Everything I Do Is Killing Something

I have friends who influence me, and lately many of them have been talking about sustainable foodways, eating locally, organic vs. local, etc. etc. Despite my appearance, I try not to be a slouch, so I read Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, which led me to Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I aborted that humorless journey of self-righteousness and opted instead for the more playful Plenty by Alisa Smith and J.B. McKinnon.The upshot: We've lost our food traditions, and with that our healthy lifestyles. Our current tendencies to eat food that's traveled an average 1500 miles to get to our plates is making us, and the planet, sick. Big Business has raped the term "organic," and the world is out of whack. To all of these points, I concede. It's probably true. But I miss the bliss of ignorance. I'm now nearly paralyzed at the market. Feeling guilty about the miles, or the pesticides, or the hormones, or the high fructose corn syrup, or the pre-harvest/processed treatment of each product leaves me at a loss about what to buy for the family cupboards. I start visualizing the rogue cells dividing in my children, future tumors that are the direct result of feeding them genetically modified soy. I get waylaid, and then I fail in an elaborate way: With high anxiety, I'll grab some non-local apples and bananas and vow that I will research and make wise decisions in a couple of days.Then for whatever reason, that doesn't happen (piano lesson gone awry, late evening working, PTO meetings and aikido and ballet-the fatigue of parenting). Within a day or so the shelves are naked and my spirit is broken. The kitchen becomes a source of depression, so we flee to La Familia instead. Or Rudy's, or Free State. This trend has been going on so long that my husband and I are good and fat now. So much for being mindful about what we eat.Today I'm feeling the pangs of fatalism. Maybe I need to quit thinking about the politics of food, and just be smart. Five servings of fruits and vegetables, that sort of thing. But despite my objections that sustainable eating smacks somewhat of classism (notice how this conversation flared up around the time Wal-Mart started carrying organic produce?) or that life without coffee is no life at all, I know I should incorporate some of these 100-mile-diet tenets into our lives. But what should my boundaries be? I have no idea.Any L.com readers carrying out an accessible 100-mile diet? I could use some tips. Keep in mind that my garden is an embarrassment and that I'm not all that crazy about cooking:


Caterina Benalcazar 12 years, 6 months ago

I got nothin' for you. I myself suffer from a similar conundrum. The best advice I've heard comes from Michael Pollan (you've probably heard this quote before) "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I can definitely adhere to the first part of that advice. Pollan differentiates food from "food-like substances" by asking himself whether or not his great grandmother would recognize as food. Gogurt? Special K Protein Water? Kellog's Fruit Twistables? Powersauce bars? Probably not.

It's the last two edicts that throw me. I like to eat. Alot. And dammit if a monster slice of rare prime rib or a half slab of pork ribs doesn't make me the Queen of Happy Hill.

Ach. I don't know. Make your kids cook.

Oh and read the first chapter of Anthony Bourdain's book "The Nasty Bits"--Now there's a food tradition.

Also a good read, if you're not up for reading Pollan's new book quite yet: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/magazine/28nutritionism.t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=books

Joel 12 years, 6 months ago

Just bought Pollan's new book. Obviously, I'm a tubbo, but I think the proper approach is to be influenced by the information, but not a slave to it. So buy local where you can -- and in Lawrence it's relatively easy (if, also, relatively expensive) to buy local meat and in-season produce -- and be judicious about the rest of it.

DOTDOT 12 years, 6 months ago

I'd like to discuss this in more depth. Let's meet at McDonald's so the kids can play.

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 12 years, 6 months ago

I don't know about off-season vegetables, but I've always been a big fan of buying your meat in large portions (as in, half a cow) from local farmers you know, if you're not fortunate enough to raise your own. If you don't actually know anyone who raises meat, the rural "lockers" that process such usually have meat for sale, as well--you're not going to get the peace of mind of having actually walked on the land the cown ate from, usually, but at least you'll know it's local.

leslie 12 years, 6 months ago

Misty: Steve's Meat Mkt in DeSoto will sell a side of organic, grass-fed beef for a good price. But you have to buy a full side. Add a deep freeze to my short list of wants. (The guys at Steve's are good people, but do you know of others nearby? Lockers in Ottawa and Lawrence are now closed, sadly.)

Caterina: KIMCHEE ALERT: good stuff, no MSG, now at the "Health Market" at the 6th St Hy-Vee.

Joel: You're so level-minded. Gosh.

Tom: Did your daughter get a McDonald's gift certificate FROM THE DOCTOR after her vaccinations this summer? Bea did. I was so pissed off I couldn't see straight. So, on top of local meat lockers, I'd also love a few pediatrician recommendations...

Joel 12 years, 6 months ago

Leslie: That's how I ended up tubbo-riffic. Because I put that level-mindedness into action!

Aileen Dingus 12 years, 6 months ago

I get my pig from Stinson's in Ottawa. (well, Stinson's is the processor, I actually get the pig from a friend)

Mmmm. Pig.

smerdyakov 12 years, 6 months ago

Food-like substance for thought? Your anxiety over what you're eating may be worse than eating questionable food. Not that it's a bad idea to be mindful, just a good idea to also be reasonable. Chris' blog on being informed and depression comes to mind: http://www.lawrence.com/blogs/makes_sense_me/2007/dec/13/depressinginfo/

OtherJoel 12 years, 6 months ago

I am totally craving a Big Mac now. What the hell?

DOTDOT 12 years, 6 months ago

Leslie: At least you have enough juju to get pissed. We, however, would have drove our fat asses RIGHT over there. This is the basis for my cowardice rooted anonymity on these blogs.

Now I'm pissed because she didn't get one. We should trade pediatricians.

leslie 12 years, 6 months ago

So yesterday I wrote this blog, then drove my son to Target so he could do some gift card spending. My purchases? Clementines, avocados, a tomato, and 2 frozen pizzas. For shame!

Dazie: Stinson's? Whereabouts in Ottawa is that?

To relieve anxiety--for my health!--I'm devising a guilt-free list of non-local food. It's getting quite long.

leslie 12 years, 6 months ago

Just back from a trip downtown. I stopped by the newly opened Casbah grocery store, and I found it to be...pretty good. Since I walk by there every day after work, I'm happy to have a place to stop for odds & ends.

Aileen Dingus 12 years, 6 months ago

Honestly I don't know. I have always made hubby go pick up Porky. We got a quarter last year, a half this year.

According to Google, Stinson's Meat Processing is at 2417 Haskell Road in Ottawa. I have no idea where that is.

I too am pleased at having the Casbah around. I work downtown and like the idea of a grocery store within walking distance during lunchtime. I went in the other day and was pleased to see what they have, but it won't be replacing a larger store for my day to day grocery needs.

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 12 years, 6 months ago

Don't actually know any local lockers; we go in on whole cows with my parents down in Parsons. I don't know the name of the locker, but they have a fabulous program where you can donate part of any animal they process for you to the "community locker", and if you shoot more deer in a season than you need, you can just drop it off and they'll process it, package it, and anyone who needs it can come pick it up. Good guys.

That gift certificate thing sucks ass. We use Dr. Rhiardon, and I've never been given McDonald's certificates. Free trigger locks for our guns, yes--one more reason I heart that place.

lazz 12 years, 6 months ago

just because it's my time-honored tradition only to be annoying, and never helpful, I can add to the food angst by pointing out an interesting letter to the editor in the current New Yorker. Commenting on an earlier article, which had stated something along the lines that there's no possible argument against the philosophies behind veganism, the letter writer points out that agriculture (tilling and pesticides) and all the related grain/veggie transportation and storage systems kill, directly or indirectly, uncountable numbers of cute little furry critters ... no guilt-free lunch, I think was the closing line ... so, makes me feel better about the steak I'm going to cook for dinner tonight ...

leslie 12 years, 6 months ago

Lazz, how can you annoy me, if we almost always seem to think in tandem? In the Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan makes those very points, calling animal-rights veganism and vegetarianism a "conceit."

I will say that people can and should choose to eat how they want, and if vegetarianism makes them feel good, more power to them. But the argument that it's healthier just falls short for me. As my husband said once, disregarding our biological design for meat consumption (specifically our teeth) is like deciding that you're not going to use your thumbs anymore. So, enjoy that steak!

John Reeves 12 years, 6 months ago

How about a butcher shop in downtown?

Stilted at the grocery. If I have the afternoon free I shop and experience the label reading worry frenzy in an attempt to know all of the ingredients. I want a good astronaut food that does it all. My dog eats Urban Wolf, which is astro-dog food. I want that sort of diet. Peanut butter, salad, bagels and granola used to satisfy my dietary needs, but no longer. I would love a foodstuff of black eyed peas and cornbread. mmmm.

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