Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nothing to see here, move along

So no, I didn't take any pictures of my fancy Mexican dinner. When you're trying to get everything on the table before it gets cold, it's hard to remember to whip out a camera and take pretty pictures.

I've been spending an exorbitant amount of time lately pondering the meaning of "local" foods. "Local" is the new (well, the last few years) buzzword in the land of food blogs/magazines, but I still can't decide what my personal stance is on the topic. I really do try to buy local when possible, but I also buy my organic (or, if I'm feeling especially cheap, non-organic) tomatoes from Mexico in the winter. Even the highest quality canned tomatoes are produced hundreds (or more likely, thousands) of miles away. Should I stop this practice of buying produce out of season? Probably. Should I make a concerted effort to buy all my meats and dairy product from local sources? Well, of course - duh. All of that seems obvious enough.

But what about the grey areas? Like what if the milk I'm drinking was produced by a cow that lived only 20 miles away, but the cow was fed with grain that was sprayed with pesticides? What then? Should I stop buying dairy products altogether? But then what if the locally produced tofu and soymilk I buy is made with soybeans that were trucked in from the Midwest? Is that any more acceptable?

I've recently learned that there is no source of hard red wheat (the wheat that is commonly used for breads, pastas, etc) that is grown locally. Hard red wheat does not grow well in the Northwest. So - should I cut bread out of my diet completely, because I know that the wheat that was used to make it was produced at least 500 miles from Portland? Should I buy organic wheat from the closest possible source and make pasta, breads, etc, myself? Or can I buy products that contain non-local wheat from local companies? Or do I cut out wheat completely and start eating a crapload of potatoes instead? And considering that I have a full time job, when am I supposed to find the time do cook/can/grow everything from scratch?

And when I start thinking about all the foods I love that come from far away, tropical locales - like pineapple, or avocados, my head starts to spin. Do I have to say goodbye to tropical fruits forever in order to be a responsible human being? Even plain old sugar - think of all the miles sugar has to travel to get to Oregon. Not to mention the amount of processing that sugar requires before it makes it to my table. Should I try to hunt down a source of organic beet sugar? Or do I only use local, organic honey?

It gets so ridiculously convoluted. There are so many weird food rules - everybody seems to have some ludicrous idea of what is ok to eat and what isn't, and those things are constantly in flux. Junk food, bad. Whole grains, good. Carbs bad, protein good. Protein bad, carbs bad, fat bad, meat bad, soy bad, processed foods bad, calories bad. Bad, bad, bad. I've known people who "can't" eat fruit, or are "allergic" to vegetables. Why do we have to be afraid of everything we put in our mouths, unless it fits into some illogical dietary regime?

I don't have an answer to any of these questions. It's frustrating. Sometimes it seems almost impossible to eat anything without causing irreparable harm to the planet. But food is supposed to be a pleasurable experience, not purgatory. I shouldn't have to feel guilty (or, on the other side of the spectrum - superior) whenever I sit down to eat a meal. Right???


Lisa said...

I think you should just give up and eat foie gras and shark fin soup.

chetanddot said...

I think you should eat vienna sausages from a can and hot pockets Yum!