My post title is that of a chapter from Serve God, Save the Planet. This post is a combination of thoughts from Dr. Sleeth, as well as some of what I learned from recently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.
After studying the issue of vegetarianism which he had previously deemed too radical, Sleeth discovered that ten times more energy, water and grain is needed to produce a pound of beef or pork than a pound of milk or cheese. As a result, Sleeth's family gradually dropped meat from their daily meals until it was part of only a couple dinners a week.
According to Kingsolver's husband, Steven Hopp, "each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1500 miles." The amount of fossil fuels used to package, transport and refrigerate our food is truly unbelievable! Hopp says that if every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week composed of local and organic meat and produce, we would reduce our nation's oil consumption by over a million barrels of oil every week. Small changes=big difference!
Kingsolver writes that "the main barrier between ourselves and a local-food culture is not price, but attitude. The most difficult requirements," she says, "are patience and a hint of restraint." For the Kingsolver-Hopp family, this restraint includes not eating bananas since they can't be grown locally. They gave up fruit for most months of the year, other than the apples they'd canned for the winter. That certainly takes patience, but I'd call that more than a hint of restraint!
I can relate to and support not buying some produce out of season. Tomatoes, for example. Our garden has absolutely spoiled me, and in the winter, I pass right by that table at the grocery every time. Once you've had the real thing, pink and mushy doesn't cut it. Kingsolver makes a fascinating point on this subject when she says, "you'd think we cared more about the idea of what we're eating than about what we're eating." She says our mantra is '"Give me every vegetable in every season, even if it tastes like a cardboard picture of its former self.'" I haven't thought much about planning meals around the seasons, so I'll have to borrow the book I gave my mom for Christmas!
I do want to be more intentional about supporting local farmers, especially since we live in such an agricultural area. I'd particularly like to find a local source for eggs. I do enjoy going to the farmer's market, though last summer, I realized that most of what I'd bought there in the past, was already growing right in our own backyard!
Many people, myself included, conclude that the price of organic food is too high. I wrote a post on this last summer, and Jenn recently asked her readers to share why they buy or organic or not. (Both posts received lots of comments, so check them out!) There's not enough space here for me to share all the compelling things Kingsolver said on this subject, but here's a striking quote: "In our daily fare, even in school lunches, we broadly justify tallow-fried animal pulp on the grounds that it's cheaper than whole grains, fresh vegetables, and hormone-free dairy." Yikes!
I really enjoyed reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Statistics and academic arguments are woven together with humorous and heartwarming anecdotes of farming adventures and family. There are also lots of recipes, which you can find here. I'm looking forward to trying their Friday Night Pizza dough.
For now, I'm not giving up bananas (my son's favorite food!), nor am I suggesting you do the same, unless you feel led to. But reading these two books has certainly given me something to chew on. I hope it gives you some food for thought, too.
"When consumerism becomes the driving ethic, it has only one commandment: Get the most by paying the least. In this system, dignity, ethics, beauty, fairness, and families that live on small farms do not figure. The only line is the bottom line." (Sleeth)
"Small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren't trivial. Ultimately, they will, or won't, add up to having been the thing that mattered." (Kingsolver)