I have been reading Barbra Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I have to say I am intrigued and overwhelmed. I have watched Food, Inc., King Corn, Capitalism: A Love Story and a myriad of other movies that depict what our gluttony (and sadly corn based diets) are doing to American and Americans. Both physically and economically we are slowly (or in some cases rapidly) become bankrupt on a system of unrealistic, unsustainable food wants, however, I do not think I realized just how detrimental shipping our food across state lines, across the country and across the world really is to the environment and ultimately our own heath.
I am intrigued because I love the thought of green living. I want to grow and make more of our own food. I want to support other local farmers in their fight to sustain a variety of plants and animals not just commodity crops. I want to conserve natural resources. I want to use less fossil fuel. I want to live what I preach.
I am overwhelmed because, well simply put, I love bananas.
I know that probably sounds like a random statement out of left field but think about it. When have you ever (excluding the Huntington Museum of Art’s Tropical Greenhouse) seen a banana growing in WV? Well? I am waiting…yeah, me either. I too have succumb to the I want it, I want it now, and I want it all year long mentality of a prosperous society where fresh fruits and vegetables out of season (and out of their natural region) are not a novelty but a way of life. My family eats bananas every day we have for years and not once in that entire time, did I stop to think from where those bananas originated nor did I ever consider the monumental undertaking and expense it took to get them to my kitchen. The little tiny drop of good I do by riding my bicycle to the grocery store is completely annihilated by the gallons and gallons of fuel need to get them to the market in the first place.
We do not buy watermelons out of season because (as my daughter would say) DUH, they do not taste good. We do buy tomatoes all year round and although we delight in the fresh summer ones from friends and neighbors gardens and complain mightily about the tasteless reddish blobs from the grocery the rest of the year, it still does not stop us from plopping them in the cart almost every trip. I cook a lot of tomato sauced entrees all year long. What am I supposed to do without “fresh” tomatoes?
Which really brings me to the title of the blog: what is a “locavore”? It sounds like a bad allergic reaction to me, something that obviously needs a polite acknowledgment and maybe a tissue. I am sure that many of you reading this blog are much savvier than myself and are practicing locavores as I type but up until I started reading this book I do not think I had even heard the term before. According to Kingsolver a locavore is someone who tries only to eat locally grown/raised/produced produce/meat/grain from within their immediate region. Sounds great, until I realized I love bananas and bananas do not grow in WV.
I usually embrace everything green with a willing spirit and open arms but this is even hard for me. I cannot imagine the reaction I would receive from Fred and Sarah if I suggested that we could no longer eat bananas. Kingsolver makes a valid argument for eating only local food and right now, at the height of summer, it is not too hard to get on board. Giving up my grocery bought bananas for fresh melons, peaches and plums from the farmer's market does not seem horrendous, but ask me in six months when I am sitting in the deep freeze of January fantasizing about a lush piece of fruit that is still half a year away from our table.
My family has made a great deal of changes this year in everything we do from the way we use electricity to a commitment to raising some of our own food but I think asking them to give up all food not produced locally (at least at this point in time) is not wise. I admire Kingsolver and her family and they have inspired me to more diligently think about where my food originated but I do not think that we can completely abandon the banana yet. Maybe we will eat them more sparingly, maybe this time next year, when our garden is in full flourish and I have canning and pickling down to an exact science, instead of a wavering hobby, it will be easier to give up our imported luxuries. I do not know.
I do know that it is an unending battle to get (especially Sarah) to give up prepackaged crap for real food, to shun the “nugget” and all it represents is like trying to swim against the tide. If I take away the “healthy” treats because of their environmental impact I think I would send her screaming back in the corn and soybean embrace of McDonald’s. So this is something that as a family we will try to incorporate slowly. Instead of deprivation I think it must be done by inclusion. If we can learn to grow variety and to introduce new and exciting local foods, then as the more exotic things slide away maybe their absence will not be such a blow.
After all, we have given up/cut back on things that this time last year we could not live without. Soda has been relegated to the occasional treat, as has eating out. No longer mainstays of our existence these things are enjoyed minimally or in a pinch. We read labels now with a religious fervency of never before. We eschew all high fructose corn syrup (and let me tell you, it is ubiquitous and that is a mammoth undertaking in and of its self). I love to cook and now I cook more thoughtfully. We choose paper cups over plastic when out and we carry our recycled bags to the store (most days, sometimes we still forget).
So for now I think the locavore lifestyle must be relegated to that category, thoughtfulness. It is something to think about, something to which we can aspire, something to always keep in the forethought of our shopping expeditions. But at this moment it could easily send my family’s bumbling stumble towards green into a tail spin. Even Kingsolver jokingly states that her family’s journey began at the local convenience store buying junk food and bottled drinks. I think that to jump headlong into a locavore lifestyle might collapse the baby-step mentality on which we have based this journey.
Am I making excuses? Yes, probably. Is the irony of the fact that two generations ago things I think I need were unheard of luxuries, and that no special name was needed for people who ate local food because everyone ate local food? Absolutely not. Do I aspire to feed my family from things we have raised or that were raised here in our local area? Most certainly! But do I think I can sit everyone down this afternoon and tell them by royal decree “HENCEFORTH WE SHALL NOT EAT ANYTHING SHIPPED IN ON A TRUCK!” Um, no, I am not a moron (contrary to what some blog readers believe).
All that said I would highly recommend Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for anyone interested in reading about another family's green and thoughtful adventures. I can wholeheartedly relate to Kingsolver and her family’s woes and triumphs. They too take baby steps and they too are interested in leaving the world a better place for generations to come. It is an interesting book and it is giving me lots to think about and opening up my eyes to the many opportunities to make a difference for the whole world with just our grocery dollar.
Thanks for reading,