Monday, June 18, 2007

Think Globally, Eat Locally?

What does someone do if they love food and care about environmental stewardship--particularly, curbing consumption of fossil fuels? Do non-coastal dwellers forego saltwater fish? Do Americans stop drinking French wine? Do New Yorkers stop drinking California wine?

Even the things that seem like they should be simple aren't. Lee and I have had a lot of conversations lately about choosing organics/natural foods vs. choosing locally grown food. It's a lot of grey. What if, for instance, your only local milk option is pumped full of hormones? (Luckily, ours isn't.)

Or, in the case of today's shopping trip: what if there aren't any local produce options? I went to Whole Foods this afternoon and found precisely one item in the produce department that was grown locally. I should take a moment here to say that it is the middle of June, and Lee and I live in Illinois. It's not as if we live in Alaska and I'm writing this post in the dead of winter. Illinois! June!

But back to today: now that summer has arrived, I decided that I'd choose this week's fruits and veggies based on what was trucked in from nearby (and by nearby I mean the midwest, not just Chicagoland or Illinois). I found some Michigan blueberries right by the entrance and dropped them in my basket. Then I circled the entire produce section twice but found only California and Central American options. So, I moved on.

The meat department was much better. I immediately alighted on some ostrich burgers from Illinois and pork sausages from Wisconsin. I then found a whole roasting chicken, hormone free, from Indiana. I probably could have kept going, but that was already more meat than we like to eat in a week.

Sadly, I had to sail right past the fish counter.

We already had milk and coffee, but I needed and found eggs (Illinois). Your deductive reasoning skills are probably hard at work now, wondering what on Earth we're going to make with this sad batch of food.

I hunted desperately for yogurt before finally finding a gourmet brand from Indiana, which means we'll have yogurt with blueberries for breakfast or desserts.

I decided to make breakfast for dinner one night with my sausage and eggs.

For the ostrich burgers, I found hamburger buns from Wisconsin, which seemed like a waste--technically within my parameters, but bread should never really have to travel more than a few miles. Lee and I just went to Paris on our honeymooon, and the prevalence of the boulangerie is surely influencing me here.

But still no plan for the chicken. And no vegetables in our diet this week. So, I went to the frozen food aisle and picked up mixed veggies and broccoli, both packaged in Austin, Texas. I have no idea whether it's better to buy non-local frozen veggies or non-local fresh veggies. I'm sure it's probably the same, but for some reason this felt a little better.

I then purchased Frontera chips and salsa (produced in Chicago) and some local cheese, just to have a few more things to eat. I went back for a small bag of red roasting potatoes produced somewhere in the U.S. The total bill was about $55.

Going to Whole Foods today was a learning experience: although Lee and I discuss the origins of our produce regularly, I had never really thought about where my bread was coming from until today. Luckily, the Oak Park farmers' market takes place every weekend during summer, so starting next week Lee and I can purchase local food and then plan meals for the week accordingly.

We're moving to Arizona in just a few weeks, and it will be interesting to see what is available for us there. Since I'll be in grad school and Lee will be working from home, we'll probably try to make more of the convenience foods we now buy: mayonnaise, bread, tortillas, etc.

I don't want to completely stop eating midwestern cheese or drinking Spanish wines. But there's just no excuse for eating a cookie or carton of yogurt that traveled 2500+ miles to get to my grocery store.

At least, not anymore.


Post a Comment

<< Home