Fresh Table Experiment, Round #2

*looks around*

*drags over his soapbox*

Ahem.

*taps the mic*

Is this thing on? I’m here all week. Try the swordfish. Don’t forget to tip your waitstaff.

Today marks the start of farmers’ market season.

Which means, it’s time to get a little preachy and pretentious. Hey, at least I know it. And you’re going to suffer through it. Because you love me. And because if you avert your gaze from this blog, that metal collar around your neck will start beeping faster and faster. You have 30 seconds to continue reading. If you fail to reorient your eyes to to my blog post, well, let’s just say that collar is loaded with enough C4 to turn a city bus into an inhalable substance. Mm-hmm. That’s right. Swing those eyes right back over here, pardner. There you go.

I appreciate your loyalty.

Now, let’s talk about food.

The first day of farmers’ market season for me feels like the first day the amusement park opens. This is the ritual: wife and I go. We buy vegetables not from pretentious local buyers, but from people who look like farmers. We pay a lot less than we do at the grocery store, and we buy vegetables that come from a place within ten miles of where we are standing. Then we buy other stuff as we need it: jams from local folk, honey from the local apiary, meats from the local butcher, and so on and so forth. And then we have breakfast. We buy pastries. Or, if he’s there, we say, “Fuck it,” and we buy a sausage sandwich with peppers and onions from the sausage sandwich guy. And then we go and sit on one of the nearby picnic tables and watch the market and read the awesome profanity kids have scrawled into the table’s wood.

This first farmers’ market thereby begins the first day of the Fresh Table Experiment, Round Two.

In case you missed last year’s explanation, I’ll go over it again. The experiment was this: I say “go suck a dick” to the grocery chains and I shop semi-exclusively at local food institutions. Farmers’ markets, yes. Local farms, yes. Local butchers, ayup. Local bakers, sho’ nuff. Now, this has its limits. Some things I can’t buy locally. Honey, yes. Soy sauce, no. Some things I could probably make (chili-garlic sauce), but hell with that, I want my Sriracha. So, those kinds of things I get at chain places because I don’t have much choice.

That means I end up at the grocery store or Target buying food maybe once a month.

The rest is pure locavore behavior.

This isn’t about eating organically, really — “organic” as a term no longer means much thanks  to the lobbyists of Big Food.

It’s about eating food. And it’s about supporting the local economy.

When I say, “It’s about eating food,” what I mean is, a lot of the garbage we funnel into our greasy mouths isn’t food, per se. It’s close to food. It’s food-plus. It’s food science. It starts with a food product and then ladles atop it a world of fake flavoring, a swamp of corn-based products, a smattering of sweetness, a heap of preservatives. Now, I’m no “back to nature” type — I love the conveniences of modern life. I’m also not anti-science. And, in fact, science says that eating all this shit is pretty fucking awful for your body.

Sure, High Fructose Corn Syrup is just sugar, right? It’s all good.

Except, maybe, just maybe, because America subsidizes the unholy hell out of corn, that’s what the Big Food Lobby wants you to believe.

Maybe, just maybe, other countries say, “Hey, this shit actually hurts our kids.”

Maybe some say, “Hey, this shit causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”

Could even be that HFCS has the potential to damage the metabolic process and some might conclude, “Wow, this is probably part of the reason we’re all fat and dying from the diabeedus.”

HFCS isn’t the only problem. We’re not just addicted to oil in this country. We’re addicted to fucking corn. (Er, we’re not addicted to having sex with corn. I mean, I guess metaphorically? CORN SEX SO HOT)

Or, hell, look at the ingredient list on any processed foods. Like, say, Cool Whip. Newsflash: you can make your own whipped cream super holy shit easy. You do not need to ingest things that are unpronounceable and flammable. (And you don’t need to ingest sexual lubricants, either, like Polysorbate 60! “More Astroglide with your dessert, sir? Ma’am?”)

To me, the logic behind not eating processed foods is easy: food is good, but food that is made to do things food’s not supposed to do is less than good. The more you put between food and your body, the harder is is for your body to actually process the things it needs to process. Your body is made to eat, digest, process and utilize food. It is not made to eat, digest, process and utilize food science.

You eat at a farmers’ market, you significantly increase the actual food you put into your body.

You eat at the grocery store, you make it a lot harder to do that.

At the farmers’ market, you have no intermediary, no third party. You have that farmer guy. You talk to him. You say, “What the hell is this?” And he says, “I grew it this morning.”

You go to the grocery store, you suffer a lot of separation from you and the food. Shipping. Packing. The store itself. The food conglomerate that produced that food. The food conglomerate that made the science behind that food. Who are you going to ask? You going to ask a question of that mopey, slack-jawed, mule-kicked lackwit who’s forever mopping up the spill from a broken pickle jar? You think he knows jack shit about what’s in those taco shells you just bought? The grocery store is just renting shelf space. They don’t give a rat’s right foot what you put in your body.

Plus, supporting your local economy is a good thing.

I’d much rather give five bucks to a guy who lives down the street or two towns over than some fat-cat food executive playing golf in his lunar colony. Fuck that dick.

In terms of food, I spend less money on farmers’ market expenditures than I do on grocery trips. So, I save money. And, all last summer I felt a helluva lot better. Farmers’ market eating coupled with daily walks lost me about 15 pounds (weight I have almost entirely put back on over the winter despite having a new gym membership that, yes, does get used).

Lighter belly, heavier wallet? Sounds like a check mark in the “win” column.

So, here’s the deal.

Last year, I did this.

This year, I want you to try it.

Even if you don’t go whole hog (pun not intended until now), try it out.

Give the middle finger to your local grocery beast.

Shake hands with a farmer, and buy what the guy is offering, and put that food into your body.

Accept the challenge of seasonal food. Enjoy local-grown meats and veggies and fruits. You want a pie, buy one from a guy who just made it an hour ago. Just try it. See if you feel better.

No moral mandate or anything — unless you have kids, at which point I’d say, have you looked at the stuff you’re putting into your kid’s body? I’m just putting that out there. When you put another life into it, the moral obligation narrows a little, doesn’t it?

I’m gonna be over here doing it. And the other great thing about farmers’ market eating is that I learn a lot of new recipes by necessity — you buy what’s there, you suddenly have to figure out what to do with it. I’ll post the results as I find them. Maybe you’ll care to do the same?

Oh.

One other mandate.

(You thought you could walk away, didn’t you? Didn’t you hear the collar beeping? Get back here.)

Try new food.

Seriously. We finally found a Vietnamese place in the Lehigh Valley (Little Saigon in Allentown), and there I had the “Pho Deluxe,” a noodle soup with a ton of beef cuts I didn’t recognize (tendon, navel, and something called “omosa”). Well, omosa is tripe. And tripe is intestine. Cow guts.

White, fringy cow guts, cut to look like the noodles in the soup.

Hot damn! Delicious. I once said I’d never really be willing to stomach tripe (pun not intended until now). Never thought I’d try it except, there it was, and I didn’t know what it was, and I put it into my mouth, and it was fantastic. As Bourdain puts it, a “textural Disneyland.” Not chewy, but pleasantly firm, and carrying a subtle beef flavor. Very nicely done, Little Saigon.

See, I’d rather eat fresh cow guts than whipped cream made from sex lube.

I’m just saying.

So, join me in this weird experiment? See how you feel after a couple months.

A couple resources to get you going:

Local Harvest is a really good way to find local markets, butchers, farms, CSAs, etc.

In fact, this whole list from Michael Pollan (whose books you should read) is a nicely comprehensive list to get you going.

Check it out. Try it out.

Join me.

Don’t make the collar go boom.

*steps off his soapbox*

*heads to the Saucon Valley Farmers’ Market*

44 comments

  • My theory is that it’s only a sex lube because people started using Cool Whip that way.

    We plan to move toward local markets in a big way once we relocate to the Twin Cities. Here in Lake Geneva, the options are much more limited.

    • I imagine that the Twin Cities will have a host of options.

      We’re fortunate enough to be in farm country here — but even the cities have very good locavore options, which is nice.

      And Cool Whip as sex aid.

      Hmm.

      That means I can make my own, in-house.

      *races downstairs to get started on a batch of delicious sex lube*

      — c.

  • This is probably my favorite link to illustrate why eating over processed food is frightening:

    http://www.babybites.info/2010/03/03/1-year-happy-meal/

    That’s a year old happy meal, that looks and smells practically identical to 1 year previous. I’m sure it would make you sick if you ate it, but think about any natural food and what condition it would be a year out. If you left an apple or a steak or whatever on your bookshelf for a year, you’d have a heaping pile of mold and bugs. It appears that ants and flies are smarter about food than we are.

    (Of course, I say this as someone who bought a gas station hot dog for breakfast this morning…)

    • Ayup. Lots of processed foods don’t break down properly because they are pumped full of chemicals designed to stop them from breaking down properly.

      Go figure.

      Further, go figure that if nature isn’t very good at breaking it down outside your body, good bet your body isn’t going to break it down properly, either.

      Food is one of those things I feel pretty comfortable in terms of “getting all pretentious.” I mean, taste is one thing. You like movies I don’t like, more power to you. But it amazes me how people simply don’t think about the food they cram into their mouths.

      — c.

  • Ok. I’m being ignorant in the sense that I really don’t know, not that I’m trying to be rude.

    Do you find debit/credit card machines at the markets? I know Solly Bros. by my parents’ house has one, but elsewhere, not so much. If I recall, you don’t carry much cash either. Is this a problem for you? Do you plan ahead like I do for yard sales?

    K

    • @Keith:

      Not an ignorant question. We get $$ out of the ATM for our weekly market buys.

      Next year, I intend to do a CSA instead of market buys, but this year they booked up fast.

      — c.

  • Good one, Chuck. I read a lot of your posts but never commented before. You hit a nerve with me here. I do think there is a balancing act with the grocery stores — we really need them in the winter because our local farmer is not going to have cukes flown in from CA just so I can have some veggiefruit.

    However, this time of year is pure bliss when you get to eat food that tastes fresh! And the cheaper prices are bonus.

    • @Dan:

      First, thanks for delurking!

      Second, oh, sure, you still need the grocery store sometimes, and they’re not all bad. Hell, Wal-Mart is becoming one of the biggest sellers of local produce. They get high marks for local produce (and very low marks for local, quality meat).

      But this time of year is bliss, you’re right about that. :)

      — c.

  • While I do shop in the grocery store for many things (this area has a shortage of local butchers, for one) I noticed over the years that my purchases of pre-made foods were dwindling greatly. Several years back I realized it was cheaper to make my own spaghetti sauce and freeze it. I haven’t bought sauce in a jar in years. We used to pick up the occasional box of Hamburger Helper, but Rich has high BP and when I took a look at the sodium content I stopped buying it and started making my own “stroganoff” with cream cheese and such.

    I do the general shop of the outside walls of the store, and then I’ll zip in for pasta, frozen vegetables, and canned tomatoes. I’ve made the switch to bread without HFCS in it (Arnold, actually), and we need to get through it quickly or it molds. Rich picked up a loaf of store brand white a few weeks back, and I’m actually watching it sit in the cabinet staying as soft and springy as the day it was purchased. At this point, like the Happy Meal story, it’s become a science experiment.

    I’m pissed at Coca-Cola for not doing the Pepsico thing of producing Coke with natural sugar instead of HFCS.

    I love Coke. My kid gets NO soda due to the HFCS thing, and when she’s had a couple of sips she didn’t like it anyway.

    The funny thing is, she’s addicted to decaf Sweet Tea. I make it with one cup of sugar just like it’s supposed to be done, and it’s super sweet. She’s still as slender as a rail. She doesn’t like juice, and while she’s a fan of chocolate chip cookies, she avoids most other sugary foods. I didn’t eat much of it as a kid either. Still don’t unless I’m PMSing.

    It wasn’t intentional. I don’t keep much of it in the house. I never have. My mom comes down and bitches that I don’t have enough junk in the house to snack on.

    Pity.

  • There’s never a reason to wait until “Farmer’s Market Season”.

    Year round we buy our meats at Davis Meats, in the Q-Mart. It’s a local butcher and their stuff is awesome. I just frilled some fresh Del Monaco steaks last night. They were superb. As far as fruits and vegetables go, there are tons of local places to by organic, locally grown produce. I love Produce Junction for this, and even the produce at the Q-Mart is great. Frankly, even local supermarkets by pretty fresh produce and it’s relatively local depending on the season. So it’ll do in a pinch.

    The only processed food we really keep in the house is Hot Dogs for the kids. They love them and they’re cheap. Our pediatrician assures us that most hot dogs are fine for kids as long as they’re eaten in moderation and with veggies. Frankly (Pun intended) I don’t care as long as they don’t have HFCS in them (Yes…some cheap ones do). I keep the kids away from a lot of the bad stuff. I’m lucky that both of my kids really like veggies and fruit juice. We give them 7-Up and Sprite once in a while, though.

    @ Julie: I’m right there with you on Coke…but you can find it in a lot of Asian and Latino stores without HFCS. Coke in other countries is still shipped using sugar. Also you can buy it online here: http://sodafinder.com/products/coca-cola-coke-w-real-sugar

  • Way ahead of ya. I shop at the farmer’s market all year round, for staples like meats and veggies. Heather and I have also been making it a point to buy something we’ve never cooked at least once a month. I made cod a couple of weeks ago. It was really freaking good. Okra, also good. Alligator, not as big a fan, but eh.

    Also, if you’re having dessert that involves Astroglide, I’m gonna say you’re doing it *right.*

    • I attempt to buy locally for the rest of the year (good local butchers abound, though I’m not a huge fans of the ones at Q-Mart) — you can’t actually buy fresh fruits and veggies outside the season, though. The growing season is May to November, unless you’re talking a few greenhouse greens or, say, mushrooms. Everything else you buy is going to be from (ideally) California or Florida, or outside the country (Chile).

      That’s not a bad thing — I’m just pointing out that you can’t actually buy produce from local farms year-round.

      The value come May is vegetables and fruits that were picked no less than 12 hours before you are consuming them.

      And yeah, you can get so-called “Mexican Coke” (no HCFS, only cane sugar) at various markets.

      — c.

    • @Matt:

      Oooh, yeah, cod. Cod is what started my, “Hey, I don’t actually hate fish!” journey on our honeymoon.

      Okra, also good, but tricky, because it’s slime-a-licious. I roast it, and it obviates the slime factor.

      Never had alligator. I hear most reptile is like chicken.

      As for Astroglide — well, it depends on what kind of dessert we’re talking. If we’re talking a little slippery rumpy-pumpy, then yes, MOAR PLEASE. If we’re talking, y’know, a squirt of sex lube on an otherwise lovely sundae (wherein no nakedness is involved), then you might want to reconsider. ;)

      — c.

  • You know, this explains the good feeling I had when I dropped an application for a local CSA this morning (Yes, “A”. I live Liberalopolis, Gaysachussets. Also known as Boston.) The collar was giving my injection of happy drugs. Oh how I crave the injection of the happy drugs. Equal to my fear of Master’s terrible terrible shocks.

    What’s really cool, though, is that there are actual MEAT CSA’s that we’re trying to sign up for. The crazy adventurous cook in me is all aglee at the prospect of getting a box of new and exciting meat-stuff every week. What chops will be in there? What cuts will I get? What culinary judo will be required to turn this into an actual meal? Slow-cooking? Stewing? Braising? A good jet engine sear?

    • Dude, I so wish the CSAs around here were more diverse and included meat. You can get a “meat CSA” at happy farm, but it’s really just “Spend $1000 to get $1200 in duck and chicken parts of your choice!” which isn’t quite the same thing.

      Plus, all our CSAs have May deadlines, but are already filled up. So.

      — c.

      • Oh, and today’s market haul:

        Honey
        Berry mix jam
        Arugula
        Spinach
        Red leaf lettuce
        Mizuna greens
        Cinnamon buns
        Smoked sausage
        Pasture-raised eggs (“free range” no longer means what it should mean thanks to food lobbyists)
        Local ketchup (so good; very different)

        — c.

  • Ahem. I’m with you in spirit, brother. In practice, it’s… a lot less simple than that. Food is a very complicated issue in my family. Let me share with you, so you can see the complications facing others less fortunate than you.

    First: You’d think this whole locavore thing would be easy for anyone living in metro New York. The reality: Not so much!

    I live on Long Island, smack in the middle of Nassau County. To the west of me is New York City in all its glory. To the east of me are farms. The farmers know the denser population is a better market, so all of the local farms go to markets in the city, completely skipping over my county.

    There is a very sad weekly Farmer’s Market a couple of towns up from me, but it consists of pickles, baked goods I can’t buy, and a lonely produce vendor whose wares are completely picked over if you get there at the shockingly late hour of 9am.

    If I want to hit the farms and their farmstands, I have to drive an hour or more east. If I want to hit the farmer’s markets in the city, I have to drive an hour west. And then back again. Have I mentioned that I live in metro New York, the place that invented the traffic jam? And I have two little kids?

    After years of searching, I found a CSA that has a drop in the next town over, and we are members. But I don’t get a choice in CSAs; there’s only the one, and the produce it gives us isn’t very well suited to our particular family of four. For one thing, it gives us wayyyyy more lettuce than we can ever, ever eat. It is, at least, something.

    If I want local meat or dairy, well, the closest farm is a two-hour drive away in New Jersey. I have never yet found a local retailer of pasture-fed meat, much less local and grass-fed. I keep looking, but I’m just not prepared to drive into Queens or Brooklyn to do my shopping every week.

    Other complicating factors on your whole “moral mandate”: spoken like a man with no children. Both of my girls have had periods of several months where they *completely stopped growing*, and hells yes, when your pediatrician is creasing his brow and hinting about failure to thrive, you’re going to be feeding them nice, nutrient-dense Happy Meals. There are times when sustainable, organic, local, all fall to the wayside in favor of getting enough calories into their bodies.

    There was a six-month period where the only food we could get the older kid to eat was pretzels. You know what? The pediatrician said to let her eat the damn pretzels.

    And it gets more complicated still! My older kid is allergic to peanuts. My younger kid is allergic to dairy and won’t generally eat meat. Cooking is a hellacious ongoing problem for me, because it is very, very hard to make a single meal that everyone will actually put into their mouth. (Did I mention my husband hates beans?)

    One result is that we eat in restaurants a little more than we probably should, because we don’t all need to eat the same thing — but usually only chains with robust allergy policies, that we know will be safe. We don’t do much variety, because about 85% of the time we walk into a new place and ask if eating there will kill my child, the answer is “Uh, yeah, probably.” Trying new things is a dangerous business for us.

    In summary: Yeah, this is all very nice theory. You’re very lucky to be living in circumstances where you can actually apply it. I hope I get a pass.

    • Andrea:

      Obviously, you’re free to feed your children whatever you wish. I know, I come across as judgmental, though I’d argue that’s part of the fun in writing blog posts like these. I’m always attempting to be self-deprecating so, ideally, nobody’s taking me *too* seriously.

      But please be careful — yes, I realize I don’t have kids, and further I realize that having children complicates your life in ways you never expect. But it’s not like what I’m suggesting is entirely bizarre. I’m not so closed off I can’t imagine what “life with children” would be like.

      Me, I don’t intend to regularly feed my children food that’s bad for them.

      I think even in “bad food” you can make “good choices,” like Paul notes with the hot dogs. In fact, our local butchers make kick-ass hot dogs. Even in choosing things normally considered “junk food” you can still go to the grocery store and choose products that don’t have ingredient lists as long as your arm featuring ingredients that are better suited toward *jet fuel* than snack crackers.

      When I was a kid, yes, I sometimes ate bad food. But for the most part that was a special treat — everything else I ate was often stuff out of our own garden or from local farmers.

      I’m sympathetic toward the food situation — it’s very hard to get quality food around the country, but it is becoming easier. As I note, Wal-Mart is becoming a big seller of local produce as well as “organic” products. Even our local grocery stores, as much as I’m demonizing them, have an increasing supply of products whose ingredient lists are things like “potatoes, salt, olive oil” rather than unpronounceable gobbledygook. If you’re anywhere near a Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s or any of thsoe “types” of grocery store, other options exist.

      I’m not saying that “local-only” eating is the way to live. I’m not some crunchy back-to-earth type gamboling about in a hemp dress.

      But I won’t feed my kids fast food. I’ll let that be a treat from their grandparents.

      And no, I don’t just say that because I don’t have kids. I know people who *do* have kids. People in my family have them. It’s not like I’m imagining some mysterious utopian future where my children will stab me to death at night if they don’t eat Chicken McNuggets.

      As for pasture-fed meat, hey, I can barely find that around here. And pasture-raised chicken is often very expensive.

      It’s getting better, though. Fresh Market offers grass-fed beef at a cost comparable to regular, and the sources of their meat are not mysterious Big Meat Companies. Tussock Sedge, a cattle farm about a half-hour south of here, is talking about offering pasture-fed. Otherwise, I too have to drive about two hours.

      I realize I’m fortunate to live in a very good area for this kind of thing, and it’s an area that’s only getting better.

      But it’s also getting that way because we have a vocal community who wants to buy it, and so producers fill the gap.

      Anyway, I get it, I’m not attacking you, I understand that complexities and complications exist outside the post — but, that said, I also don’t like it when people throw the, “Well, spoken like someone who doesn’t have kids” line at me. That’s not particularly fair.

      — c.

  • My province is 350+ times the size of Rhode Island, with approximately half the population. While this gives plenty of room for farms and such (with what will grow in our soil), there aren’t a whole lot of farmer’s markets around, or a huge variety of things to buy.

    I buy Central Dairies milk, or Scotsburn, when I don’t buy soy milk. Central Dairies is strictly this province – their primary dairy is about a 20 minute drive from my house, but they have commercial distribution to every local food-selling store and chain grocery store — and I like to support local when I can. Scotsburn supplies all four Atlantic provinces, including NL, so while they might not be “local” per se, they’re still in my ballpark.

    We have a dearth of butchers, and meat farms. I hunt the wilds of the meat aisle at the grocery store.

    Vegetables we tend to buy in batches of frozen peas, carrots, corn and green beans. The stew packs (fresh carrots, turnip, potatoes, parsnip and cabbage) I buy to cook with roast beef dinners also come from the grocery store BUT those are advertised as being of local supply most times, especially in stores who feature as much local product as they can.

    I can name one U-PICK / local farm in a convenient location. ONE. And without a vehicle of my own, it’s difficult to justify the expense of getting out there just to buy local veggies or pick strawberries. Sad but true. I have purchased from them before, and I really enjoyed the taste of their products, but it’s far, far less costly for me to just go to the grocery store 5-minutes walk away than to go to beyond the other side of town. I wish I could go more often, I really do. If I had a vehicle of my own, I probably would.

  • @Andrea

    For an entire year my kid lived on Morning Star Farms fake chicken nuggets, frozen french fries, and mashed sweet potatoes. I feel your pain. Thankfully she was growing, as we kept her on the “next stage” formula and gave her multi-vitamins, but it was a tough, tough year.

    She had to eat, and like your case the doctor said, “Feed her what she’ll eat.”

    She outgrew it, and her favorite vegetable is brussels sprouts. I didn’t eat those until I was 26.

    I buy a lot of frozen vegetables simply because I do have kids, and I have to cater to what they will actually eat. Local Only eating is a great theory, but in some cases it just isn’t feasible.

    My argument is bananas. The kid loves them, and considering how long it took her to eat other food in the first place I am absolutely going to buy bananas for her. Last time I checked, no one in NC farms them for sale around here.

    In the summer I’ll hit the farm stands right up the road for things like strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and onions, but even the State Farmer’s Market doesn’t seem to offer anymore than the basics.

    That’s pretty much why since we’re fortunate to have moved onto an acre this past year I planted my own garden.

    • @Julie:

      I didn’t eat Brussels sprouts until I was… 29, 30? Turns out I just never had them in a way that didn’t boil the life out of them. Asparagus was similar — didn’t eat asparagus until my mid-20s.

      Since it seems people are, ohh, getting on my case about this, I hold no illusions that my kids will want to eat junk. Hell, *I* want to eat junk. (And yes, smartass, I realize that bananas aren’t farmed locally. Again, it’s like Sriracha — things I can’t buy locally, I still buy.) But as a parent, I fully intend to make sure the food I’m putting in their mouth is not food I consider one step up from styrofoam.

      I mean, what did parents do 50 years ago when they didn’t have chicken nuggets or soda? I’m asking as a serious question. How did parents and kids manage?

      Frozen veggies are good. They’re often flash-frozen at the peak of their nutritional value. They’re often better than the produce you buy at the grocery store nutritionally.

      — c.

  • … Actually, that’s a lie. A lot of the fresh and frozen chicken products in the stores are from local operations, as well as the eggs and one of the more popular brands of margarine.

    Come to think of it, a lot of what’s carried in the big name stores around here is is from local companies… including jams, jellies and cookies.

    Can I have a pass too?

  • Liz and I love the local farmers’ markets. There are a half dozen competing ones up here in NH/VT through the summer, and the Norwich one just opened. It’s too early for most fresh veggies (though it is ramp season right now…) but they’ve got meat, eggs, cheese, and baked goods. Our haul yesterday: a hard sheeps-milk cheese, a jar of pickled quail eggs, ramps, a locally-raised pork shoulder, and a tube of homemade cracker dough from a couple of VT weirdos (I mean that in a good way). There’s one farm stand that I stalk every year and buy all of their pickled beets, but they’re not coming to the market for another month.

    That raises a point: you can stretch this locavore goodness for a long time if you preserve/freeze/pickle.

    Er, we’re not addicted to having sex with corn.

    Well, why do you think they call it a “cornhole”?

    I have two big problems with the processed foods: they tend to remove things like fiber that mitigate the effects of sugar and fat, and the processing itself often involves things like mercury that don’t always get removed at the end of the process.

    @Julie:
    Coke that is labeled “Kosher for Passover” also has sugar instead of HTCS. I know a number of people who stock up on it every year. Me, I think it tastes like battery acid, but it makes a MEAN glaze for pork loin.

    @Paul: Have you ever tried making your own soda? Homemade ginger beer and lemon/lime soda are totally doable.

    • @John: I’m dying to figure out how to pickle and preserve. As soon as we move and I have more than our ill-designed kitchen to work with, that’s on the agenda.

      And, erm, good point about “cornhole.” :)

      — c.

  • @John-

    Considering I was taught as a kid to use Coke to clean battery terminals, well, yeah. I imagine it is a bit… harsh.

    @Chuck-

    We buy Hebrew National hotdogs for the primary reason that Rich is skeeved by random parts being in his hotdogs. They’re pretty spendy, so I only grab them when they’re on sale.

    As far as fast food, when we lived 4 miles from a Hardees it was a bit better. They actually have very good food these days. Their fries are skin-on and don’t have as much salt as McD’s, and the burgers have become fantastic since they switched to Angus beef. We usually stayed away from the Fad of the Moment there, such as their gigantic burgers covered with everything but the kitchen sink.

    I highly recommend the book, “Eat This, Not That.” Mom got it for me, and it gives the nutritional info for various offerings at chain restaurants. I usually confine myself to one chain restaurant, O’Charley’s, because I prefer to go to local places, but occasionally someone will want to hit a place like Chili’s or Applebees and it’s good to scan beforehand. One of the salads at Chili’s is monstrously bad for you.

    I do want to pimp CSAs, though. My friend who has the CSA farm nearby is having a tough year due to the drought and other issues, and I know how hard it is for them to make an actual living. Her eggs cost a fortune, but having seen her chicken pasture and setup I can understand why.

    Cost will lower, like in everything else, when more people start buying.

    There’s a dude nearby who basically sells meat futures, as in you put up some dough for a section of animal and when that animal is slaughtered and butchered you get the meat. We’ve considered it, but we don’t have the freezer space.

    I will be canning and freezing a great deal from the garden this year. Assuming it produces.

    • @Julie —

      Yeah, Hebrew Nat’l are good ones. Heck, anything labeled “Kosher” is usually good eats.

      I was lead to believe that McDonald’s was healthier than Hardee’s overall? I may be wrong; I don’t have any links to back that up at present.

      I’ve heard good things about Eat This, Not That.

      Mostly, I try to (whenever possible) use my head when I shop for food. Whenever possible, I prefer to know where my food is coming from. I know this isn’t always a possibility, but I suspect that most people don’t ever really want to know.

      — c.

  • I need to add that in answer to your question, as a kid I knew one boy who ate nothing but peanut butter and jelly for ages.

    By the way, making your own chicken nuggets is easy peasy, and better for them.

    I have no idea how to make fake chick’n nuggets, so I was screwed there.

    • Ayup — you can do your own chicken nuggets very easily.

      As for fake-chik’n nuggets –? I guess you could probably do some weird degree of soy protein + like, cornmeal or something. Or just deep-fry tofu and let kids dip it in home-made BBQ sauce? @David Hill might know if he’s hanging around at any point.

      I used to love Morningstar, actually — but I came to be swayed against nutritional fad food science. I gained more weight when I tried to “eat healthy,” and I think that’s potentially because all those nutri-fads are just bunk. Shoving fake fiber into everything, or taking fat out, or putting calcium where it doesn’t belong, etc;etc;.

      Actually, it amuses me that some small contingent of vegetarians basically eat vegetarian meals made to mimic meat. Tofurkey and what-not.

      Man, just eat veggies. They don’t need to be shaped like hot dogs, y’know? And I’m speaking to the adults here, not to kids. Kids would probably prefer it shaped like hot dogs, I recognize.

      — c.

      • Just to clarify, so I don’t go pooping in anybody’s cornflakes:

        Every parent has a moral obligation to feed their kids the best food they can manage, because it’s the thing their kids live on. Time and time again we’ve seen that feeding kids a steady diet of bad food creates bad eating habits when they’re older (hello, alarming rate of diabetes!). And those are the parents who are the problems: the ones who choose not to deviate from the steady (key word: steady) diet of bad food. The constant parade of sodas and chips and fast food is all-too-common a diet for kids, and further, the foods in school are hardly any better. That’s where the obligation comes in. I of course recognize that raising kids is its own challenge (translation: quiet slice of hell) and in many ways it’s like storming the beach at Normandy — you’re just trying to get them to the other side alive.

        But in my mind some parents take the too-easy path and find whatever excuse they can to do the bare minimum in terms of raising their kids.

        And no, I don’t think any of you people qualify. I mean, maybe you do, I don’t live with you — but I don’t get that vibe, at least.

        Just putting that out there.

        — c.

  • @Chuck: I’m sorry, I don’t mean that in the sense of “Until you are a parent, you don’t know wtf you’re talking about,” which is definitely offensive on the face of it. I didn’t mean it like that.

    What I’m trying to get at is more, “Once you become a parent, you are introduced into a web of difficult choices that mean you will almost certainly make compromises you never imagined you had in you.” The longer I’m a parent, the less judgy I get; sometimes you have to do whatever gets you to the next day. And sometimes that’s going to be something you swore you would never, ever do.

    We all make our compromises in different places; food, TV, bedtimes, the PTA, whatever. Sure, I have my CSA and I send my kids to school with raw sugar snap peas and home-made whole-wheat banana muffins for their snacks. But I also send the little one with a bologna sandwich almost every day, because it’s a form of protein she will reliably eat. I promise you I would have sworn I’d never do such a thing if you’d asked me ten years ago.

    But my little one, in her pickiest-eating phase, would eat only broccoli and cantaloupe. She’s not much different now. If it is a fruit or a vegetable, she will eat it. If it is not, she probably won’t. Sounds like I did a great job, right? Except, except…

    Unsurprisingly, she is a teeny-tiny skinny thing. At three and a half years old, she is still wearing size 2T/24 months. And oh, the worry. She hasn’t gained an ounce in half a year, no matter what we feed her. It’s not quite to the point of dispensing Oreos on demand, frying everything that goes into her mouth, and sneaking extra protein powder into her soy milk, but it’s close enough that I can see it from here.

    So, sure, there are other parents who send in Lunchables and Hershey’s kisses or whatever. Me and my bologna sandwiches refuse to think of them in a poor light, because I just don’t know what framework they live in to come by those decisions.

    Maybe the parents are working two and three jobs and don’t have the time and mental energy for thinking about healthy food, or maybe they are depressed or have another disabling illness, or are having marriage problems. Maybe there’s another kid with a disability in the family that sucks away energy that might be spent on food. Maybe, like my nephew with congenital kidney issues, the kid needs to eat a high-salt diet in order to live another day. You just don’t know until it’s you. Sometimes there are other and bigger fish to fry.

    And I speak in favor of the parent who feeds junk food not out of reflexive defensiveness; heaven knows it’s nothing I want to do, and I try not to do it. Just, you know, sometimes intent fails, and it’s important to recognize that.

    It’s like writing, you know? We all do the best we can. Some days our best isn’t very good. All you can try to do is fail better another day.

    • @Andrea:

      It’s all good. My point is —

      *sliding over the soapbox again*

      I’m not really talking about you. You actually try. You do the best with what you can. You have kids with dietary restrictions or complications, and you spin gold from straw. No harm in that. The people who fail the test for me are the parents who aren’t doing their best. Doing their best is just too hard. They choose the easy path, the convenient path, the cheap path — not the path best for their kids, but the path of least resistance for them. They feign ignorance or play the “I’m special, I have kids” card (except, oops, anybody who mashes their genitals together and mingles fluids can have kids) and nobody says “boo” about it.

      *steps off soapbox*

      You feed your kids bologna sandwiches? Hell, I feed *myself* bologna sandwiches. I love hot dogs. I love pizza. I love hamburgers. And I know kids will love all that stuff. I’m not going to murder my kids with some Vegan lifestyle. “Here, Little Tommy. Eat your kale, or I’ll break your little sausage fingers! No fatties!” I’ll give them bologna sandwiches — it’s a good source of protein, and fat is far less a problem for our kids than sugar, IMO. My only personal choice there will be to choose bologna I know is of good quality. Doesn’t have to be local (though, the local butcher makes *great* bologna — and, to poo-poo everybody who laments how locavore eating is expensive, the butcher’s homemade lunchmeats [ham, turkey, bologna, etc] are cheaper than store-brand). It just has to be something where I know I’m trying to give my kids the best I can give them in the constraints we’re given.

      It is like writing, actually — thing is, there exists a difference between writers who work as hard as they can to get the words on the page and the writers who *pretend* to work that hard and who always have an excuse handy. Parents work the same way; lots of parents do their damnedest to get their kids to the finish line, but just as many (maybe more) are content with excuses and the bare minimum. They pretend to be good parents.

      *looks down, realizes he never actually got off the soapbox*

      Oops.

      — c.

  • @Chuck – The kids are somewhat picky in their meals. They eat chicken nuggets, french fries, ramen and toast, mac and cheese, hot dogs. Their cereal right now is store-brand Fruit Hoops, and though they claim it’s multigrain, there’s more than enough sugar in it to outweigh the beneftis, I think. I also have Eggo waffles and quick-cook oatmeal.

    In my kitchen right now, in the way of snacks: 2 4-packs of chocolate pudding, a jar of unsweetened apple sauce, a bunch of bananas, a bag of oranges, and about 8-10 apples divided between Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. There’s also a block of cheese in the fridge, and crackers in the cupboard. I think there’s also half a bag of cheesies and the sad remnants of a 4L tub of vanilla ice cream in there too. I shove more than enough healthy shit — fresh fruit, dairy, unsweetened crackers and “healthier” cookies — down their throats. Half the time, I swear they’d prefer a banana or apples and cheese than candy — but I know that’s not true. I think there’s also come candy kicking around from when we were using it as a reinforcer to get Jason to poop in the toilet.

    They will not bend on chocolate milk, though, and it gets them into bed at night, so we don’t argue with them about -that-.

    The trick is not to give it to them more than once in awhile. If they know you’ll cave on the cheesies or the chocolate bar if they refuse to nosh on the apples or pears long enough, then there’s no point in even buying the fruit to begin with.

  • @Maggie – I envy you the pudding and applesauce. Pudding is a no-go for the dairy, and neither of my kids will eat applesauce. Or raisins, for that matter.

    Once they’re big enough to eat it, popcorn is a fantastic cracker replacement. Also fewer crumbs!

    And I hear you on the chocolate milk. What with the no-dairy thing, getting calcium in ‘em is a big issue for us. We did (very weak) chocolate milk for a long time, or else vanilla milk — just a teensy bit of vanilla syrup, like you’d put in coffee.

  • I try the locavore path, but unfortunately it conflicts with the carless way. For various reasons, the prices of legitimately local produce is rather significant up here in Ottawa. Beyond that, I have no car and the busses don’t work very well to send me to the one legit farmers market.

    If you have a car and live somewhere with a longer growing seasons (I’m looking at you California), then certainly that would be ideal. Up here though, its an expensive luxury to get the local produce rather then a money saving endeavour.

  • We went out to the local farmers’ markets yesterday, all excited for the beginning of the season.

    They weren’t open yet. We were seriously bummed.

    I’m a touch iffy on whether our farmer’s markets count as “locavores.” A lot of the farms are a good two or three hours away. Sure, that’s close, but it’s also a whole different microclimate.

    • @Lugh:

      It counts if you want it to count, I guess. I think there are different degrees of locavore — 15, 30, 150 miles, whatever. It’s really what you count as valuable.

      — c.

  • Today’s trip to our grocery store came with some observations.

    The strawberries they’re selling are now North Carolina raised. They usually sell Florida, but NC is now in season so they’re offered. They’re also a butt-ton cheaper than at the local farm stands, probably because they buy in such large quantity.

    I forgot two things I get on the inside of the store. Cans of refried beans and flour tortillas, taco sized (kid is addicted to my bean quesadillas). I read the label on the tortillas and there were a few chemistry experiments. HOWEVER- when I headed over to the “Hispanic Foods” aisle, the brands that are pimped to them are even heavier in chemicals. That pissed me off, just a bit (ok, I was seething). We have a HUGE migrant population down here due to farming and construction, and historically they’re less affluent. I’ve noticed over the years that food marketed to poorer people are generally worse for the human body (don’t get me started on my theories of silent eugenics).

    English muffins have no HFCS in them. Not even store brand. Crazy.

    (Yes, I was studying today. Damn you, Professor)

    The absolute best part of the trip was-

    New town = new farm stand. Our old one was run by a fairly large farming family, and it was 7/10ths of a mile up our street. This one is in front of a house at the foot of the drive. I wanted ‘maters, so I stopped on the way home because they were on their sign. They have a sign up that says “Weekly Honor System.” No one was there. The prices were listed on the white board, and there were directions to place your food in the bucket on the scale and weigh it. There was a calculator and a mailbox with a slot cut into it. They were cleaned out of most everything except baby yellow squash, so I bought a pound at 1.25 and stuck 2 bills in the mailbox.

    Welcome to the Country. I’m not leaving.

  • @Julie — don’t feel too bad about the contents of the Hispanic Foods aisle. I doubt any of the migrants are actually shopping there. Dried beans, lard, and flour are all pretty cheap. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if they ate better/smarter than their employers.

    But your point is well-taken: stuff marketed to the poorest people is usually filled with crap. I was a grad student for *cough* years, and I had a tough time eating healthy. We used to tell each other: “You can eat cheaply, you can eat well, or you can eat quickly. Pick two.” When I had time to cook for myself, I could make out pretty well, but I ate a lot of crap studying for quals, writing first a thesis proposal and then my thesis. The students I knew who didn’t know how to cook often fared much worse — there’s a reason for the stereotype of the “ramen-eating grad student”.

  • I only take one exception to your little blog article. Our farmer’s market is way MORE expensive than the local Meijer’s Thrifty Acres, the cheapest grocery in the area. Let me repeat that, Our farmer’s market is way MORE expensive, to the tune of 50% to 100% more expensive than the best local chain store.

    To the rest I agree fully.

    I checked out Local Harvest and they list places that charge more than 100% more than our best local grocery, which happens to be union.

    Still, we pay more to get better. I just wish it was as you say, and that it was cheaper. Wish I lived near where you live.

    • @Jim —

      That is unfortunate. I *thought* ours was more expensive until I actually weighed the trips against the trips. Some things actually are more expensive — but not the actual raw ingredients (meat, veggies).

      — c.

  • Followed a trackback from my web stats. @Daniel, thanks for quoting us!
    @terribleminds Great post. I love your attitude and the no-nonsense way you put everything. Always happy to “meet” another locavore/sustainable food proponent.

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