At the Food Justice Conference in Oakland last November, a participant from Las Cruces, NM argued that it is more local for her to obtain her produce from Juarez, Mexico than from Albuquerque, NM. Pondering over that while showering that evening, I realized that we are faced with a long list of predicaments when it comes to eating these days. (And yes, TMI, but I do most of my thinking in the shower; and most of my epiphanies come to me while in the shower. I've solved world hunger at least 7 times already. Problem is, I forget by the time I dry off.)
Anyway, when I pick up a box of 1% milk at the grocery store, I immediately go through a checklist in my mind— Is it USDA organic? And if it is USDA organic, is it “100% organic”, “organic” or “made with organic ingredients”. How local is the product? Am I supporting a family owned farm/cooperative? Is the farm sustainable? CAFO what? Was it fed with grains that came from an heirloom and not a Monsanto genetically engineered seed? Is there a similar product that has a higher ANDI score? The list goes on.
I remember this episode of Portlandia called “Is it Local?" A pair of local food champions go to a restaurant and ask all kinds of questions about the chicken in the menu. Despite the wait staff’s more-than-satisfactory answer, they postpone having lunch to visit the farm of origin. It is hilarious and ridiculous, but contains a bit of truth.
Here, I share my eating re-solutions this year. They are not original, they are not new, but that doesn't mean that we have to take a blase attitude about it. I believe that the change begins with me – in my own little way of paving a positive change, to a healthier me and to Food Justice!
Eat the season
Food that is in season is fresher, tastier and more nutritious. Less energy is used to grow and transport these foods, and it supports the local economy.
Quick tip: A friend who is a chef told me not to go to the grocery or restaurants on Mondays since food suppliers don’t deliver over the weekend and by Monday, they are trying to use up all their leftovers. His insight made sense, thus, I go to my local farmers market on Saturday mornings (when most farmers market are open), and I visit my local grocer on Wednesdays. This way, I have fresher food and avoid waste. Gone are the days when I find half-liquefied spinach in a bag at the bottom of the crisper.
Be a locavore and eat sustainably.
How local is local? A good way to think about it is in concentric circles. You are in the middle, the first ring out is your community, then so on.
I DO NOT buy everything organic. Instead, I follow The Dirty Dozen Rule—I make certain to buy organic for the 12 most contaminated foods, and also organic milk, meats and eggs.
When eating out, support restaurants that, in turn, support local farmers.
For those who live in Georgia, Georgia Organics have a publication called Local Food Guide that lists local restaurants, farmer’s markets, grocers/purveyors, u-pick, agro tourism, etc. The online version allows you to search by product as well. I keep my copy in my car, so when I get hungry, wherever I am in Georgia, I know I’m eating food with integrity.
When it comes to seafood, eat wild.
There are a lot of articles and good reads on the Blue Revolution, and I suggest you read on it. Aqua farming raises a number of environmental concerns. I grew up in the Philippines; fish and I have a long relationship. I know for sure that wild fish tastes far better than the farmed counterpart, and that it's not heavily laden with chemicals and antibiotics.
Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).
Join a CSA, even for just one growing season per year. The impact of CSA's to both farmers and consumers is profound. I just joined a farmstead CSA, and I can’t wait to get my cheeses come spring. Yum!
Help mobilize around the 2012 Farm Bill.
This year, we are adopting a new Farm Bill. It sets the framework for what we eat, whether our food is nourishing and affordable, what assistance our society provides to feed hungry people, what crops farmers grow under what conditions, global grain and fiber markets, and how rural land is used.
Let's take action. I called and emailed my representatives last November to let them know my stand. Pick up that phone and make the call.
I part with you by sharing this recipe for Red Wine Poached Pears, the perfect winter dessert. I know I’ll be making it for Valentine’s Day and will be enjoying it while I watch City of Angels.
Seth: What’s that like? What’s it taste like? Describe it like Hemingway.
Maggie: Well, it tastes like a pear. You don’t know what a pear tastes like?
Seth: I don’t know what a pear tastes like to you.
Maggie: Sweet, juicy, soft on your tongue, grainy like a sugary sand that dissolves in your mouth. How’s that?
Seth: That’s perfect.
-- City of Angels
Pear Poached in Red Wine with Crème Anglaise
4 firm Bosc, Bartlett or Anjou pears, peeled leaving the stem intact
1 1/2 cups of fruity red wine (Zinfandel, Shiraz or Merlot)
1/2 cups of granulated sugar
Juice from 1 lemon
2 3” sticks of cinnamon
Combine all ingredients, except pears, and bring to a boil, then turn heat down to a simmer. Add the pears. Simmer pears for 25-30 minutes or until they are tender and are easily poked through with a fork, turning halfway though cooking. Remove pears and let them cool. Boil wine sauce until liquid is reduced to half.
To serve, pour sauce over pears and serve with crème anglaise.
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla paste
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup white sugar
In a small, heavy saucepan, heat cream until bubbles form at edges. While cream is heating, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until smooth. Slowly pour 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into egg yolks, whisking constantly. Gradually add egg yolk mixture back to remaining milk mixture, whisking constantly. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. (If you have an instant read thermometer, cook until the creme anglaise reaches about 170 degrees F and thickens slightly. Don’t cook it above 180 degrees F or the eggs will scramble). Keep in mind this is not a very thick sauce.
Pour the sauce through a fine meshed strainer, and add the vanilla paste. Chill the creme anglaise until ready to serve.