All my life, without knowing it, I’ve quietly existed on a somewhat local diet, at least for the summer months. Some of my fondest childhood memories, include skipping to the garden at the back of our yard, basket in hand, to pick whatever was available. I was an artist watching and waiting for the tomatoes to turn the perfect shade of red. I was a scavenger searching under leaves to find as many string beans as I could. I was a zoologist identifying good bugs versus bad bugs and eradicating the bad ones. (What child doesn’t love to squish a bug under her fingers?) I was a mother, nurturing the plants by talking to them and helping my dad water them. I was a consumer, eating anything and everything I helped grow. I was and I remain a gardener at heart. I’ve never done it for any other reason than I enjoy watching and helping things grow.
This weekend, between tying up the tomato plants (they’re so big!) and working the soil where the lettuce was to make room for some new plants, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle. Just in case you haven’t heard of it, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is about Kingsolver and her family’s one year mission to eat nothing but local food. It inspired me to really think about where my food comes from and the impact it’s journey has on mother earth.
A few years ago, I became a pescatarian because I learned of the adverse effect of mass-produced meat on the environment. After reading, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I am wholeheartedly committed to never eating mass-produced meat of any kind again. However, this book has me considering eating locally, organically, kindly produced meat. While I still don’t think I could ever kill a cow and therefore probably won’t ever eat beef or steak again, after reading her thoughts about raising and killing poultry (chickens and turkeys), it’s not something I’m totally against. This book isn’t necessarily what you’d expect. It’s all about the importance of knowing where your food comes from and knowing how you’re affecting the environment with your food choices.
When I was younger, I remember looking at a sticker on some food store produce, thinking “Wow this vegetable was grown in Ecuador! That’s so cool, I wish I had been to Ecuador.” Years later, I’d become so accustomed to going to the grocery store to pick up produce in the winter that I’d stopped thinking about it. Having just read this book, it’s at the forefront of my thoughts. While, I try to shop at farm stands, I look forward to my weekly CSA share, and I adore a farmer’s market, I never really did any of those things to be a locavore. I did them, because I knew the produce was better.
While, I understand that eating only local food is an immense challenge, and not one that everyone can meet as wholeheartedly as Kingsolver, this book (as well as Tomatoland which I read last week) have both made me consistently question where my food comes from, which is possibly the best thing I could have taken away from reading them. So I’m not going to make an outrageous promise to only eat food produced within 100 miles of my location, this just isn’t something I can do, at least now while I still live at home (with parents who provided emotionally based, pretty stupid arguments against some key points I announced while reading – Sorry Mom, but potatoes keep for six months in a dark area, so claiming that the US ships out 1.1 million pounds while receiving 1.4 million because of when they’re in season is shapoopy.) What I am promising, is that I’m going to always consider where my food comes from in purchasing decisions. I will try to eat seasonally as much as possible. And lastly, I will attempt to make my diet about 90% American produced. I figure at least that’s better than getting stuff from South America or Europe right?
I know these “promises” are pretty tiny and insignificant compared to what I should do, but what I should do, just doesn’t seem plausible yet. And every journey begins with a single step so I have to start somewhere! I have a challenge for you, while I slowly step away from my banana-a-day habit, why don’t you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and/or start really considering where you get your food from.
I won’t preach about how important it is to eat locally. It is important to me, but my opinions and feelings about it might never match yours. Instead, I ask you to educate yourself about the subject. Read the book, please. I’m begging!