Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Food fraud

I'm the worst kind of evangelist. For the past six months or so, I've been doing the majority of my food shopping at a greenmarket. I do this because the quality of the produce and other goods is high and because it's all locally grown. And you should, too. No, really. It's going to save the fucking world.

Also, I enjoy walking home with a baguette in under my arm or a watermelon cradled in my elbow, but that's just me.

But before I can say anything about food miles, the rising cost of oil and the likelihood that we're all going to wind up having to eat local eventually, I should point out that I really have no standing to talk like this. None. I'm a food fraud. Eating local more has been nothing but a boon to me -- I could have done this for purely self-interested reasons.

There's a greenmarket close to me, closer than any good grocery store. And I hate grocery stores. They're fraught with peril. You're basically looking into people's cabinets when you see their carts. And looking into other people's cabinets is usually depressing -- a view of their sad, private lives. And even if you avoid that, there's maneuvering around people blocking your way, more despair when you see all the sad things they market to kids in the form of pink cereal and green ketchup and at the end you get to wait in line to hand over your hard-earned money, while the person in front of you argues that the crackers that just rang up for $3.29 each should really be 2 for $6.

And everything smells like celery.

No, I don't miss it at all. What got me going to the market regularly was the idea of food miles. Eventually, I realized that buying asparagus from Peru in August and blueberries from Argentina in February was really, really dumb. Why should my food have been places I haven't? And is that really a wise use of fossil fuels, to provide antioxidants to Manhattanites?

So yeah, I stopped supporting that, for the most part (I still occasionally duck into a megamart, but that's because olive groves and rice paddies and the like are rare indeed in the tri-state area). I also still eat out from time to time, probably more than I should.

But I've made the switch. In my mind, getting food means going to the market, not the store. And I would love to tell you how everyone should do this, so that food miles go down, pollution goes down, oil can get used for more important shit than trucking DiGiorno's across the nation, local farms stay farms and don't become subdivisions and retail, Frank Perdue punches out his hat, multistate e. coli recalls go the way of air-raid drills, Whole Foods stops peddling $7-a-pint Honduran huckleberries, and the obesity epidemic and terrorism are both solved at the same time, and the BCS is banned and all the conference commissioners are sent to pick iceberg lettuce for Big Macs in the central valley. But I can't, because I think I'd do it if none of that were true.

Fixing American dependence on megamarts, processed food, and "happy motoring" (as Jim Kunstler would call it) isn't a huge sacrifice for me. I'd be willing to make some sacrifices, but so far, it's been all upgrade for me. So, yeah. Seriously, farmers' markets rule. Your money helps your local community, and not the bottom line of ConAgra. The food is better than you can imagine, and fresher than trucks and planes can possibly deliver. You're contributing to a better life for you and everyone around you. You're reducing traffic. You get to do things like walk home with a giant stalk of brussels sprouts, or honey made from hives on city rooftops. When gas is $7 a gallon, why pay for your Foxy brand lettuce to come from Fresno when you could get it from the next county over?

But what do I know? I actually like this shit.


Jaime said...

A-fucking-men. I started greenmarketing when I moved to Inwood - a happy confluence of my growing awareness of the environmental impact of my food purchases, and my moving to just a few blocks from a Saturday market. Now with the seasons changing, the Inwood market is sparse-to-gone, and I go down to Union Square every Saturday morning. I can't help it. I'm hooked. It's delicious, cheaper, and healthier for me and the environment. It also gets me to eat so many more vegetables. 'Hey, cauliflower's cheap? Lemme try that.' In the last couple of weeks, I've also started saving my compostable scraps (in the freezer) and bringing them down to be collected at the compost table. Because I am entirely a dirty hippie. But not dirty enough for a worm bin.

flop said...

I do the exact same with the compostables, too. There's nothing dirty or hippie about being unwasteful.

And my default for vegetables is to toss with olive oil, hit them with some kosher salt and roast them. Either that or throw them in the pan with olive oil, kosher salt and either garlic or shallots. It's hard to screw up that way.

Jaime said...

I do olive oil and Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt. I'm also addicted to teriyaki sauce for things like string beans. It just makes me so *excited* about vegetables. My mom was astonished that I'd commute an hour to buy vegetables, but it's sorta my favorite part of my week.

waterloo said...

If you live in the sticks, like I do, then buying a share in a CSA is the way to go. Every week during harvest (~20 weeks from May to October), we get a box of produce that's organic, grown 10 miles away, and picked by hand. It's taught us about eating in season ... and you NEVER waste anything because there's a direct connection to its source (in terms of people and land).

So, you're forced to deal with things that you might not normally cook: carrot greens, raw beets, etc.

We're also lucky enough to know people who raise chickens and cows, so much of our meat is local too. And the eggs can't be beat.

All hail CSAs!

flop said...

waterloo -- I actually almost joined one of a couple CSA's in my neighborhood. My fear of commitment held me back. I think I might have to do it next year.

Now if I can just get Veselka to give me the recipe for their otherworldly, borscht, I'll know exactly what to do with five pounds of beets.