Thursday, July 19, 2007

Going to Extremes

There is a family here in the City that has turned back the clock about a hundred and twenty five years in their household. It is a one-year experiment to create as little waste as humanly possible. He dubs himself the No Impact Man. Anyone who stayed up late enough to watch Nightline last night will know what I am talking about. Another family I heard about in the news recently decided to try to remove all products made in China from their lives. While that is next to impossible, I am not sure that No Impact Man has it any easier.

The Beaven family decided to eat only locally grown unpackaged food, reuse everything they possibly can, compost in their kitchen (odorless, for the most part), not use any form of transportation, and, for the coup de grace, shut off their electricity. They have, therefore, eschewed all prepared foods, travel over scooterable distances and, heaven forbid, television.

I have to admit, I am intrigued. I am not sure I want to go without electricity or any extended travel, but the rest of it I have given more than just passing thought. Who doesn't remember all the food scares coming out of China. The head of that country's Food and Drug Administration was executed for taking bribes in exchange for looking the other way. Also in the news recently was the fact that of all the tons of food imported by the US, none is tested, and only a few containers inspected to see if they contain what the documentation says they should contain. WHAT? That's absurd! Here we are worried about who might bomb us to kingdom come, and all a terrorist really has to do is poison the unguarded, imported food supply!

All of this has made me take a much closer look at what my family consumes. My husband likes to shop the sales. If apple juice is $1.29 a bottle, he will buy 4 of them. If I buy the juice, I buy the organic Motts. We were talking about this the other night while preparing dinner. Brian was sipping 'generic' apple juice out of the bottle (yeah, we do that in our house...). It had stamped on the bottle "made from concentrate in China." What? Why? There are several states including my own that are big apple growers. Why on earth are we importing THAT? Does it have to do with immigration legislation? If so, pass the laws, make the illegals legal, and let's eat the apples they pick! I am admittedly somewhat oversimplifying here, but my dander is up.

I have decided that I will now be much more conscientious about purchasing locally produced food. It will require some research, but I think my family will be better for it. The Union Square farmer's market is a great place to shop. If I save my pennies now, I can buy into an organic produce cooperative that has a drop off right across the street from my son's school. All that produce comes from New York State. I can also purchase meat, dairy and poultry from upstate farms.

If I want to go to a grocery, I go to Whole Foods. With four locations in my neck of the woods, it is the most sane place to buy organic foods, packaged or unpackaged. That store also lets me know what products are grown or manufactured locally. We have one local Trader Joe's. While that store is cheaper, it is so unbelievably crowded, I cannot abide shopping there.

My husband shakes his head and says to me that "regular old food" was good enough for me for the last 40 years. But I remind him that much has changed over the past 30, especially. Farmland used to begin a mere 45 miles away from city limits, in the eastern parts of Nassau County, and western Suffolk. Cabbage, potatoes, broccoli, etc. as far as the eye could see. No more. A few smaller family farms here and there in Suffolk County, sod farms, and vineyards. I'd rather do without takeout food, and reduce restaurant dining than put food on my table the quality of which I cannot know.

r.

16 comments:

eastcoastdweller said...

A very thought-provoking post, RP. I predict lots of responses.

I visited Amish country last year. There is much to admire about that way of living.

By the way, I am hoping You will drift into my blog again, as I was horrified to discover that You thought that You had offended me there with one of Your comments.

knicksgrl0917 said...
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JYankee said...

Hey RP...

It is "fod" for thought...excuse the pun! Seriously though...with the China scare and everything...we try and buy as little as possible, food that has been imported from China. Sad it has to be that way...and maybe the news report inflate a little, but no use in taking chances. We buy all domestic..or Japanese made products too.

rp said...

"fod" I don't get it, Yankee :(

In any case, China is developing so fast, that their testing, and regulatory bodies are just not yet ready for prime time. But still, why do I want to put money in their pockets, when farms nearby are shutting down?

JYankee said...

"food" sorry...keyboard retarded today

"Wolfgang" said...

I find that I feel a lot healthier and have more energy when I eat out less. We try to buy organic whenever possible and have cut trans-fats and hydrogenated oils almost completely.

Kate said...

Yeah, "regular old food" is not what it once was. I read about "No Impact Man", and I was intrigued, too (especially about the composting, since I can't seem to compost properly no matter how hard I try...). I found myself wondering if I could do some of what he does (maybe go without elecricity for certain times of the day? That's par for the course in some countries...) And I'm with you about food out of China. It worries me that I may not even be able to discern whether an ingredient in a food may have been manufactured there. Maybe I'll plant a bigger garden next year....

Bridget said...

We knew a couple in Boston, good friends of ours, with kids even, who decided to live for a year without electricity. Very interesting. I also have a sister who is trying to do the whole vegetable oil instead of gasoline thing for her car. Hopefully people like "no Impact Man" can stir up some ideas.

rp said...
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rp said...

Wow, Bridget, it is neat that your sister is doing the Vegetable oil thing. I have heard about it, but I don't know if you can get the converter required here.

Wolfgang, me, too. I feel much better when I make smarter food choices. I eliminated fast food first a few years ago. That was the easiest thing for me to do, but my son still craves Burger King, and my husband sometimes cheats...

Kate, a girlfriend of mine is buying the composting box that you keep in the kitchen from an agricultural co-op. It is specifically for urban residents. Not sure how to get it started, or if you have to get your own worms, but I'll let you know...I think No Impact Man composts poop, too!!

Yankee, sorry man. I read 'fod' and knew i referenced 'sod' so thought there was a joke in there somewhere I wasn't getting...end of a long day at that point :)

East Coast, I have visited Amish country in Ohio. It is a very interesting way to live. I think that lifestyle is much more doable as a cohesive community. Attempting it as a single family in a vast sea of convenience, read temptation, presents a much larger challenge.

David said...

We buy organic food as often as possible but sometimes it's way too expensive and we have to do a cost benefit analysis on the product. Whole Foods is great, but a bit overpriced on some items. Huge craft beer selection though; wine too.

Trader Joe's is over by Union Square right? I've never been there, but I have lots of fond memories of the farmer's market. I heard it recently got trashed by students from the place where I went to summer school. Too bad people are so disrespectful. Anyway, right on; that regular old food doesn't have much going for it.

seagrape said...

We also stay away from trans fats/partially hydrogenated oils. And it bothers me that manufacturers are allowed to put "0g trans fat"
(IN BIG LETTERS) on food that has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. It is a bit misleading especially for the kids, my daughter knows to check the list of ingredients regardless of what the nutrition label says. My son isn't reading yet, so he asks "Does this have trans fat? Is this bad for my veins?"

Epimenides said...

Why do they have to go without electicity? Can they not get solar pannels, solar heaters etc? If they are available in Greece, they must be available in the US, right?
Here, you can even produce electricity through these things and sell it to the national grid if you have an excess of what you need!
The second point I wanted to make, and please don't feel offended, is that the US is the largest producer of genetically engineered food in the world. How can you then expect the FDA to be strict on import controls from China?

rp said...

David, I agree organic can be very expensive. It is less so when you shop somewhere where they do a bigger volume of it. Whole foods is somewhat expensive on some things, but if I want organic buttr, milk, fruit, and yogurt, it is cheaper there than anywhere else. Oh, and their 1.99 4lb bag of catfood rocks for my critters!

Seagrape, it is fantastic that your kids are aware of what is actually in the food they eat. We look for "high fructose corn syrup" That is in EVERYTHING!!! Even bread. One of the reasons we went organic with that, too. Would rather have molassis or cane juice than HFCS. Blech!

Epi, They are installing a solar panel now, I think. Not sure what the rules are in Manhattan for an individual to do that. There might be legal ramifications if they live in a co-op or condo.

And I take no offense at all. But, I expect our government to inspect what comes into our country. Period. And I expect that genetically engineered food be clearly identified as such. I steer clear of THAT too, when I can. I also expect my government have its citizens consume what it grows. Seems ridiculous to me that we import natively available foods.

Blur Ting said...

I think you've got plenty of choices in USA. I wish we have WholeFoods here. I love that place. We have tiny organic stalls here and small organic sections in our supermarkets but the variety is really quite lacking compared to what you have.

rp said...

Hi, Ting. You're right. But at least in my corner of NY, organic food has only become widely available in the last year or so. Now regular grocery stores have an organic shelf or two, and organic dairy. Until then, you HAD to go to either Whole Foods or a health food store, and pay a premium. I am grateful that there is more demand, making it more available for a better price.