Ethical Eating (3)- Organics and Mishigash*

*Randomness. Sometimes Yiddish is fun.

This is part 3 of of a three-part series on my views on eating ethically. The first one focuses on why I try to eat locally (and the resources I use to do so). The second one will focus on why I’m not a vegetarian (even though I love veggies), and this third one will be (yep, modified) organics– plus! a bonus, easily vegan-izable winter meal idea; I would have discussed the comments, especially on the second post, but they really discussed themselves. Go check it out.

You may have noticed that this post has taken a little longer to come than the other two. Part of it is that it’s less specific, and thus less inspiring, by nature– but it’s also that my thoughts are more conflicted on organics than on anything else related. You see, at one point I was *very, very* careful about buying everything organic. Then, I met the farmers market… where the milk and dairy products were not organic, for the most part. Hmmmph. I asked the farmers why they weren’t, and, amazingly, they didn’t  beat me up for being so rude! Instead, they patiently explained to me their methods of farming. To be honest, the methods varied.

Some of our local dairy farms were, for all intents and purposes, organic but the certification process was too unwieldy and expensive. Some couldn’t afford to buy supplemental organic feed when their farms didn’t produce enough, and some just felt that non-organic chemicals did the best job and made it possible for them to spray much less, ultimately lowering the toxicity (note: not all organic-approved chemicals are happy and fuzzy.) I thought about that and accepted that they really knew what they were doing, choosing to buy dairy from them rather than organic dairy from the supermarket.

Next came the fruits. When I found the farmers market it was summer. and most of the fruits (though not all) were organic. I was still buying primarily organic fruits and vegetables, but that– that’s easy in summer. When it came to fall, though, I was stumped. Why? Because nobody grows organic tree fruits near DC. They’re nearly, if not totally, impossible to track down from a commercial source (I have to assume that some people have fruit trees in their yards, but that doesn’t help me much, as I don’t know them.) And so, again, a choice– organic tree fruits shipped in from far away, or local in-season fruits from small farms. Again, I asked the farmers. Turns out it’s just not profitable in this region to grow them, and so they can’t afford to– but all of them spray minimally and responsibly, and are happy to discuss their methods. One  farmer even gives paper handouts out so you can go home and learn more about his methods– really cool! Again, thought about it, bought the fruit, haven’t looked back.

There are, however, some things I make a special effort to buy organic, especially when I’m not at the farmer’s market. Corn and wheat products, wherever possible, because I’m concerned about the amount of genetic modification that goes on (besides which I’m willing to bet that topical pesticides are ground into the flour without adequate cleaning at some places) . The standard list of “most risky” foods. Eggs, meats, and dairies when I don’t personally know the producer (if you’ve taken high school biology, you might remember how toxins concentrate as they go up the food chain.)  Berries, tomatoes, and strawberries. Root vegetables that have been marinating in toxins. The list goes on.

Tricksy, huh? So now that you’ve got your stash of organic, locally grown vegetables, what do you do with them in winter? Well, if you’re me, you boil a few potatoes until very soft, then mash them with skim milk, a little butter, a little cream if you’ve got it around, and some sharp or stinky cheese (vegan equivalents are fine, I prefer rice milk, and you can leave out the cheese– it will still taste fabulous so long as you add a little salt).  While the potatoes are boiling, you sautee a lot of garlic and some crushed red pepper in some olive oil, add some greens, and cook until they’re tender, finishing off with some mustard and lemon juice if you’ve got them around. Make a “nest” of the mashed potatoes, and throw the greens in the middle. This is great on its’ own, but if you’ve got some beans lying around, make a bean salad for extra protein.

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5 Comments

Filed under beans, cheese, ethics, greens, Other Interests, vegetarian, veggies

5 responses to “Ethical Eating (3)- Organics and Mishigash*

  1. This has been a very thoughtful series. I hold many of the same beliefs and opinions as you do. I’ve listened to Bev speak about his philosophy on being an omnivore and raising animals ethically. I was shocked to learn he was a vegetarian for a decade! It helped me to reconcile my love of animals and my diet. I can’t say I’m totally at peace with it, but I aim to learn about, appreciate and give thanks for the animals and the farmers who raise them for market.
    One of my foodie resolutions for 2008 is to be more purposeful in my food choices: eat less meat and buy most of it from the farmers, further reduce processes food intake, learn to can, eat more fiber from good food sources, make my own cheese and yogurt and keep trying to spread the word about supporting farmers markets and indie stores and restaurants.

  2. Wow, that was more than one resolution!

  3. Haha! Yes, more than one resolution, but they’re all under one heading, so let’s pretend it’s one to make it less intimidating. I hope you blog about how making cheese and yogurt goes; my goal’s canning, but now that I found out about South Mountain Creamery, the dairy may come next.

  4. Hi Tanya,
    Wonderful reading here. I was surprised to learn about the organic certification process costing money. And not surprised to find out that the organic-approved sprays may not be all that wonderful for the environment. Not all chemicals are bad; we’re made up of chemicals ourselves.
    One thing you didn’t discuss, and I’ve wondered about… Jane and I shop at our local farmer’s market. We’re buying locally, but what is the environmental impact here? Some of the vendors at our farmers markets are pretty far from where the market is (4 hours driving time). Their trucks, traveling that far, coupled with all the shoppers who are making a special trip because we’re all still going to the grocery store for something… Are we really mitigating the impact of shipping food across the country?
    I’m sure the impact is much smaller than if we were buying produce from Chile, but US grown produce? I’m not sure there is as large a gain as we’re led to believe.

  5. Hi, Jane,
    I guess I’m spoiled at my market; they limit the distance that farmers can travel and still come– and I walk to the market, as do most people in the area (though, to be fair, people generally do the supermarket and the farmer’s market on the same day, in my experience; it isn’t usually a trip all by itself– except for me, cause walking w/ so much stuff would be hard.) I would think that the system still isn’t perfect, that the farmer’s trucks probably aren’t as efficient as commercial cars. However, between the bump in quality, the bump it gives the local economy, increased awareness of the importance of local produce, and the waste at all levels in commercial scale farming… well, I’m sold. But you do raise a good point. (I try, when I can, to limit things to my coast… but most of the good stuff is grown on the west coast, so I’m frequently jealous and/ or stuck.)

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