25 October 2008

My Food Manifesto

This blog is about eating thoughtfully and in harmony with our environment and not about my personal life, or lack thereof, and not about the personal lives of my cats, of which I have two, both of whom eat very well. If you stop by this blog in hopes of finding gossip and private confession, read no further, you will only be disappointed. This maiden blog voyage will be my attempt at a modest food manifesto.
To precisely describe what I am in terms of what I eat is tricky. Vegetarian is not 100% accurate. I do eat fish (eco-best). Had I a real hankering, I might consider eating meat that comes from a local farm which observes sustainable practices. Locavore might fit. I strongly believe in eating local and thereby supporting local small farms and the local economy. I do not eat 100% local, however. And I do not believe that eating only local is necessary. Supporting free trade and buying organic products that travel to my table in environmentally responsible ways contradicts in no way my food beliefs. The most appropriate nomenclature for me would be, perhaps, ecovore. The environment and my impact on it informs what I eat, how I eat and how I live. That being said, I probably eat 75%-95% local. Thanks to my local food co-op, frequent visits to the farmer's market and a CSA share, this takes little effort and costs much less than you would imagine.
This might be the appropriate moment to slip in that I am a graduate student living off of a modest stipend under the shadow of an immodest student loan debt. Eating good quality ingredients and connecting with your local businesses and farmers is not a privilege of the wealthy. My co-op (which does accept food stamps, as does the majority of area farmer's markets) allows me to set up a monthly food budget by paying a self-determined amount to my account each month and shopping off of it. The decision to join a CSA was largely a financial one. I do love to eat and I love to cook. Beautiful, local, fresh produce thrills me. The colors, smells, new flavors -- I can not get enough. I, admittedly, would sometimes go overboard at the farmer's market and spend far too much. Thus, a CSA share structured my purchases. At the moment I pay approximately $20 a week to receive one dozen eggs, a local cheese, farm-made granola, and a large assortment of fruits and vegetables from Keystone Farm. This is an organic farm, mind you. I actually share half of this with a friend, as it is really intended for a family (I live alone). So for $10 a week I have more local, organic food than I can sometimes eat. Over the winter I will do a half share for, again, approximately $10 a week. Half-dozen eggs, one cheese, one bag granola, fruits and vegetables. I don't know that there is a better bargain.
The stage of my eating is not California, an ecovore's dream state where locally grown organic food abounds, including such wondrous things as almonds, olives, citrus, avocados. No no. For the last one and a half years I have resided in Philadelphia. The city of brotherly love. The city that loves you back. A city with one of the highest murder and crime rates in the country. A mecca of slow food and its locavore followers? As a matter of fact, yes (to all of the above). A grand, gritty, city, Philadelphia indeed has shown itself to be an ideal place for those who care about food and who want to make a difference through food. Since May I have resided in the eco-haven of Philadelphia, West Philly. Here can be found my farmer's market, my co-op, as well as many a liberal, green, progressive type. The park that serves as the cornerstone green space of my neighborhood also serves as an interesting intersection of academics, artists, hippies, punks, African-Americans, Eritreans, and more. And it kind of works.
If this is my food "manifesto," I should probably say something that might cast some light onto why I think any of this matters. I vividly recall a conversation with a dear friend in which said friend acknowledged my food beliefs -- he does respect, humor and even partake to some extent in them -- but made the point that there are greater issues: poverty, abuse, violence, war, whatever. Of course. These are real issues and they are of great importance to me and should be to all. I would be deeply insulted to think that anyone who knows me would ever imagine that I do not care about these things (and this person was not going that far). But my food beliefs (which I do not intend to push onto anyone, though perhaps some might take note of my example) reflect a certain mindset. Approaching food thoughtfully, being aware of where it comes from, informing oneself about production and environmental impact, limiting waste all have greater implications. Everyone has to eat. Changing the way you address your diet affects the way you address the rest of your life and the world. This may sound idealistic, but encouraging people to be thoughtful, aware and informed could really bring about radical change. My thoughtfulness does not end with food, nor does my concern end with the environment.
I doubt I will make such "radical" statements in future posts, but I do believe very strongly in how I choose to live and eat.
p.s. I abhor high-fructose corn syrup.


  1. This is awesome! I might have to steal it in the coming days.

  2. Steal away! Just let me know so that I can go read it in a more glorified version...

  3. I want to add that with a close look, food is closely tied to some of these important issues- our food choices (and lack of choice) are direct causes of the biggest health problems in our country (like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, etc), as well as the environment. In addition, adequate, safe and healthy food is a basic human right, all too often overlooked by politicians and corporations, even in a country as wealthy and abound with food as the US of A. Looking forward to more posts, Melanie!