September 4, 2007

A Somewhat Inconvenient--But very Tasty--Truth.

Now, I think I’m a pretty standard sort of guy. I’m your average white suburbanite, as a matter of fact.

We have one fuel-efficient car parked in front of a nice house, and that’s plenty. I mow the lawn, and listen to inoffensive music like John Mayer and Maroon5. I get up at 6 a.m. to run the dog, and I pick the morning paper up off the porch when I get back. I work at a job I love, in an innocuous-looking office building downtown, and I take the bus to get there. I call my mom at least once a week, and chat with the neighbours over the fence. I hit the gym a few days a week, and get in on a volleyball game when I’m able to.

Pretty standard stuff.

But Kate and I are trying to be a little more radical these days. No, we’re not out there with protest signs. We’re not spray painting our messages on bus stops or getting our voices heard on the six ‘o’ clock news.

What we're doing is growing veggies.

Shocking, I know. Okay, okay, so that in itself is also nothing new, nor particularly radical. We’ve done that for years. But the veggie garden has been a seed for bigger ideas as of late (pun intended?)

Ever heard of the Hundred Mile Diet? Chances are good you have, since the book about it, and the environmental movement in general are gaining so much steam these days.

What the Hundred Mile Diet basically says is that you should not rely on any food source that comes from anywhere outside of a 100 mile radius of your home, because it’s killing our world. Have you ever put much thought into where the meal on your table comes from? We have. And that’s all part of the reason that there is so much smog hanging around the Fraser Valley and in the Strait of Georgia these days.

At the end of our block, there’s a Chinese grocer, and it stocks every manner of Asian foodstuff imaginable. Problem is, it literally comes from China. No, we’ve got nothing against the Chinese, if that’s what you’re thinking. What we have a problem with is that all of that Bok Choy, all of those Ya Pears and Fuji Apples, were picked before they were ripe, put on a giant boat, spent the next 58 days crossing the pacific ocean, got on a truck, was sent to a packing facility, put on another truck, and was then sent to our neighbourhood store three hundred yards away, only to be put on a shelf for 69 cents a pound, where it has two days to be bought up before it’s thrown out, over-ripe and only suitable for the crows and seagulls that swarm the dumpsters.

So what was the point? The pollution problem in itself is obvious and alarming, but I’m not going to beat anyone over the head about it--we all get enough of that in our daily media as it is. Nutrition is also a question, though, since the fruit was picked two months ago and left to ripen off the vine. It’s no different that a California strawberry, picked green and shipped up the coast, so we can pay $4.99 / pound from the local Safeway.

And Kate and I thought about all this and said: why?

Why go to the little grocer to get the apple that’s done more international travelling than I have, or go to the Safeway to get the strawberries with no flavour, when we can go to the farm, pick 40 pounds of the things at a quarter of the price, and have enough fruit to eat fresh and freeze to last us for the next year?

So, we’ve changed some things. We now buy our produce—and our fish, dairy, and meat—from a farmers Market on Saturday morning, from a local producer, or we go to the farm and get it ourselves. talk about fresh, and the money goes right into the hands of the farmer. In the price of our eggplants, garlic scapes, apricots, apples, sides of lamb, and strawberries, there is nothing built into the price other than eggplant, garlic, apricot… well, you get the point. No paying for advertising or trans-continental shipping in the price of our food. Major nutritional value and virtually no carbon footprint.

okay, so you can probably see the drawbacks to this plan. It means giving up a lot. And I am the first to admit, we are cheaters. We’ve put up an exceptions list to deal with these little… indiscretions. For example, while we don’t buy pasta anymore, we will still buy bread, so long as it is at least baked locally. The common denominator of course being flour. We don’t grow wheat here in BC, so technically, we shouldn’t buy it. But we do anyway.

Beer is also a no-no. So, I’ve stopped buying it. But there too, is an exception. We’ve said if guests are coming for dinner, we’ll buy a six pack or something. Not to worry, wine is still made well within a hundred miles, so that can still be bought… unfortunately, I despise the stuff. Too bad for me, good for Kate who loves it.

Tofu, edamame beans and other soy products are out. Sure, Tofu is made here in Vancouver, but the beans aren’t grown here. In Olive oil, we confess our hypocrisy, and will continue to buy the stuff.
well, there's lots more to it, but basically, if you come over for dinner at our house, pretty much everything in your meal will be local—if not from our own backyard—and unbelievably full of flavour.
We even eat out less now, as our home-cooked meals are so satisfying. We just don’t feel the need to go out.

By now, you get the point. Maybe it's not so much radical as it is exciting and satisfying, and different. But when there is so little in my life that I am preachy about--To each his own, I usually say--I figure I can stand on the soap box for a while too :)

I’ll wrap it up here by saying that no, it isn’t as cheap as going to the Safeway or IGA. And no, we know not everyone has the luxury of paying extra, nor of having a big veggie garden.

Ultimately though, we need to find ways eat local, drive clean cars, fly less, etc. etc. etc. God gave us this big, beautiful world. It is nothing more than our own desire for convenience which will result in our losing it.
An intro to the 100 Mile Diet

City Farm Boy, a vancouverite with a great idea about urban farming

The Omnivore's Dilemma... haven't read it yet, but it sounds interesting!