I just finished reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver. This book chronicles her family’s year-long adventure in eating only locally produced food. I’ve long been a fan of her fiction, and I was not disappointed here. Her natural story-telling abilities managed to turn a relatively dry topic (so you grow your own tomatoes, ho-hum) into a compelling page-turner. How does the family manage to eat vegetables in the winter when their garden is under a foot of snow? How does a turkey relearn how to procreate, after the breeding instincts have been bred out of the species? How much gasoline does it take to get those bananas from Ecuador to here?!?!?
I read this book because it is a topic that fascinates me. We demand strawberries in February and asparagus in September, and yet we complain that they are of poor quality. We regulate the small farmer out of business, then turn around a give tax credits to the large commercial operations. How did we get this way? This is not just a social issue, it’s also environmental. Trucking all that food all over the world puts quite a strain on non-renewable resources.
I must admit that I don’t yet eat locally. Frankly, I can’t eat much, period. So I’m not giving up my white rice, just because it’s grown 4 states away. I’m also not switching to local, organic meat, because at over $10.00 a pound, I would be jeopardizing my retirement. Working until I’m 95, so I can eat local beef, just isn’t a reasonable solution. (David agrees with this one!)
So what does a gluten-free, soy-free, nightshade-free, legume-free, almost-everything-else-free girl do to help save the planet? Well, I take baby steps. I’m eating more seasonally. I’m eating more fresh, less frozen food, because it uses less energy to produce. I try to use local ingredients if possible, like local seafood in place of some beef and pork. I’ll be at the opening of our local green market next weekend, and I hope I can find something I can eat. I stay away from highly processed foods, convenience foods, bottled water, and disposable plates, glasses and cutlery. I try not to feel guilty when I eat bananas from Ecuador and grapes from Chile, because I just don’t have the physical ability to eat oranges that were grown just down the street.
And I’m trying to get other people interested in eating locally. According to Steven L. Hopp (Barbara Kingsolver’s husband and contributor to this book), if everyone ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, the United States would reduce our country’s oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. Every week. That’s barrels, people, not gallons. The price of a barrel of oil topped $90.00 this week. So that comes out to a savings of over $90,000,000.00 every week.
Think about it. Try it if you can. I’m trying. And if I, with my extremely limited options, can manage to replace one food a week with a local option, then you can probably manage a meal. Too much to ask? Try it every other week. Try one ingredient every other week. Don’t get caught up in the details. Do what you can, and don’t sweat the rest. Oh, yeah, and read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver. I guarantee it will make you stop and think!