Archive for the ‘local’ Tag

The Tomato Sauce Aisle Struggle   2 comments

Tomato sauce and I don’t have the greatest of relationships. I don’t ever remember putting tomato sauce on my pasta. From my earliest memories I would put a pile of spaghetti on one side of the plate, a barrier of vegetables across the plate, and the tomato sauce and meatballs on the other side (or even in a separate bowl). My preference for pizza is little to no tomato sauce; olive oil, pesto, and tomatillo sauce work just as well for me! When I met my husband the fact that he prided himself on doctoring up and improving tomato sauce (and that was almost the limit of his cooking at the time) ran head-long into my aversion to the stuff. Over the last few years we’ve struck a compromise by cooking with tomato sauce in “caserole” dishes and vegetables, and kept pasta separate. And usually he buys the sauce so I don’t have to think about it.

It’s good that he buys it because when it is on my shopping list I usually spend several minutes standing in front of the tomato sauce shelves unable to make a decision. Especially living in “the Big Tomato” as Sacramento/the Central Valley is sometimes referred to, it seems like buying locally produced tomato sauce should be the best choice. There should be no need to buy Italian or East Coast imports, right? And generic brands don’t indicate where they were grown/made. But most of the sauces that are grown/made in California are more pricey artisan sauces. Usually I would easily chose the artisan sauce, but it’s really hard to pay more money for something you don’t even like.

Recently, though I found myself saying “that was absolutely delicious” after eating a tomato sauce based dish that was made with a generic brand organic tomato sauce. So long story short, this shouldn’t be a conundrum for me. Just get the generic organic sauce and forget about artisan sauces that I don’t appreciate; and acknowledge that it just doesn’t actually make sense to buy local in this case. I wonder how long it will take to convince myself of that?

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Posted July 15, 2011 by mayakey in advocacy, food, shopping

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Carrot Time   Leave a comment

As far as snack time goes, today was officially the first day of winter. Over a year ago I overcame my cracker “addiction” to switch to fruit and vegetable snacks as part of my pre-pre pregnancy prep, and since I only eat what I can get at the farmer’s market that means carrots in the winter. ( When I cracked open my container of carrots this afternoon “U Can’t Touch This” popped into my head, but I can’t write out the tune, so I put it in the title instead.)

We’re lucky here in the Sacramento area to have several year-round farmer’s markets so that we can always eat seasonally locally. Not everything at the market is organic, but much is at least pesticide-free (the difference is that they haven’t gone through expense of certification or that they don’t follow other organic practices). I generally figure that even if they do use pesticides, smaller farmers probably use less than big monoculture farms. As a result, I focus more on eating local, rather than organic. In California the vendors at the farmer’s markets have to be from within the state, but stuff from southern CA is not exactly local to Sacramento. (That doesn’t stop us from buying the avocados, though). Most of the vendors at our market really are local and come from our county or a neighboring county. From the Delta to the Sierras that means multiple climate zones and growing seasons. So after tomatoes are done in the Delta, farmers in the Sierras still have several weeks of production. Thankfully that is true, because otherwise carrot snack season would have begun in early fall.

So I’ll have a few carrots (thin ones cut shorter, not “baby” carrots; scrubbed but not peeled to save time and maximize nutrients) every weekday from now until late spring. Then I will avoid carrots for a few months while feasting on snow peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers. As part of my afternoon snack I also make myself eat fruit, which varies similarly. It’ll really be winter for my stomach when there are no more apples. Then I’ll have oranges/mandarins/etc and kiwis. Long after the time that I am thoroughly sick of anything orange-y or kiwi-esque, spring will bring cherries. That’s the light at the end of the orange tunnel. Cherries, and then apricots, plums, and nectarines. Heaven must have year round stone fruits. 🙂

3 For 3 Eating at Local Restaurants   Leave a comment

So I had to drive to Carson City, Nevada yesterday to take the Nevada Certified Environmental Manager exam this morning. Usually I use these short business trips as excuses to get my once a year or two fix of national chain restaurants like Applebee’s, Chili’s, etc. It’s the lazy side of me that sees the name that means a known quantity and chooses that over chancing the unknown of a local restaurant. It’s the one thing that marketers have on me (at least I think it’s the one thing). All those ads make those restaurants seem attractive, so every once in a while I go to one and then remember that I don’t actually like most of those restaurants.

I’m so proud of myself though: for this trip I went 3 for 3 (meals) eating at locally (or regionally) owned restaurants. I guess it’s proof that blogging is making me more accountable to my own values. (And I do have to say that I had three great meals. I’m not usually a down-home diner kind of gal, but a vegetable eggs benedict in a croissant? So there! And so yummy!)

The reason that supporting local businesses is so important is because then your money is going directly into the pockets of people who need it (theoretically) as opposed to wealthy CEOs, and the money stays in the community. This is especially important in areas that are not wealthy. I was recently reminded of this when reading an article about the recovery (or not) in Haiti and the risk of putting too much effort into increasing tourism. Yes, tourism can be a big boost to a local economy. But only if the tourists stay at locally/regionally owned hotels/resorts, eat at locally owned restaurants, and spend money at local attractions. In so many places (read third-world countries) tourists stay in resorts, eat in restaurants, and play at attractions owned by wealthy outsiders. The local economy gets very little of the money, and in many cases the few local workers in those resorts don’t get paid a living wage.

Posted September 21, 2010 by mayakey in conscious living, food, travel

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Conscious Kitchen Challenge, Produce   3 comments

One of the blogs that I read regularly, Ask An Organic Mom, is doing a conscious kitchen challenge to promote her new book. I’m taking the challenge and posting my results here. The first week was a self-exam, the second was about shopping, and the third is about fruits and vegetables. I haven’t read her book, so the challenge is limited to what she posted in her blog.

This challenge is about buying organic produce, and locally grown produce. To a certain degree I jumped the gun in the last post about shopping. Since we already shop weekly at a year-round farmer’s market, I challenged myself to start asking questions about the pest management practices of the venders. Some of them are organic farmers and I buy their goods, but most of them don’t say anything on their signs. It will be a little awkward, after 5 years of buying from the same people, to finally ask if they spray and with what pesticides.

The most popular guide to help knowing what to buy organically and what not to buy conventionally is pesticide ranking list by the Environmental Working Group (EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15). Many people use the list for financial reasons and only buy the dirty dozen organically. I prefer to buy everything organic if I can find it, and just not buy the worst offenders at all if I can’t find them organically grown. I heartily encourage everyone to consider buying at least a the worst offenders organically (peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots, and pears). Also consider that waxed cucumbers may have pesticide residue trapped under the wax so that it cannot be washed off.

I put a slightly greater weight on buying from the farmer’s market vendors than buying local produce at the grocery story. I’ve heard that pretty much all major grocery stores that buy local produce practice a kind of predatory contracting with small farmers where they put pressure on the farmer to reduce costs and sometimes at the last minute decline to renew contracts, leaving a farmer with no where to send their bounty. Hence, I try to avoid buying produce at the grocery store (I acknowledge that this is a luxury enjoyed only by those of us who live in areas where year-round farming is possible). On a regular basis the only thing I buy at the grocery store is russets because we don’t get them consistently at our farmer’s market. My husband also buys bananas and packs of baby carrots. If for some reason we were not able to go to the farmer’s market any given week, then we typically buy what produce we need at Whole Foods, making sure to get domestic organic vegetables.

As far as exotics go, as I said before my husband does buy bananas each week. I rarely enjoy a banana, mango, or pineapple since they are obviously not to be found in our farmer’s market and I have personally committed to eating seasonal/”local”. When we do have to buy our produce at Whole Foods, I actually tend to buy the exotics because I figure if I have to shop that week at the grocery store I might as well get something I can only get at the grocery store.

Posted April 24, 2010 by mayakey in food, organic

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Why Do I Buy Organic?   Leave a comment

A few months ago a study came out saying that organic food was not more nutritious than conventionally raised food. The tenor of the news blurbs and discussions that I saw was along the lines of “there is no benefit to eating organic” and even going so far as to suggest that this one study was going to collapse the organic market. My husband and I had similar reactions when we first heard about the ruckus: “there are other benefits to organic, you know”. Actually, my first reaction was an utter lack of reaction because over the years there have been many studies done on the subject with varying results, so whoop-de-do here’s another study in the same inconclusive line. What irritated me was how it seemed that this complex decision was being boiled down to one facet and then blown way out of proportion.

Why does anyone buy organic? It varies, of course, by the person. For me, first and foremost it is an environmental decision. Every item I purchase that was raised organically instead of conventionally eliminates that amount of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers released into the environment. In fact, my biggest commitment to buying organic is not actually food, but cotton. I’ve seen statistics indicating that cotton is the single crop with the highest pesticide usage in the world. So every item in my closet fits into one of three categories: new organic fabric (with minimal processing and eco-dyes since I don’t want toxic dyes, formaldehyde, or fire retardants on my clothing either), second-hand conventional fabric, or grandfathered items (I am my father’s daughter, I admit to having clothing dating back to high school and college before I went organic). I simply will not purchase something made from conventionally raised cotton for my house, including towels, sheets, etc. I have also reached the point where it is absolutely painful to purchase something as a gift for someone else that is not organic cotton.

My second reason for buying organic is personal exposure. I purchase organic food to minimize the potential for exposure to pesticide residue in my food. Even if the amount of pesticide residue on a single item is negligible, I believe in the Precautionary Principle, and I am concerned about the cumulative effects of consuming a negligible amount of pesticide on every item in my diet. I don’t have the Environmental Working Group’s “clean” and “dirty” lists memorized any more, and I think that the list is different than when I last looked at it several years ago anyway. I only buy waxed cucumbers, berries and stone fruits, and “rough textured” foods organic if I can find them. Since we do all of our produce shopping at the farmer’s market, I don’t have many certified organic options. There are a handful of farmers that are certified organic at my farmer’s market, but there are many more that simply put “no pesticides” on the pricing signs. I’m fine with that. Some of the farmers use integrated pest management, which I consider to be perfectly acceptable. In general, at the farmer’s market if two vendors have the same item but one says “no pesticides” then that is the one I will buy. I don’t worry too much about it since I figure even if the farmers are using pesticides, small farms probably use a lot less pesticides than industrial farms.

For me the nutrition aspect is sort of a distant third. I say sort of because in my mind, higher nutrient content is associated with small local farms, not specifically organic farms. I’m sure that industrial organic fields produce food that is statistically nutritionally identical to food produced in conventional industrial fields. But when you can harvest something at the peak of freshness from your backyard, or pick it up at a farmer’s market, I would think you are getting a more nutritious item than if you bought it at a grocery store where it was harvested before fully ripening. It also makes sense to me that using more natural methods of restoring nutrients to the soil, rather than just applying synthetic fertilizers and mining the soil, results in better quality produce.

Conscious Kitchen Challenge, Self Exam   8 comments

One of the blogs that I read regularly, Ask An Organic Mom, is doing a conscious kitchen challenge to promote her knew book. I figure I’ll take the challenge and post my results here. To start, the first week is a self exam.

  1. How many meals do we make at home per week? It looks like this is a fixing food at home vs. takeout question. I’m not really sure where frozen lunches or breakfasts like cereal or toast fall because I don’t make my own but on the other hand I’m not stopping at a restaurant. I’ll use the loose definition of grocery vs. restaurant/prepackaged meal (no assembly except heating), which gives us a typical score of +15 (+25, -10).
  2. Look at the ingredient lists on foods in the cabinet. How long are they? Can you pronounce and visualize all of them? The instructions for this questions say to use one item, but I can get very different scores for a range of stuff in our cabinet. There’s the bag of local sun-dried tomatoes that scores +6 points, the can of black beans that scores +8, or the can of soup that scores +11, and then there’s the box of animal crackers that scores -3. Most of the items in our cabinet got a positive score, and I couldn’t find anything that I couldn’t pronounce (but then again, I am a science person).
  3. What’s in your fridge? What is the ratio of fruits/vegetables to packaged foods? We’re helped out by the fact that we only buy produce from the local farmer’s market, and only buy organic milk and butter (although some of the cheese may not be organic). The only packaged multi-ingredient items are juice, beer, and components like roasted red peppers, mustard, hoisin sauce, and mayonnaise. We get a total score of +34.
  4. What’s in your freezer? We’ve reduced our use of frozen lunches, but there’s a certain amount of bias in that I am doing this exercise before the weekly grocery shopping has been done. I calculate our total score to be 0. One package of conventional sausages canceled out one package of organic/humanely raised sausages; two frozen lunches canceled out the homemade frozen pesto and organic ice creams. But the scoring didn’t include the single-item packages like frozen berries, frozen edamame, flax seeds, or walnuts. If I include those at 1 point per bag we get a total score of +12. (Although since three of those are half empty bags of edamame, maybe I need to clean out the freezer.)
  5. How much trash do you create? Do you recycle or compost? We get a whopping +2 score. We recycle, but we don’t compost, and we fill up a garbage bag on average every two weeks. It’s pretty pathetic. I look forward to owning a home and garden so that I can start composting (although it’s a sad excuse since I could compost and container garden in our rental), and I think we generate WAAAAY too much trash.

So on the whole, we get a positive score. We are already working on increasing the amount of leftovers we make for lunches, and decreasing our use of pre-packaged frozen lunches. And I need to stop getting my Sunday morning muffin. I’m pretty happy with our cabinet and our fridge, but apparently our freezer needs some work. Really just some cleaning up work, though, if we can reduce our frozen lunches. the meat in the freezer is usually just a package or two of sausages, and most of the time they are organic and/or local and/or “humanely-raised” (although there’s no certification for that so – grain of salt). I don’t see us developing many relationships with a local farmer for our meat in the next few weeks. And then of course, there’s the composting.

Posted March 27, 2010 by mayakey in food, home

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