Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What foods are safest? What foods are most nutritious? What foods are best for the environment? Are the foods that answer these questions affordable? The questions I find myself considering in the produce section, as well as the rest of the grocery store, can lead me down an endless series of decision trees, leaving me pretty sure that, no matter what I choose, I'm making the wrong choices for someone/something/somewhere. It's maddening. Like everyone, I do my best, I pick my battles, and I try to stay informed. Here's an article I found helpful and gave me some new perspectives on the issue of organics.


AMS said...

I'm a little behind, but thankfully J gave me an opening to comment on a current post, but still use the info I was planning to post in the past, following-on from the top five organics article. Your stuff has been great thus far; I look forward to getting caught up.

My post-dated thoughts:
The milk and ketchup have been easy and really enjoyable to switch over - both taste better and are easily available in most of our stores (imagine, ketchup tasting like tomatoes rather than sweet paste! I never knew).
Apples are pretty reliably organic for us although this is one where it's periodically tough, especially now, when they're in high season and so many varieties are available conventionally and also locally, while the only certified organic option might be a New Zealand Fuji (not big Fuji fans, and New Zealand food isn't exactly on the 100-mile diet). In many situations like this, I opt for the local variety that we prefer. In some cases, the local grower is using no wax and no pesticides, but haven't acquired the certification, so that's an easy
Peanut butter has been the most challenging. Kyle and Casey both eat quite a bit of peanut butter, and Kyle's quite picky about his peanut butter taste. We've found a few that are taste-wise okay out of the jar, but most require refrigeration and Kyle's unwilling to fight the cold peanut butter wars. Trader Joes' Organic Valencia peanut butter and Maranatha peanut butter both pass the taste tests for Casey, so I've started keeping a jar of an organic around and use it for him. The cold thing isn't that big a deal if you're willing to glop out your amount of pb onto the bread, then let it sit for a few minutes before you spread it. Kyle just saw me writing this, and laughed, as he'd noted that the jar of Maranatha that we currently have in the the fridge and shyed away from it, thinking it looked "unnatural." Hmm.

Flynn said...

I enjoyed this linked article very much. I am almost done reading "Fast Food Nation" and I must say that all of this stuff (what is in the food we eat, what are the societal ramifications of the food choices we make etc. etc.) has been hugely on my mind of late. The problem, as I see it, is that the notion that we are "casting a vote" with our money and changing the way agribusiness operates is that there has to be a certain level of transparency so we know what it is they are doing. And it is certainly in the best interest of bad actors to NOT be transparent. Apparently Fast Food Nation is not a "pick me up" sort of experience. Any more optimistic views?

J said...

I think that there are some slightly more optimistic views in that lots of people, like you, are becoming informed and beginning to ask hard questions about the food they buy. It may not be in the best interest of agribusiness to be transparent, but it *is* in the best interest of food purveyors (like grocery stores) to cater to the wants of their customers. The more demands customers make for information, the more agribusiness will have to comply. This is totally behind Whole Foods recent revolution in terms of local produce supply (see post from 10/27, "Dare I even get into the local versus organic debate?"). I really believe we do vote with our dollars and our annoying notes to the produce manager :)

That optimistic bit said, progress is slow and the amount of damage done to our bodies and our environment while we wait is disturbing, to put it mildly. Also, we haven't even begun to talk about the fact that it is only the tiniest minority of people who can *afford* to worry about these things. Others are too busy trying to put food, any food, on their table.

ron said...

Just for the record...
We also LOVE to eat, Love food, love entertaining and Love talking, thinking and sharing thoughts about food, flavors and the attendant drinks, brews and fermentations that food suggests.

Some time ago we realized that if we only had a handful of repeating meals that several bad things would happen.

1) our kids would seek elsewhere for satisfying fare (resulting in our loss of influence on the ones young enough to be influenced and a loss of the companionship of the older ones)
2) we would be come bored with eating at home, and like a member of any relationship, we, the responsible adults, would begin looking outside the relationship for satisfaction.

#2 is expensive in countless ways but the most harmful of them is that we would no longer want to eat together - a malady of modern times.

So many of our friends and our kids friends have never sat down together at meal time to share the day and "break the bread."

So in order to keep the members of our family from "cheating" on each other from lack of good food we adopted an active search for satisfaction and inspired inclusion.

We planned menus, encouraged the kids to participate. Assigned goals and generally took the attitude that if we had to eat it might as well be good, if not great, most nights.

On one occasion, a 12 or 14 year old Morgan ate over at a friend’s house. They served him Kraft mac and cheese and TV dinners or something like that. His exclamation of joy was "oh, thank you - I am so tired of Gourmet!"

I guess we succeeded.

I will write more about food later -

Bravo J and M. Let’s inspire a revolution of good taste at home. Next we can re-introduce critical thinking in schools and who knows; maybe responsibility will fall back into favor again sometime within our lifetime.

Flynn said...

As a side note, I would love to eat a rare and beautiful Orange Pippin, although I feel like I might be consuming a character from a Dickens novel.