Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Becoming More Conscientious in the Kitchen

For some time now, I have been meaning to check out and read Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral about her family's quest to eat only locally raised produce and livestock for one entire year. While Kate was napping this afternoon, I read the first two chapters and just after reading less than 50 pages felt an overwhelming call to do something! Kingsolver is concerned primarily with our dependence on and consumption of products that require significant quantities of petroleum for production, processing, and transportation. She proposes eating whole foods raised and grown locally, which one can pick up at a farmer's market or grow in her backyard in order to support small farmers and reduce our fossil fuel usage.

My concern as a parent is, like Kingsolver, where the meat, eggs, dairy products, vegetables, and fruits I buy come from. Since I first started couponing, I have actually found that coupons dictate a lot of what I purchase: I even bring home products that I have gotten free with coupons that without coupons, I would NEVER have considered buying. For example, last week I bought a bottle of marinade in a bottle for 50 cents that normally I would make myself. The cost for the bottled marinade was probably about the same as what it would have cost me to make it. The problem though is that there are some ingredients in the bottled marinade that I do not like.

Kingsolver also argues that just because a grocery store offers "fresh" vegetables and fruits doesn't mean that we should eat them. The accessibility of exotic fruits from Costa Rica and tomatoes from California year round has seduced us into thinking we can and should buy them whenever we want, even if the foods are not in season locally. However, for anyone who has ever eaten a fresh tomato, handpicked from the garden, there is no comparison with those pink-colored, fleshy globules in Kroger. I want a "Tidwell tomato" all year but unless I've preserved or frozen some, I will not have one until the summer months roll around and then only for a very short period of time will they continue to produce. Kingsolver urges Americans to deny themselves the fruits and vegetables that are not in season and eat only what is available during that particular time of the year in your area. During the winter months, unfortunately, that would mean very little. However, I think that by canning, freezing, and preserving foods from the garden when they are in season, one could eat those "Tidwell tomatoes" in the winter, albeit in a modified form, even when the plants are long gone.

I'm not sure where I am going with this post. My mind is racing with ideas... I had better wait and see what Daniel thinks first. I know that what we consume matters. Food is what fuels us; it's part of our identity as a culture. How we view food reveals a lot about who we are. Do I cook whole foods? Do I use fresh vegetables and fruits? Or do I order take-out or fast food? Do I purchase prepared foods that are overly processed and hazardous to our health? I am sure of one thing so far: I must be more cognizant of what I am buying, the ingredients in it, and its effects on my family.

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