over organic vs. not organic and local vs. not local have been swarming through my mass of never-ending thoughts for quite some time now. Coupled with this is my own research and reading about the food industry, and a few powerful documentaries I would really recommend. At what I will consider to be the middle of my road, I have come to a few conclusions. Those being: I think eating local and organic are really important (in that order), but not always possible, especially since the world we live in has been changed and molded by the way our food is produced. Just a few facts:
- The average food product travels 1500 miles to get to your grocery store
- 1 billion people worldwide (including tens of millions in the US) don’t have access to food because of the agricultural practices and policies (Go here for more info: http://usfoodcrisisgroup.org/)
- Some of our most important staple foods have been genetically modified–no joke! (Go here for more info: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/campaign/genetically-engineered-food/crops/)
I mean for real the list could go on and on. I don’t mean rant or rave–really I don’t. I just want to challenge each of you to think about what you are eating and why, and where it comes from. Your answers might really surprise you. Some of you might not care at all about this issue–which is fine. Some of you might think it is too hard to eat local and/or organic–which it’s not. Some of you might think it’s more expensive to eat local and/or organic–which it definitely can be. Just to give you an idea though–PJ and I try our best to eat both local and organic (and let me just say here that the term “organic” is sticky because a lot of foods can be organic even if they are not stamped with the organic label which the government charges a pretty penny for), so what we usually do is eat one or two meals a week which are not maybe the most lavish, and combining that with the fact that we are not eating a lot of meat, really makes it doable. Check out this website: http://www.eatwellguide.org/. It’s a really great resource to find local, natural, organic vendors from farmer’s markets, to CSAs, to restaurants, to butchers. It may in fact be a lot easier than you think.
And come on! In the spirit of my love of everything old, going to the butcher to get your meat, going to the farmer’s market to get your veggies, the bakery to get your breads (and actually usually the bakers, honey making, cheese selling folk come to the farmer’s market too) is just so last century! And I mean that in the best of ways. That all to say, I just want to challenge you guys to think about these issues. What I’m not saying is to put an end to all of your heathenism and go from this day forward only consuming locust and honey (John the Baptist anyone?), BUT rather what I am doing is encouraging you to think about maybe eating one meal a week from ingredients that were purchased locally or are organic and just see what’s its like.
A farmer at the end of one of the documentaries I have watched called Food Inc. (I would really recommend it), said that farmers are going to produce what the people want. If what we want is natural, fresh food–there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to have it and why it can be produced–because in fact it already is in so many places.
In closing, I encourage you to don your tie-dyed headband, pull on your long flowing skirts, and perhaps indulge in the grass of the field. (If this statement made any sense to you, you have failed to receive my message but I will love you all the more.)