Is eating local more ethical?

July 7, 2008 § 1 Comment

Is eating local more ethical? Well, we think so. Animal, Vegetable, MiracleIn fact, that’s why we want to share the “gospel” with others and encourage people to think of eating a bit differently. Where our food comes from has burgeoned in the public consciousness with the Salmonella outbreak, and it has been a repeated theme in media outlets. As I was making a stir-fry last night (from reading my posts you might think that’s all we eat around here… but it’s coincidence, I assure you) I was listening to The Ethics of Eating on Speaking of Faith, an American Public Media radio show.

The host, Krista Tippett, interviewed Barbara Kingsolver — who inspired this blog. The longer, unedited interview is available, but the broadcast version is worth a listen — especially while you prepare a meal for your household.

One point that Kingsolver brought up that seems to be the crux of the problem is that we have become so disconnected with food that we take it for granted. Just two generations ago, eating local and eating seasonal was what everyone did, and had been doing, since the beginning of humankind. But with the advent of the internal combustion engine, domestic highway system, and international shipping infrastructure, our food now can be shipped around the globe and when most people walk into the supermarket they don’t think for a second about where the banana in their cart came from.

One of the goals of this blog is to help people get past the basic difficulty of being a localvore (a term that is new and strange in its inherent meaning — almost as if it is an elite activity vs a means of survival). Simply, eating seasonally requires a different thought process for meal planning and shopping. Instead of thinking of what sounds really great to make for dinner, instead you have to think about what is in season, and what you can make from that. This requires a bit of connectedness to the food seasons in the area you live, and a bit of self-restraint. What we are striving for with this blog is to provide ideas for what you can eat that is local and seasonal, and inspire you to really actively think about it when you shop and plan your meals. Once you gain the active awareness you might take some baby-steps and put down the watermelon that looks tasty but was imported from South America, or hold off on the water chestnuts for your stir fry. But each little step is a step in the right ethical direction.

Luckily for us. because we are in the Willamette Valley, we are privileged to have a bounty of local food available for a relatively long time. A good way to get an idea of what is in season and what is local is to go to the various farmer’s markets in our community and simply find out what’s for sale. Also, while you can’t get fresh berries in the winter here, you can freeze or can them, and have good, nutritious fruit year-round. All of this requires some extra planning and some time-consuming activities during the productive harvest months. Just last weekend my friend put up quarts of freezer-jam that will nourish her for breakfast through the winter. To her it was one night well-spent prepping her berries and putting them up (she went to bed when she ran out of sugar).

Kingsolver also discussed the attitude we have toward food prep. We’re “too busy” to cook for our families in the United States. But Kingsolver pointed out that in many European cities, cooking is so much a part of the culture that it is not seen as a time-taker, but as part of living. Even CEO’s head to the local market after work to pick out the ingredients for dinner every night after work. So if you think time is what’s stopping you, it may be helpful to think about how people live in other parts of the world and evaluate how you live and what you would have to give up, and also what you would gain.


June strawberries

June 22, 2008 § Leave a comment

I was very excited when I got to the Lane County Farmer’s Market this weekend and discovered that the strawberries had arrived in force. At least five booths boasted flats and flats of the ripe red berries, and the price was about $3 per pint. The unusually cool spring we had delayed the onset of the berries, and I was delighted to see them at the market.

I picked up two particularly lush looking pints of strawberries, with no specific intention other than enjoying them. I also purchased a loaf of whole wheat Levain from Marche Provisions.

So this morning my boyfriend suggested that we make pancakes with strawberries cooked in… I thought about it and thought the strawberries would have too much moisture and they would make soggy pancakes. Instead, I suggested we just make pancakes and serve them with sliced strawberries and whipped cream. He countered with french toast and strawberries. It was settled, we would have a locally-sourced breakfast.

Whole wheat local french toast with strawberries

The whipping cream was actually sugar-free Cool Whip, so it wasn’t really that local or natural (but it reduced the caloric content of the meal); it could be substituted by local Lochmead fresh-made whippingcream to enhance the local content. The eggs were local, and the milk in the batter was Lochmead 2%. The vanilla was organic and was contained in a reused bottle that was refilled at my neighborhood’s Red Barn Natural Grocery. Lastly, that cute little garnish of mint was local — from our mint pot on the front porch.

I was also excited to find the first pints of cherries at the market — my reminder that it is time to go to the orchards for u-pick. But, after putting in a call to the folks at Detering Orchards today, I discovered that the cool spring has caused the cherries to delay as well, with u-pick unavailable until after July 7th.

Asparagus quiche

May 14, 2008 § Leave a comment

On Saturday, May 10, 2008, I headed to the Lane County Farmer’s Market to check out what was available, and to pick up a Yacon start (previously discussed here).

I also picked up a green and purple tomatillo with the intent of making some good salsa verde this summer.Organic asparagus for sale

I checked out the consignment booth and found a large quantity of asparagus. I just couldn’t resist and had to buy two bunches. I like it steamed with garlic or lemon. I used part of one bunch to freshen-up a can of Cambell’s Cream of Asparagus soup (also adding about a tablespoon of fresh garlic and precooking the asparagus in the pot before adding the soup mix and milk). But my real desire was to make a fresh asparagus quiche using my farm-fresh eggs.

12 eggs
1/2-3/4 cup milk
1/2-1 cup grated sharp Tillamook cheddar cheese
2/3 lb or 2 cups asparagus cut into 2-3 inch sections
3 Tbs chopped garlic
1/2 cup butter/shortening
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 egg
3 Tbs cold water
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 tsp baking powder

*Preheat oven to 350 F
*Mix crust ingredients together, cutting shortening or butter with pastry blender or knife.
*Add sifted whole wheat flour and baking powder, cut together until “crumbly.”
*Add water, vinegar, and egg and blend well. Use hands to shape dough and mix ingredients well until smooth
*Place dough on floured surface and roll out to round shape
*Place in 12″ diameter springform pan, pressing dough to edges and ensuring uniform coverage (remove excess dough that is higher than the edge of the pan, and use it to fill in the gaps left in other areas)
*Place crust in oven and bake for 15 minutes
*Beat eggs with milk in bowl
*Place chopped asparagus in crust
*Sprinkle chopped garlic over it and cover with grated cheese
*Pour in egg/milk mixture, and try to make sure that the egg batter completely covers filling ingredients
*Place in oven and bake at 350 for 1 hour
*Cool for 15 minutes and then remove from springform pan, or place in refrigerator and serve cold

Asparagus Quiche

Lane County Farmer’s Market: Last April market of 2008

April 27, 2008 § Leave a comment

Having grown up on an organic farm, I have a unique appreciation for the time and effort that is taken to grow and produce the glorious food that is made available at the Lane County Farmer’s Market. My family farm is nestled in the Oregon Coast Range, and we experienced much more rain than the Willamette Valley gets, and thus a shorter growing season. So when I attend the Eugene farmer’s market in the early spring and see such a wide variety of fresh produce offered, I am a bit in awe. This weekend I made a visit, camera in hand, with the goal of capturing the fresh bounty that we are so privileged to have access to.

As expected, there were many starts offered for those interested in making their own backyard garden. Yacon plant startThere were the more mundane cabbage and chard, onions, peas, and basil, to peppers, tomatoes, artichokes, and the new one to me, yacon (Bolivian sun root).  After reading about it at Seeds of Change, it makes me want to pick up a start next week — the description of melony flesh from a root crop has my attention!Chilis and pepper starts

 Some different items were also available, including goose eggs in the “proxy” booth (for smaller vendors who don’t have enough products to have a booth). Goose eggs 






Three bakeries, Provisions, Eugene City Bakery, and Hideaway Bakery offered fresh, organic, locally made breads. And to make themselves irresistible, most offered samples… needless to say, I had to pick up something, so I opted for the poppy-seed brioche rolls from Provisions; which, at $1 each, seemed to be a steal.

Brioche rolls from ProvisionsEugene City Bakery bread basketsThere were many options to choose from however, with sourdoughs and nut or olive breads, seeds or no seeds, white or wheat. A splendid selection to spoil any good “foodie” and localvore.

 (Left: Provisions brioche rolls; Right: Eugene City Bakery’s bread baskets).

As for the actual produce available, there were beautiful heads of lettuce, bunches of mustard greens, chard, kale, leeks, green garlic, basil, and carrots. Fresh baby bok choy, new potatoes, and spring lettuce mix and bagged baby spinach were also available. And really, how could you resist a few of these items with their wholesome goodness and natural beauty?

Bok choy floretFrench breakfast radishes

After going to market, I went to go work on my own garden plot in the Whiteaker Community Garden — mostly digging up comfry and scissoring slugs in my plot to prepare for rototilling on Sunday.

To finish off a great day — temperatures in the 70s — we visited our friends and enjoyed a great dinner of homegrown chicken served with the Groundworks Organics bagged baby greens mix (including bok choy, beet greens, and baby lettuces).

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