- Cooking is a major hobby to me, and I understand most other people don't love it as much as I do. Locavores don't get this. It came to light for me a few years ago when I was taking some training for camping with the Girl Scouts, and I was matched up with another woman and we were handed a can of chicken broth, some frozen vegetables and a box of barley and were told to make soup for lunch out of it on a propane camp stove. My partner confided to me that she had no idea how to cook, let alone fire up a propane camp stove, because her family eats carry out food exclusively. Every day! So I had to show her how we could put together something edible with the ingredients we were handed if we could get an onion, garlic and some spices from the camp box. I was totally shocked that she had never seen barley before, or didn't know how to cut up an onion. She just never learned how - her mom did all the cooking when she was a kid. I really loved this story in the NYT Magazine by Michael Pollan that talks about the demise of cooking in our culture. The average American spends 27 minutes on food preparation per day. That's it! Perhaps the best thing we can do to encourage eating locally is to help more folks learn how to cook.
- I hated Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Yep, it's true, I didn't like this book, and I adore ever word Barbara Kingsolver has ever written. I think the book borders on whiny and is sanctimonious. Of course, Barbara can do what she did in AVM - eat locally for a year. She's a best selling author and is rich and doesn't have to go to a job every day. If the only book you've ever written by Barbara Kingsolver is AVM, I encourage you to read another book she wrote that certainly inspired me to want to get back to nature - it's fiction, though, and it's called Prodigal Summer. Sadly, I think AVM made Barbara Kingsolver far more famous than even being Oprah's book club selection for The Poisonwood Bible. AVM isn't her best work...so if you read it and loved it, try Prodigal Summer and tell me what you think.
- Locavore types are always fantasizing about starting some food related business without looking at the practicalities of things. My mind is always drawn to that side of things - I can't help it, I am an engineer. It's what I do for a living - try to figure out how things might not work out and address them. To non engineer types, this makes me a real buzz wrecker! I hope my locavore friends have forgiven me for these transgressions. Here are some conversations I have recently ended prematurely by asking practical questions. The "I'd love to raise fingerling potatoes to sell at the farmer's market " discussion was stopped in it's tracks by asking about whether the MSU Extension Agent thinks about the market for fingerling potatoes in our area. The "I want to quit my job and spend a year at the Culinary Institute of America and become a chef" discussion was ended with my simple inquiry "Have you ever worked in a restaurant before?" Then, I am still shamed about my behavior with the "It's my dream to own a fancy bakery in Ann Arbor" chat that was halted by my recitation of all the fancy bakeries that already exist in this town and pondering if another could possibly make a go of it. Sorry folks! If you really want to start a local food business, you need to think more about the business end and less about the food end. And I know that's not very fun. And for God's sake, don't quit your day job. Do it in addition to your day job. When you own your own business, it's gonna be 24/7 job, so you might as well get used to working that second shift now. Good jobs are hard to find in this state - love the one you're with! And I don't want to see you in that homeless commune (see item below) in a few years.
- My understanding of Michael Pollan's "eat less, spend more" philosophy is different than other locavores. In his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto Michael Pollan reminds us that eating locally and seasonally really is an elitist discussion, but somehow, that thought is lost on many preaching the gospel of eating locally. What he is saying is that those of us that can afford to eat locally should do it, but for many people, it's out of reach. Why? It costs more to eat locally, but for some reason, that point is often lost on the locavores. Here's an example - if you are working 3 part time jobs and taking care of your grandbabies because their momma is on crack, and there are no grocery stores in your city and you have to buy your food at what we call a "party store" here in Michigan (liquor store), your version of "local food" might be a frozen pizza and a bag of Doritos. If you are mentally ill and living in the homeless commune near M-14 like the guy who I see every day begging for money on my way home from work at the Jackson Road exit, perhaps eating locally might not be your top priority. From volunteering at Food Gatherers, I learned that one of the greatest things you can donate to a food drive is protein rich foods in pop top cans. (think Campbells Chunky Soup or Dinty Moore Beef Stew). The homeless don't often have can openers. I honestly hadn't thought about that.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
I guess you could call me a locavore...I do try to eat local foods seasonally, but I find that I am so often at odds with just about everyone else that defines themselves that way that I avoid using that term to define myself. I once sat next to someone I just met at Fridays@SELMA (where you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a self professed locavore) and confided that "it's not like I am a real locavore or anything". This woman asked me why I thought that I wasn't - she had read my blog and certainly thought I fit the bill, but I was quick to set her straight. This got me thinking about why when you put me in a group of locavores, one of these things is not like the others and I am certainly the thing that doesn't belong. Here's why I don't fit in: