Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Local Food vs. Real Food

So, I finally finished “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver last night.  I had read the majority of it this past summer, but I came down with a case of morning sickness which stopped my reading in its tracks.  Even just reading about food made me queasy.  So here I am, 7-8 months later giving my review.

The book is definitely inspiring.  It provided me with the impetus to locate all the local sources of produce and meat.  I started dreaming about all the heirloom vegetables I was going to grow in my garden and how I would then harvest and can them and stock pile for the winter.  However, their accomplishments are highly unrealistic for a large percentage of her readers.  This realization dawned on me when I discovered that my farmers market did not sell the variety of produce hers did, nor was I lucky enough to find local sources for dairy, poultry, maple syrup and who knows what else.  My farmer’s market also had a pretty short open season in comparison.  And finding local produce outside the farmer’s market?  Good luck with that.  I would be seriously surprised if our grocery stores sold any local item.  My garden dreams also came to little fruition.  Disregarding the fact that I had no energy to take care of said garden this past summer, our little plot of land lies on poor garden real estate.  Having a raised bed took care of any soil issues (clay, clay and more rock-hard clay).  But nothing could help the fact that our little back yard gets very limited sunlight.  Thus, I did not reap the bounteous harvest I had envisioned.

So yes, eating exclusively local is great in theory, but unrealistic for large parts of the country, I expect.  I started reading this book after I had finished two other similar books: “Food Matters” by Mark Bittman and “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan.  To me, these books were more practical in their approach to food.  Both of the books stated that eating local is best, but if push comes to shove, it is better just to eat “real food” regardless of its place of origin rather than eating “edible food-like substances.”  I would have to agree with them.  I think it is better for me to eat a banana than to eat a highly processed, artificially-flavored, non-fat yogurt if I am looking for a snack.  Sorry Barbara, I am afraid that I was unable to find a great source for local fruit in order to dry it and make my own fruit leather.  What is a girl to do?

And since I have brought up the subject of Michael Pollan, can I just say that I have totally drunk this man’s kool-aid?  He is my latest crush (sorry Mr. F.!)  Not only has he opened my eyes to the politics of food, he does it with a lot of humor and practicality.  I find that I can easily get behind his suggestions for making smarter food choices.  (E.g. Don’t eat food that’s advertised on television, don’t eat cereal that will change the color of your milk, eat all the junk food you want, as long as you make it yourself.)  I came across a couple of clips of Michael working the circuit for his new book, “Food Rules,” which I haven’t read, but am interested in doing so.  The first clip is a short one—Michael with John Stewart.  The second one is much longer (an hour) but really interesting, and I think worth the time.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Michael Pollan
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So what do you guys think: Real Food vs. Local Food.  Does it need to be a competition?  Is one exclusive of the other?


Janssen said...

I have GOT to read In Defense of Food, especially since I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle a few months ago. So overwhelming, though.

Hizzeather said...

I saw him on Oprah and totally drank the kool-aid. I am currently too poor to really follow his ideas, but I agree with him that it is better to pay more money on food now rather than more money on medical care later. :) My fave advice he gave was that we could eat all the junk food we long as we cook it ourselves with natural ingredients. We'd eat a lot less french fries if we actually had to cut the potatoes and fry them up. :)

heidikins said...

I think you know my (general) thoughts about this, but I'm gonna spout them anyway.

Real Food. Then Local Food.

In some places we have 5 or 6 months of hard frost and absolutely no Farmer's Market. And when we do have Farmer's Markets the produce is limited to what can grow in the freaking hot desert. I don't feel badly buying organic produce shipped up from Southern California, it's either that or no produce. So...shipped it is.

I have almost stopped buying boxy food. I think milk and cooking/baking supplies (flour, olive oil, chocolate chips) are the only things that I buy right now that have actual nutrition labels. Oh, and Nutella.

I also love the idea of only buying processed products that have 5 or fewer I trying to justify the new line of Haagen Dazs icecream? Yes I am. Ingredients: milk, cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla. I'll take that to the bank, thank you.

Now that I've hijacked your comment...allow me to summarize.

Real Food First. Local Food Second. (Excellent post, btw)


Wild Rose said...

Good conversation. I'm glad you are interested in this stuff.
in response, I posted on this as well.

yola said...

It's funny, I think we sort of became interested in this at the same time. I read Plenty: the 100 mile diet, which was an interesting experiment in eating local. When they came down to picking rodent poop out of their bag of wheat for the sake of eating local though, I knew it was a little far-fetched and not something any sane person would do. I agree with Dr. Rose: if you've got local available, by all means do it. I too feel some pleasure from putting a face (of the farmer) on my lettuce and other goods from the farmer's market. But the reality is, not every place gets a variety of produce year round, so sometimes you have to supplement from far away. (And I think bananas are fabulous and would be hard pressed to give them up for breakfast.) All still real food though. All the reading and conversations on local and real food lately has been inspirational and helping me consume better. Also helping me appreciate and enjoy the act of cooking.

ps: that lentil soup recipe you sent me was lovely. I've been enjoying a pot of it all week and it really was a cinch to make. Thank you! :)


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