Friday, August 31, 2007

Where's Rita?

Hello, and sorry for the long lag between posts. In the beginning of August I wound up in the hospital quite unexpectedly for a week! I’ve never been overnight in a hospital in my life – it was quite an experience. I’ve been recovering at home for a couple of weeks, but I managed to celebrate my daughter's wedding. Now I’m climbing up onto the TCF saddle again, even if just for the mornings for now.

So, What’s New????

Metz Fresh in California is recalling their bagged spinach because of a possible salmonella outbreak. Metz Fresh does not grow organically so you’re OK if you stick with organics.

The Green City Market in Chicago begins their “Eat Locally” challenge today. This is a really interesting concept and is causing mountains of chatter. For a look at what Chicagoans think about the idea, check out one of my favorite message boards: and go to the subject: "Other Culinary Chat” and then to “How to Eat Local”. This discussion centers around a few broad subjects..such as: “What Exactly does ‘Local’ Mean?” , “What about Chocolate,Coffee and Beer – Do I have to Give them Up?”, “What about Packaged Foods?” and many other daring questions. One writer offered these reasons to eat locally:

Locally grown produce is fresher.
Local food just plain tastes better.
Locally grown fruits and vegetables have longer to ripen.
Buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons.

Buying locally grown food is fodder for a wonderful story.
Local food translates to more variety.

Locally grown produce is not always fresher. Farmers have to sell as much of their crop as possible and this means sometimes rotating older produce in with newer produce. I’d argue that local food tastes better if it’s grown in clean, healthy soil. Those strawberries in the grocery store that taste like wood are local to somebody – and they don’t taste any better at the source. I’m assuming the third point is referring to ripening on the vine. This statement is usually true.

Buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons in whatever definition of ‘local’ we have adopted. Planting a garden will do a better job of it. I’m not sure what the ‘wonderful story’ is; but I’m all ears if someone will tell it. If local food translates to ‘more variety’ we would have been eating only locally since forever. Let’s be honest -- the whole idea of this challenge is to limit your variety and see if your idea to eat locally really can line up with your actions.

There are other issues that are not addressed: what if the food is sprayed with herbicides, pesticides and fungicides? Is ‘local’ still better then? How about if you don’t live near a big city like Chicago where you can shop at a farmers’ market? How much gasoline is OK to burn in pursuit of eating locally? And what do you do in the dead of winter? There is an underlying, unspoken message in the ‘eat locally’ movement, and that is: “If we all do this together, we can break the distribution network that moves food from one coast to the other.” This will probably never happen. Millions of people rely on, are employed by or own aspects of the distribution network. The sheer complexity of it cannot be addressed by an ‘eat local’ movement.

You may have noticed in the grocery store that you can now buy locally grown melons or zucchini. Since grocery stores were born they have been buying locally for in-season produce because their shipping costs are lower. Now, since the buzz words ‘locally grown’ are in vogue, they have begun labeling them as such.

The idea is to ‘look before you leap”, but people often adopt buzz words without really thinking about what they mean when they say them.