Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Adventures in locavory

It's official. I'm attempting to be a locavore. Not militantly, but conscientiously and, quite honestly, with a great deal of joy, at least so far. How can I describe the sea change that has occurred in how I think about the food I eat, where it comes from, what impacts my choices have? It's been, in a word, life-changing.

And it kind of started with a book. It's totally Barbara Kingsolver's fault.

Let me back up. I'm no stranger to eating locally, though I admit I never gave it as much deliberate thought before. I've always been an avid customer of the Farmer's Market. It's generally where you'll find me on any given Saturday morning between May and December, filling my backpack to bursting with veggies, cheese, plants. I'm also going on my sixth year as a member of the Harmony Valley Farm's CSA program, which I love for the many ways its expanded my food horizons and made me a gutsier eater. I've previously grown three or four tomato plants in my backyard, with a little cucumber-eggplant-zucchini experimentation thrown in. I'm no pro, but I'm no slouch, either.

So, that's where I was. And then "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" by Barbara Kingsolver arrived into my life by way of a Christmas present from a dear friend. I read it - actually, it was more like a slightly feverish literary devouring - and how I thought about food changed, right in front of my eyes. I thought, "Wow. I had no idea. I can do more. I have to do more."

The book, quite simply, laid bare some truths about modern food consumption, production and ethics that, in turn, horrified me, stunned me and made me ashamed of myself as a consumer. It's truly disturbing how far away most of us have gotten from anything that can be interpreted as a natural relationship with food, and it's largely due to our addiction to convenience and the inappropriate distance most people have from any notion of where their food actually comes from or what it's gone through to get to them. Chicken, beef and pork pretty much appear magically in the grocery meat section. Raspberries in December are perfectly normal. It doesn't matter how far away that bottle of salad dressing came from, right?

Well, no. Not to me. Not anymore. I'm making some changes.

Now, I have no interest in preaching to anybody, so I'm not going to go into all the reasons I've decided to not purchase beef, pork or poultry from the grocery store anymore. I'm not going to tell you exactly why I'm now looking at labels and making purchasing decisions based on how far away a product has traveled to get to my local store. I'm not going to explain why I'm only buying organic milk from a local creamery (though one of the reasons is that it tastes about ten times better). I'm also not going to bore you with why I'm planning a garden at least five times bigger than I've ever planted before and making plans to can and freeze quite a bit of it. I'm not reponsible for you, I'm responsible for me, and I don't pretend that this path is appopriate for everyone.

However, what I will tell you is that there is an almost palpable honor in this, in these decisions I've started to make over the last few months. I feel healthier, I'm tasting and enjoying my food more, and I am aware of a sort of everyday joy and pride that's coming directly from me increasingly distributing my food dollars directly to the hard-working small farmer. And, in turn, I'm getting the most beautiful, delicious and healthy food to ever grace my plate, plus some burgeoning relationships with the very people who produce that food for me.

Yes, there is incredible honor in this, to my mind. It's a journey, and I'm just starting, but I'm having a ton of fun so far. I will keep you posted.


Blogger calypso said...

A National Public Radio-sponsored blog about locavores that you may find interesting:

Oh, and by the way ... welcome back!

8:13 AM  

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