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Monday, July 24, 2006

Radical eating

I try to be a fairly aware consumer. "Try" is the operative word in that sentence. When I remember, I bring a canvas bag to the grocery store. I generally don't get much take out. Lorien and I recycle and compost religiously. I check the labels of clothing before I buy it. However, sometimes it's just easier to buy cheap, non-North American made clothing or whatever that is almost undoubtedly the product of unfair labor conditions. That is one thing I hate about myself: I figure that if I'm going to talk the talk, I better be able to walk the walk. I'd say, half the time, the walk just ain't there.

After I finished reading Waiting for the Macaws (and I have to say, that book was incredible and informative, a rare but delightful combination), I started thinking more about the consumption choices that I make, both food- and other-wise.

Of particular interest to me was Glavin's point about the extinction of so many different species of edibles. Since farming became big business in the first half of the twentieth century, the loss of diversity just among the most common foods that we eat is absolutely stunning. Factor in practices of companies such as Monsanto (the proud parents of "Terminator" seeds--they have been genetically engineered to not propagate, a Frankensteinian phenomenon [I think I just coined a phrase] if I've ever heard one), and we have on our hands a gastronomic disaster. The word of the day is "homogeneity"--we expect to find the same food in every supermarket from Toronto to Texas. We have grown accustomed to the luxury of having decision-making eliminated from shopping, cooking, and eating, and we are willing to sacrifice both flavor and diversity to sustain this, which the market then reflects back at us, and so on and so forth. Why would farmers grow 12 varieties of corn if one will suffice?

Except that sometimes, consumers demand choice, and not just of candy bars and frozen pizzas. There is a reason that places like Whole Foods exist. Sure, part of it is the ultra-nice atmosphere, and it certainly makes you feel high-class to shop there, but I can't help but think that part of it is the diversity of the produce and the availability of organic and non-genetically modified food. I used to work at an upscale grocery store in Portland, and while I can't say it was my favorite job, it was certainly an educational experience. There, I tasted real parmesan cheese from Parma, and a multitude of different beers from the Pacific Northwest and around the world. At the co-op by my friend Eric's house, I came across 20 different local apple varieties one October. At my going-away party, I served a berry cordial that I'd made from berries I had picked. The point is, with a little time and a little money, it is possible to be more connected with what you eat. I know that organic food is expensive, and it is time-consuming to research different varieties of tomatoes or squash or whatever, but I have to think that it's worth it. No one is expected to eat organic all the time, but picking up some local cherries or peaches a couple of times a week isn't that hard. Buying heirloom tomatoes instead of hothouse ones just requires putting something different into the cart at the grocery store. Eating apples in November and blueberries in July instead of year-round is a very simple, conscious decision.

So, lately, I've been trying to patronize the local organic/natural food store by my house. I bought heirloom tomatoes instead of hothouse ones (and I'm saving the seeds--but don't tell Monsanto!). I use the basil from my "garden" (seven containers of either over- or under-watered plants on the deck). I'm going to stop buying shoes from Payless. I'm going to continue knitting and spinning, cause at least that way I know that the only person harmed in the making of the product was me, and I'm ok with that. I don't know if I'll start dressing in head-to-toe hemp or if I'll become a fruitatarian (I think they only eat things that have fallen to the ground--that nature has "given" them). But I do resolve to think a little bit harder about what I buy and where it came from.

4 Comments:

  • Obviously you need to join Karma Coop. I am enjoying Waiting for the Macaws. You must read The Way the Crow Flies!

    By Anonymous Lorien, at 12:16 AM  

  • Okay, so I'm a bit at a loss with all of this. Family was one of the founders for a company called Pioneer. Pioneer got it's "big break" by genetically altering corn. This corn is NOT sold to humans. 85% is/was sold to chicken farmers and the other 15% to cattle. (Or the other way around). But if we didn't tweek this corn it wouldn't be resitant against molds, it wouldn't ship or resitant against bugs, or have more nutriants for the animals. As you said, it's hard to walk the walk 'cause really if you're going to do it right you better buy some land in OR or WA and grow your own food, cotton for your cloths, and sheer your own sheep, not have a car or computer or phone or use electicity, or public water. Not entierly possable. I think there does have to be a balance between eatting Micky D's everyday and dropping your cigs on the ground and being a hemp wearing hippy. I mean shit who made this computer... some poor under paided Indian probibly. Or my cell phone, or the dishes, or my sheets, or my IKEA furniture... or all of our IPODS.

    By Blogger Aundra, at 12:29 AM  

  • The corn was eaten by cattle and chickens who were then eaten by people.

    But yeah, I'm not saying that it's possible or even desirable to live without any modern conveniences or cheap electronics. I'm just saying that it is worthwhile to take a harder, closer look at your (you general, not you specific) consumer choices.

    By Blogger Tasha, at 8:42 AM  

  • and we can note that in the pictures of who makes the clothes at american apparel, its still mexicans. seriously. i am just waiting for the big expose on it.

    what i am a HUGE fan of is moderation. if we all ate two vegetarian meals a week, that would make a huge difference. if we all used cloth bags half the time, if we all brought our coffee cups, if we all used transit one day a week...we seem to get down on ourselves for being "all or nothing." its too bad we can't just pat ourselves on the back for trying.

    By Blogger al, at 2:38 PM  

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