Why Wednesdays? – Why I Eat . . . Series Recap

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on food, cooking, and eating.

 

Food is serious business.  As I’ve discussed over the course of this series, it impacts our health, our energy, our brains, our emotions, our bank accounts, and so on.  It’s a need that every human being has in common, yet we all have our own unique relationships to it.

Plate of raw veggies - edited

Food is also fraught with contradictions, making it a complex issue.  For instance, consider how a meal made of just a few humble ingredients can taste so complex and flavorful.  Or, how a $2.00 taco from a food truck can taste utterly rich with flavor, while a $30 pasta dish can be bland and dull if not prepared with attention.  Think about how sitting down to a meal by yourself may feel lonely on certain days, but incredibly indulgent and peaceful on others.   Also still, enjoying that same meal with loved ones can be a long-lasting memorable experience.

My point, of course, is that food is one of the most complex aspects of our lives and societies, but for some reason, we spend so much of our time treating it as if it is inconsequential.  We shove it down without patience, swallow without tasting, purchase without reading labels, and toss it away without consideration.  We may encounter food dozens of times throughout a single day, yet not spend more than a few seconds ever really thinking about it.

This has to change.

Fortunately, I think it’s starting to.

tofu - edited

With a focus of late on obesity and food costs to start, people are starting to think about food on a deeper level.  Advocates for local and sustainable food consumption and production are making some noise.  Activists are fighting for clear and proper labeling on packaged foods.  Governments are realizing that youth need help with intervention directly in schools.  And people like us are being a bit more thoughtful.

As I’ve shared in prior posts, my relationship with food has morphed dramatically over my lifetime.  I’m still not perfect, nor would I ever expect to be, but I do think that I have made great strides to not only be more sound in my food choices from both a health and social standpoint, but I’ve also made strides in enjoying it more.  I used to think I was enjoying food, but really I didn’t even know what real food was.  Fast food and processed packages just can’t hold a candle to ripe fruit, well seasoned vegetables, hearty muffins straight from the oven, or homemade bread.

Pile of muffins - edited

Plus, I was so caught up in the blame game with food that it cast a gloomy cloud over every encounter I had with it.  I was so busy telling myself I was bad for eating this or I’d eaten too much of that or I’d never look like so and so if I ate this, that all eating did for me was reinforce negative feelings and beliefs.  Sadly, this is not unusual, especially for women (though I’m sure you guys have some of it, too), but it IS unacceptable.   I don’t want to pass this habit onto future generations.

I did a quick Google search for an actual definition of food and here is what I got:

Food:

Noun; Any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.

Read that carefully, please.  Any NUTRITIOUS substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain LIFE and GROWTH.

That says so much to me about where we need to head when it comes to our beliefs and actions around food in our country.  Nutritious.  Life.  Growth.  I’m going to remember those three key words and try to apply them in my own diet.

It only takes a minute to ask myself:

  • Is what I’m about to eat going to be NUTRITIOUS to my overall diet?
  • Will it help me maintain my own quality of LIFE (and of others involved in its production)?
  • Will it help me continue to GROW in healthy ways?

If I can answer ‘yes’ to those three questions, I think I’ll be off to a fine start.

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Previous Entries in This Series:

#8 – Why I Eat . . . Some of My Favorite Foods

#7 – Why I Eat . . . Strictly For Myself

#6 – Why I Eat . . . Local

#5 – Why I Eat . . . To Heal and To Fuel

#4 – Why I Eat . . . Food From My Own Kitchen

#3 – Why I Eat . . . Plants!

#2 – Why I Eat . . . With Reverence

#1 –  Why I Eat . . . Thoughtfully

Why Wednesdays? – Why I Eat . . . Local – #6

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on food, cooking, and eating.

 

The concept of eating, shopping, and consuming all things local has been all the rage over the last couple of years.  I’m glad that it’s catching on and I’m glad to be a part of it.  My only concern is . . ., well, actually I have TWO concerns about this.

The first concern is that sometimes when things get a lot of buzz, they also get a lot of push back.  Becoming popular also means becoming a target.  Once popular, it’s easy to be written off as a passing fad, overrated, or just passé. My second concern is that once something becomes a big trend, (in this case even getting its own term – localvoire.  Side note, while I love the concept, I loathe that word), it can sometimes lose its meaning.  When something is trendy, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and the group mentality of it, without actually understanding what it is your doing and why it’s important.

Overview

I worry about both of these things when it comes to the concept of consuming locally and so I will spend my time today discussing why this needs to be more than just a passing trend and is, in fact, a practice that has massive implications for our communities.

My personal story and passion for living a lifestyle focused on buying local really starts with my move to Portland.  Sadly, I didn’t always live here.  I spent many years (too many years, really) in Phoenix.  When I moved to Portland in 2009, my whole sense of community changed.  It might even be more apt to say that I finally found a sense of community that I never knew existed.

Portland is a haven for small business owners, craftspeople, artisans, entrepreneurial types, urban farmers, and foodies.  I consider myself really fortunate in this regard, as I know not all cities have this particular type of abundance.  When I made the migration from the strip-mall filled desert to Portland, three things immediately stood out to me:

1)      Trees and other green things (I seriously didn’t think trees really were so plentiful outside of full-on forests.  I was SHOCKED to see parksPathway full of trees.  Who knew??)

2)      Proper neighborhoods – With neighborhood-y names (Woodstock, Hawthorne, Mt. Tabor, Nob Hill, et cetera) and with their own distinct personalities, friendly neighbors, and corner shops

3)      The incredible lack of mega-retailer establishments in the city (sure they exist, but not nearly to the extent of what I was used to, and many actually live mostly in the suburbs, rather than the heart of the city)

While I still marvel at the first one, it’s the latter two that are most relevant to this discussion.  The thing about these is that I now feel truly connected to a community – my community.  I feel connected to the farmers and retailers and craftspeople and roadside markets and I want to foster that connection.  It has become vitally important to me to support my neighbors in order to have lasting impacts on us locally, as well as on our world at large.

I keep my food choices as local as possible in a few ways.  First, I buy a great deal of my food from local markets, both from farmer’s markets and local shops/grocery stores (I am eternally grateful for New Season’s Market and get excited for trips to Food Fight).  Second, I am a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, so for several months out of the year, I get much of my produce delivered directly from a farm just a couple hundred miles away from my home.  I’ve never met Sophie and Gabe from my CSA farm, but I read their newsletters and take their expert guidance on how to store and prepare the wonderful fruits and vegetables they grow.  Third, I buy many locally made food products (even when I do shop at larger stores).  These may be items like jam, bread and snack bars (Oregon has loads of companies that produce great products – Bob’s Red Mill, Dave’s Killer Bread, Turtle Island Foods, for instance).  Finally, when I do eat out at restaurants, it’s pretty much always at an independently owned, non-chain establishment.  Not only is the food generally better, but the service and atmosphere usually are, too.

By making these food choices, I know that I am:

  • Strengthening my local economy
  • Supporting entrepreneurship, as well as the realization of dreams and successes of individuals working to offer something to their community
  • Contributing to the availability of a diversity of food choices (rather than contributing to an environment where a mega-retailer dictates what I have access to)
  • Reducing environmental impacts by choosing not to buy products made in big factories and transported hundreds (or thousands) of miles in order to reach me, as well as buying products that often require less wasteful packaging
  • Generally getting better quality products, as well as useful consumer information regarding said products, made and sold by knowledgeable purveyors of their goods.
  • Using my dollar to support (or not support, as the case may be) businesses and companies that act ethically and consciously, with values that align with my own

Spending my dollars at local businesses makes my community richer in dozens of ways and, selfishly, makes my own life better, too.  The amount of incredible food options that I have access to is in no small part due to the fact that we have lots of small business owners here in Portland who fill various niches, resulting in a wide variety of goods.  If they were pushed out by one, or even two, large retailers, that diversity of options would shrink dramatically.  The quality of food is undeniable, as well.  When I get a tomato from my CSA, it tastes like a tomato.  It’s not perfectly round and red and that’s great – because it’s not supposed to be, despite what mass-production tomato growers have tricked most of us into believing.  And, if the tomato crop isn’t fantastic, I don’t get sad, tasteless objects – my local farmers just tell me they’re no good and send another item that is tasty and ripe instead!

Groundwork Organics

Plus, I am a HUGE fan of supporting creativity, joy, and personal passion.  I get pleasure out of knowing that my money is helping my neighbors live their dreams.  I was struck by this very profoundly last week during a trip to my local spice and herb shop, Stone Cottage.  I stopped in for a very small purchase.  I needed ancho chile powder and decided on a whim to try some chlorella, too.  That’s all.  I scooped up a couple of tablespoons of each and was ready to make my incredibly small purchase of about $2.  I decided to also pick up a cup of coffee (produced by a local roaster, of course), from their self-serve coffee station.  While I was preparing my items for purchase, the owner of the shop greeted me kindly, offered assistance, and finished serving another customer.  I overheard him assist her with selecting just the items she needed.  He listened to her needs, asked good questions, and shared his expertise of the products available.  As she left, he encouraged her to follow up with him about how her items worked and then he went on to wonder around his shop, tidying and being a general friendly presence.  As I set about paying for my tiny bag of spices and my caffeine fix, I was told that my coffee was on the house today.  “Enjoy the sun and take care.”

I really believe that he meant that.  He is a shop owner who is really passionate about his goods.  He procures quality products, offers limitless assistance to customers, and is working, in his unique way, to provide a positive experience to those he encounters.  I will gladly give my money to a business owner such as this any day of the week.  I want to see this business succeed and I care about having this resource available to me in my neighborhood.  Happy and successful local shop owners, equal a happy and vibrant community that I am fortunate to call home.

For more information on eating locally, or if you are interested in CSAs, here are few resources you may enjoy:

Local Harvest

Simple Steps to Eating Local

Find Local Foods

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Previous Entries in This Series:

#5 – Why I Eat . . . To Heal and To Fuel

#4 – Why I Eat . . . Food From My Own Kitchen

#3 – Why I Eat . . . Plants!

#2 – Why I Eat . . . With Reverence

#1 –  Why I Eat  . . . Thoughtfully

Holiday Gift-Giving is What Drives Knitters Completely Mad, Right??

I was one of those knitters this year that decided to gift handmade goods to everyone on my holiday giving list.  While I can honestly say that I am glad that I did so and I enjoyed all the making of items for others, I can also honestly say that it was a wee bit stressful.

Some of my creatively handmade gifted items this year!

Some of my creatively handmade gifted items this year!

Sure, it starts out all giddy excitement – picking patterns and yarn and imagining spotless, perfectly knitted pieces of lovingly created craft wrapped up beautifully, waiting to be opened by their recipients with delight and care.

But it comes to an end with needles frantically clicking together, items stretched out, blocking all over the apartment (leaving little room to walk), you taking clandestine trips to coffee shops where you knit speedily in secret away from those in your home who are receivers of said gifts, and wrapping up items quickly, pushing cats off the wrapping paper and frowning with stress over all the errors you notice (a purl instead of a knit here, a slight snag in the yarn there, that one stupid row where you forgot to slip the first stitch and knitted it instead!), until you’ve convinced yourself that you’ve put together sad excuses for gifts that would be fine if they were coming from a third-grader who goes to a Waldorf school and learned to knit that term, rather than a 32-year old woman who has been at the craft for a couple of years now and spent weeks working on them.

Phew.

But, really, I AM glad I did it.

Irregardless of the imperfections and unsure of which items will be put to good use and which may be tossed into the dark recesses of a closet, I AM glad I did it for a Knitting vintage girlcouple of reasons.  Each handmade item was crafted with thought for the intended recipient.  Instead of heading to the mall and buying whatever gifty things were marketed to the masses, I did take the time to consider each recipient and personalize something specifically for each of them.  I also supported local, small businesses with my crafted gifts.  Supplies used either came from my stash of yarn (which had been previously purchased locally) or was bought fresh from local yarn and craft stores.  And I am proud to share something that I love to do with others in my life.  Like me, the items may not be perfectly crafted, but they are full of good intentions and the spirit of generosity.

Also, of course, now that it’s all over, selfish knitting can take over!  Now begins a few months, at least, of sorting through my Ravelry library and queue and cozying up to items that I can toss around my own neck, slip onto my own hands, and sprinkle throughout my apartment.  Exciting stuff is in the works, indeed!