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Earth Day: A Confession

As a foodie, I am well-versed in the notion of being a localvore, and of buying food with an eye on sustainability. I have read Michael Pollan, Russ Parsons and Barbara Kingsolver, and been moved and excited by the notion that it is more natural, healthier and better for the earth if I buy what is local and in season. Not to mention the fact that things taste best when they are fresh.

In reality, I live in a climate where produce is grown and sold during only parts of the year. Starting in late spring I can buy local asparagus and some local onions; by July I can find zucchini, sweet peppers, hot peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, onions, eggplant, green beans, cucumbers, carrots, berries, melons and eventually apples, squash and corn at my local farmer’s market. One of the farmers sells eggs and butter from his farm, another sells honey, and still another brings free-range chickens and locally produced sausage. From July until October, my house is full of all that is fresh, local and good, my kid eats cherry tomatoes like candy, and I experiment madly with vegetables I have never seen before like garlic scapes and tiny Hmong peppers.

This year, I have promised myself that I will learn to preserve and can, so that we will have some of this freshness throughout the dark months from November to June. I plan to put up pickles (bread and butter and dill), salsa, homemade tomato sauce, green beans, peaches and pickled watermelon rind, and to freeze berries. I will make vats of applesauce, jars of pumpkin butter and jars of strawberry freezer jam, and feel that I have built us a hedge against months of eating nothing but flavorless produce bred for travel and shipped from points south.

In reality, though, I lack the the funds and the time to be a true localvore. I can’t afford to buy gently raised beef, pork or chicken from local farmers all year round, and I cannot find a source for locally produced butter and eggs after the end of farmer’s market season. I try not to buy things at the grocery store that are clearly out of season (rubber tomatoes and strawberries in January), but I do buy things that would never grow here, anyway – bananas, pineapple, mangoes, kiwi and citrus fruits, to name a few. I shoot for organic, but we need to eat fruits and vegetables, and sometimes (she said, skulking away to hide) I end up with a mid-winter refrigerator stocked with Florida oranges, Washington apples and greens from God only knows where. I try to be imaginative about using more root vegetables, pastas and grains as the bases for fall and winter meals, but sometimes I am slammed by life and I just have to buy a bag of frozen vegetables and throw something together.  I would love to grow my own lettuce, garlic, onions, peas and other vegetables in the spring and summer, but I live in a big house on a small lot, there is no community garden space near here, and I am limited to what I can grow in pots that I have to move around during the day so that they get enough sun.

I am trying to reduce my carbon footprint. I am switching to the good swirly bulbs, walking more and driving less, and taking my own bags to the grocery store. I will do all that I can to make changes relative to our consumption of food that will contribute to preserving Mother Earth, but sometimes I wish that it was easier for everyone to have affordable access to what is fresh and in season in the place where they live, and to know how to prepare it so that its as delicious as things that come in cans, poly-wrap and freezer bags from across the country. Time and big grocery budgets are luxuries for many, and it seems like if this change is something we all really want to accomplish, we should be thinking about making it possible for more people to eat locally and sustainably. Just my two cents.

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About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

20 responses »

  1. I hear ya! I went to a local farmers market and almost fell over looking at the prices of the meats. I know it’s good to do but goodness! And there were no vegetables for sale. In season right now are asparagus and greens, at least, but I couldn’t find any for sale. There were various meats but not a vegetable in sight 😦 I didn’t think of canning but again it comes down to money. I’m going to try a garden again. Too bad we can’t all have chickens as pets, eh? 🙂

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  2. This is a very inspirational post. I vow from this day forth to eat as locally as I can. I vow to restrict my visits to SAFEWAY to only items I can find nowhere else. I vow to visit my local farmer’s market every Sat. am. I have no excuse for not doing so–heck, I practically live in Alice Water’s back yard. Thank you, Ann, your impact is being felt clear across the country. Vive la Terre!

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  3. I am right there with you sister….. we all need to do more! I’ve been writing about that on my own website and you should check out dhlovelife.com and see how many other things you and everyone else can do!

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  4. jessica, I love your blog – its exactly what I need right now. As for the price of things and canning, I guess that if you really do it every year you have all of the equipment and it ends up being cheaper than buying the same food in the winter, but I don’t own the stuff and I’m leery of making an investment in something I will never do again. We’ll see. I want to try….

    Eric, you do, indeed, live where you can get great fresh things much of the year. Perhaps the Powell should create a small garden which could serve as relaxation/recreation for guests, and you and other employees could divide up the spoils? Seriously, do your best; I admit to forgetting all of my Hippie Commie bags at the grocery store last year and making my carbon footprint enormous and full of plastic bags.

    jai, I have visited your blog, and I will go back and see what you’re up to!!

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  5. completely off topic–so what do you think about our michael symon taking over as chef on dinner impossible? is that awesome, or what?

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  6. jayedee, I hadn’t heard that! That is COMPLETELY awesome!!!!!!!!! Now I don’t have to hunt around for episodes of “Iron Chef” where he’s competing…..

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  7. I appreciate the kind words about my blog 🙂 Good point about the investment over the long term. I figured that with the freezer. Big ticket but if I was then able to save by stocking up on stuff on sale… Guess we’ll see when growing season gets here if it spurs us to can! 🙂

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  8. Jessica, if I actually, truly, really can anything you will certainly see proof of it on this blog. I dare you – can something.

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  9. I guess canning someone won’t count… 😉 I kid. I kid.

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  10. Jessica, I wish it did. I have some ideas…..

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  11. you are going to LOVE canning! there is something immensely satisfying about seeing rows of green beans in jars that you’ve seen to yourself! and homemade strawberry preserves! *swoons*
    i use to freeze quite a bit as well, but after losing two full freezers when we were without power for 3 weeks (back to back hurricanes) i freeze very little now. it’s all about the jars! ALL about the jars!

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  12. Ann,

    Ever notice how many tomatos are available when they are in season? Living proof here that someone can eat canned tomatos exclusively for six months and survive……… Dont hold back, clear out the spare room and hang around the farmers market just before closing time.

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  13. Oh yeah, Salvation army sometimes has givaways on jars too

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  14. An excellent post with a topic very close to my heart. Bravo! You are wonderful!

    I have a canning tutorial on my site and many more canning entries to post as the summer progresses. I also have a way of making your own boiling water canner so you can save some money on that. (http://razorfamilyfarms.com/blog/?page_id=327)

    Blessings to you, friend!
    Lacy

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  15. jayedee, you’re going to help me, right? RIGHT? I am kind of terrified. I do hear that things blow up.

    Robert, good point. There is a Salvation Army here; maybe I’ll see what they’ve got before we get too much closer to tomato season. I make a wicked marinara, although I think that can be frozen, instead of canned. I am confident in my ability to work a Ziploc and a freezer….

    Lacy, I will keep track of your canning posts; anything I try that is yours I will definitely give you credit for (unless its one of the things that blows up. I’ve spent years trying to remain “youthful looking, and I’d hate to have to have surgery to remove glass shards and flecks of salsa from my face).

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  16. The folks at the Unitarian church here have a local food group where they try to make their food “as local as possible.” That seems like a more realistic and enjoyable aim to me.

    The funny thing is, when you take one step in that direction you really can’t help taking more. It’s kinda great that way.

    But you’re right – it’s about more than the food. It’s also about priorities, politics, and a living wage, IMHO.

    Kim

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  17. imagineannie

    Kim, its interesting you should bring up a Church group – that seems like a really natural place for people to start working towards respecting the land and being better stewards of the earth (and their bodies). Now you’ve got me thinking about trying that at my church, although I think Unitarians are a bit more amenable to “radical” ideas like eating locally than old interdenominational protestants might be…. 🙂

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  18. I too dream of canning and frezzing for the off months I have the jars and canner and such and I will do it this year, I will. And I took love the southern fruit and I will not give it up, but I sould learn when it is in season, maybe mango jam woudl be really good.

    I live in Livonia and I so wish for a community garden but I am afraid I may be farming 2 acers all alone and sho has time for that with 2 little ones. I do have a tiny garden in the yard (small house small yard:)

    I guess I will keep shooting for that 25% of local a year.

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  19. Shayne, you live close enough that I could almost come and can and freeze with you. 🙂 I don’t know how little your little ones are, but maybe they could “help” you dig and plant and weed? Maybe for now you can stick to your little garden; I think 25% might make a huge difference in the quality of what you eat, environmental impact and probably your food budget.

    Reply
  20. Pingback: For Earth Day: Eight Green Steps « Forest Street Kitchen

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