Organic vs. Zero Food Miles

Based on targeted marketing and the preach of pro-environment organizations, we all know that eating organic and local foods are important for the health of our ecosystem as well as our intestines… But in the battle between local and organic, which is ultimately a more important philosophy to follow??

Let us create a hypothetical situation: I am at the grocery store, and I see a tantalizing mountain of organic cherries imported from Michigan. I think to myself “Oh good, I am going to buy these cherries because paying the extra $3 is worth it to help the environment and to evade Parkinson’s from pesticide ingestion!”

…..But wait, right next to the pile of organic cherries is another pile of cherries grown in a non-organic farm just a few miles from my house. Automatically one might think “No, these are not organic and the organic man would be mad if he knew I had the option to purchase the ‘better’ choice and I didn’t because I found a less expensive option”

Although the cherries grown miles from your house are not organic, they are local, which means the amount of fuel used to transport them to your grocery store was much lower than those flown in from Michigan. It seems that buying non-local organic vegetables kind of contradicts the purpose of buying organic and supporting the environmental movement in the first place.

So I ask my readers, what do you think is more important when buying produce? Local or Organic?

(of course if something is both local AND organic you find yourself in an ideal situation, though this is not always the case)

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Environmentally Friendly Eating..But Honestly Who Cares?

One would think that going to a Slow Food university, being bombarded by information about deteriorating local food systems, biodiversity, and environmental travesties that have been caused by the global food system, would successfully work to change my ‘bad’ consumer habits. Being preached to about GMO foods and how each purchase of imported produce I make is single-handedly destroying the universe should have technically changed my consumer habits, but my friends, I have a confession to make…..

…..I buy out of season fruits imported from Chile, I enjoy eating meat, and I am a slave to convenience. Having the choice of going to do my shopping at the Saturday farmer’s market, I choose to go to the supermarket attached to my house, and buy the prepackaged, pre-washed lettuce because I cant stand the idea of having to wash dirt and insects out of my vegetables before eating them. *cringe*

What does this mean? I think that my eating habits reflect the reality of most of our society. A truth that is both relieving and slightly depressing. Every day, we are hit in the face with ‘go-to’ terms that are used to convince the average consumer to change their habits in an effort to save the environment. “Buy Organic!” “Buy Local!” “No GMOs!” “Unprocessed!” “Fair Trade!” “Zero Food Miles!” “Eat in Season!” But has the overuse and over promotion of these terms had a counter productive effect? Does the general population really care that some farm worker in Brazil is being disgustingly exploited for the sole purpose of providing us with freshly brewed Arabica coffee every morning?

It is impossible to completely change the eating habits and working routines of an entire population, which brings me to ask myself, is the Slow Food movement doomed to fail? Pardon my apathy, but it is a question that I continues to poke my brain. Is the ‘fairness’ and ‘morality’ of a locally grown indigenous apple enough to justify its higher price?

Perhaps we need a different approach. How would an overworked stock broker in New York approach the situation of buying locally grown food? Is he going to go out of his way after a busy day of work to find the farmer’s market? Probably not. What about the morbidly obese truck driver in Mississippi who disparagingly regards the organic movement as a corporate excuse to bump up food prices?

How much value does buying fair, organic, local, and environmentally friendly foods hold for the general population? Is it time to start reorganizing the Slow Food approach to make it more relevant for the average consumer? The answer lies in convincing marketing. People don’t want to be hit in the face with facts and figures, using guilt to motivate them to change their evil ways, because ultimately the only emotion that evolves is resent.

There’s nothing worse than protesting hippies outside of large supermarket chains, condemning the masses for consumer failure. The truth is, the fault is not the consumer’s but the large corporations that have jumped on the organic bandwagon for capitalistic gains. How much change is really being done?

You want people to stop eating fast-food? Don’t babble about the corrupt meat industry and the influx of greenhouse gases, because really, a photo is worth 1,000 words.

Perfect Marketing

To make real changes, we have to make the messages relevant to the average consumers. Not just the elitist yuppies that live to boast about their elevated eating morality. The real world doesn’t have time to think about the unfortunate consequences of the corporate food system. It’s time to start thinking more strategically if organizations like Slow Food want to successfully spread their message rather than become lost in the sea of smug Al Gore clones.

What do you think? In the world outside of the microcosm of die hard organic/fair trade/local food eaters are the messages these organizations are trying to deliver effective?

DISCUSS

Gastronomic Racism: Italy’s xenophobic foodie.

I was sitting at my desk just doing mindless internet surfing when I came across an news article about Italy’s new effort to ban any new foreign food restaurants into cities. Starting in Lucca and spreading to other cities in the Lombardy region, Italian president Silvio Berlusconi really feels strongly about Italians only eating italian food…. as a means of cultural preservation of course.

Alright so, a little background. I lived abroad for about 6 months in Parma, Italy… home to Italy’s booming food industry, and when it comes to food, Italians are not kidding. There is so much diversity across the different regions in Italy that apparently there is absolutely no room for the cuisines of immigrant cultures from Africa and the Middle East….at least not anymore.

Luca Zaia, the Minister of Agriculture and a member of the Northern League from the Veneto region, applauded the authorities in Lucca and Milan for cracking down on non-Italian food. “We stand for tradition and the safeguarding of our culture,” he said.

Mr Zaia said that those ethnic restaurants allowed to operate “whether they serve kebabs, sushi or Chinese food” should “stop importing container loads of meat and fish from who knows where” and use only Italian ingredients.

Asked if he had ever eaten a kebab, Mr Zaia said: “No – and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. I prefer the dishes of my native Veneto. I even refuse to eat pineapple.”

Mehmet Karatut, who owns one of four kebab shops in Lucca, said that he used Italian meat only.”

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge supporter of eating local and maintaining national food traditions, but is this taking the “eating local” thing too far, and turning into a gastronomical form of racism? In Italy the culinary culture is synonymous with nationalism, but is this enough justification to completely ban other forms of cuisine?

What if someone is craving a burger, or a kebab? NO! *slaps hand* PASTA FOR YOU!

Anyway, go read the article. It’s a real trip.

And yes, Italians really are this crazy. (If you are Italian and reading this, I hope you are not offended, pero e’ davvero cosi in Italia, tutti politici pazzi.)

Homegrown Education

Has all this talk about pesticides and genetically modified seeds killed your appetite for the commerically produced stuff??

Good.

You are now ready to start considering the many alternatives to your consumerist lifestyle. No longer do you need to be dependent on the faceless grocery gods to put food on your table. Now you may be asking, “How am I supposed to get fresh zucchinis, and lettuce, and tomatoes, and and and ALL THOSE OTHER FRUITS AND VEGGIES, if I boycott the supermarket?!”

Well my dear friends, the simplest answer is to grow them yourself! Yes! that’s right, growing your own fruits and vegetables not only shrinks your carbon footprint and saves your funds, but it’s also immensely satisfying! What could be better than biting into a tangy, juicy, ruby red tomato that you plucked off the vine from your own garden? The students of the Garden Club at Pitzer College in So Cal seem to understand the distinction…

I was lucky enough to meet with these students to discuss some of the benefits of growing your own produce. They even offer some really great tips on how to go about starting your own garden. Check out the video below to learn from these groundbreaking (hah no pun intended) students.

…P.S. I shot/edited this video in a very short amount of time because I wanted to put it up onto the site as soon as possible…It says it’s 7:37 mins long, but its only about 5:30.

No more complaining about the high cost of buying organic, because nothing is cheaper than doing it yourself!! Thanks Pitzer Kids… I’m going to go pick myself somethin’ tasty.

The Slow Food Movement: A Break from life in the fast lane.

So I’ve been using this term ‘slow food’ as my basis for talking about a lot of the ideas on this site. What exactly is slow food? And why is it so important to me? Well, The Slow Food Movement was started by an Italian man named Carlo Petrini in Italy to combat fast food. Some of the ideas the movement promotes are eating locally, preserving local culinary traditions/recipes, sustainable farming, ethical treatment of agriculture, animals, and farm workers, and most of all, acheiving immense gastronomical pleasure. The organization was started in Italy, however; now it has over 83,000 members (including myself) in over 122 countries worldwide.

In a world where convenience and speed are highly valued, we, as a global society, have lost touch with the true pleasures of the Earth; succumbing to the Fast Life and leaving very little time to slow down and enjoy the scenery. Life is too short to rush through things.

Through education about taste and local foods, we can learn to recognize what is truly good and where it can be found. As we become more educated about these topics, no longer do we need to rely on fast food (in the broad sense) to fulfill our gastronomical desires. According to the Slow Food Movement, it is time to rediscover our surroundings, one bite at a time.

From his book, Slow Food Nation, Carlo Petrini writes,

“Drawing on [the gastronome’s] long experience in the quest for the good, for culinary pleasure, he discovers that there is also a different world of production and consumption, parallel to the currently dominant one, which contains the seeds of a better global system.”

“At one point in our history, gastronomical pleasure was considered a reservation for the high cultured wealthy class; however, now this quest for good, clean, and fair food is the very basis of our survival. All people, from every socio-economic class, deserve to eat the healthiest, most pleasureable food possible.

We must join together as a society eat our way to culinary enlightenment, and break our addiction to the draining, fast-paced, and bland world we have accepted for too long.

I read the book and it totally changed my perspective on the realities and dangers of the industrialized food business. By getting informed I was able to re-evaluate my habits, and join with others to help promote a better future, both for myself, the environment, and my grumbling stomach.
Check it out, it makes a really interesting read.

YOU can buy the book from the Grassroots Gourmet Store! Conveniently located on the links section to the left!

And thus begins a new Category on the blog, “Slow Food”. As a Slow Food USA member, very exclusive (HAHA), I attend various events/lectures about current trends and whatnot in the Slow Food culture. Through me, you all can vicariously be a part of the fun. Updates about these events and Slow Food info will be added occassionally to this category.