It’s nearly the new year, and Keith and I are spending it in the most perfect way possible – reflecting on the fullness that has been 2011 while lounging in front of his Grandma’s wood stove at her cabin in the woods. We have worked hard this year and farming doesn’t afford many opportunities for vacation. So, the chance to hug Grandma, stuff ourselves on Tom’s amazing cooking and spend hours curled up in a cozy cabin is absolute bliss. Life just feels so right here.
One of my favorite things to do at Grandma and Tom’s is explore the bookshelves. Tom has excellent taste in literature and his shelves feature many of my favorite authors. I first learned of Michael Pollan (and subsequently The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which has forever changed the local food scene) by plucking The Botany of Desire out of a stack of books here at the cabin. Today, while perusing the shelves, I discovered a treasure of a book and immediately thought I’d like to share it on this blog. If you’re curious about eating locally- produced foods, here is a wonderful introduction!
So, without further ado, the introduction from Eat Where You Live: How to Find and Enjoy Local and Sustainable Food No Matter Where You Live by Lou Bendrick:
I Know What’s on Your Mind and Have an Eggstatic Response
Just a wild guess here: If you’re reading this book, you are already convinced that sustainable and local food can be a fantastic part of your life (either that or your sister-in-law gave you the book and you’re flipping through it just to be polite). Another guess: Your enthusiasm and curiosity are tempered by nagging questions such as Even if I can get my hands on sustainable and local food, how much work is this going to be? Am I going to go broke eating this way? Why bother when I can just get everything I need in one fell swoop at the local Safeway?
Wow. You are so normal.
You are going to have to trust me – if I can do this, so can you. I’m an all-American, frantically busy, caffeine-dependent, cell-phone-toting, iPod-loving mother of two. I’m not a yuppie, hippie, green-thumber, or food professional (just as my husband). Nor do I eat all local foods all the time – not even close. My hat is off to those resourceful people who do so, but for most of us, it’s not an option. But including local foods in our everyday diets should be an easy option for all of us.
Now then: Forgive me for the Socratic method here, but I’ll answer your nagging (and very good) questions by asking you a question:
When was the last time you ate cookie batter?
I’m guessing that it has been a long time – most likely since your childhood – since you’ve tasted cookie dough outside of an ice cream cone. That’s because eating raw or undercooked eggs these days is a dangerous practice – just read the small print on restaurant menus. I went several years without eating a single egg because, in 2001, I got salmonellosis, an infection caused by a bacterium called Salmonella that can come from raw or undercooked eggs. (Mine came from an undercooked scrambled egg.) If you’ve never had salmonella poisoning, let me say this about that: It might not kill you, but you’ll wish it would. After I recovered, I not only stopped eating eggs but also treated every egg that came through my door like a biohazard. My poor husband couldn’t make an omelet without me lurking about with a Clorox wipe, which does not set exactly the right tone for a leisurely brunch.
My attitude toward eggs changed several years later when I discovered sustainable and local eggs – henceforth known as “my eggs.” They are sustainable because they do not degrade, deplete, or pollute the land or its inhabitants, but instead come from kindly raised, fluffy hens who are never fed hormones (Rachel’s note: industrial chickens are never fed hormones either.) or antibiotics. They’re local because they come from a farm three miles from my doorstep. But I’m not going out of my way to get these eggs in order to adhere to a politically correct definition. I go out of my way because I made the happy discovery that going to a farm beats pushing a squeaky-wheeled cart through the two-mile breakfast cereal aise. On my “egg runs,” my daughter and I have patted the heads of fuzzy chicks, watched newborn piglets squeal and run, visited with horses and goats, and watched ducks make the most of mud puddles. Bottom line: My eggs are fun.
But it doesn’t stop there. My eggs – free-range, pastured eggs – are higher in brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamins A and E, folic acid, and beta carotene, and lower in cholesterol to boot – than commercially raised eggs. Beacuse my eggs are truly fresh and come from healthy chickens (which I have seen with my own two eyes) and not from the intensive overcrowded conditions in factory farms, I am not worried about getting sick from them. Am I eating raw eggs with abaondon? Of course not. But I”m also not putting on a hazmat suit to scramble them. My point : My eggs are healthy.
True, I could just buy healthy eggs with an organic label. Don’t get me wrong: Organic is a very good thing, and I’m not here to bash it. An organic label means that our government has deemed the food is free form certain harmful pesticides, hormones and drugs. In the case of eggs, “organic” means that they come from chickens whose food contains minimal amounts of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and commercial fertilizers. But there’s a reason why “local is the new organic.” Keeping my egg farmer in business means that he’ll be less likely to sell his farm, as tempting as that may be, to make room for condos or another strip mall. It also means that the money I spend on eggs goes directly to a farmer in my community and not to some giant corporation in a town I’ve never heard of. My farmer is now also my friend, and who couldn’t use another friend in this crazy mixed-up world? Astonishing but true: My eggs build community.
Another consideration: My eggs haven’t been trucked long distances to get to my plate. Eating locally elimininates other negative effects of long-haul trucking: air pollution, the burning of fossil fuels, and that obnoxious sound trucks make with something called a jake-brake. In their own small way: My eggs are a bit gentler on the planet.
All this is well and good, but you might be wondering if I am taking out a second mortgage to shop for groceries. It’s true, I spend a whopping $4 on a dozen eggs, which makes most people faint (even after I point out that they routinely spend more than two dollars on a single latte). Frugal type, stay thy hand: You’d never settle for a substandard car seat for your child, so why would you feed her a substandard egg? I beg you to remember that cheap food is a stinker of a lie because of its “hidden costs”: the cost to your health (from hormones, pesticides, trans fats, and so on) and the cost to the planet (from pesticides, pollution, etc.). By eating a bit more locally and spending less time in the typical gargantuan grocery store, I spend less money on packaged foods and impulse items (such as those well-placed chocolate bars at the checkout) and gravitate toward simplet, seasonal recipes. It’s shocking but true: My eggs save me money.
But let’s face it: Time is money. Cooking real meals from real food takes a little time, but not tons of time. Take chocolate chip cookies, for example: They don’t take all day. At the most, they take an hour (less if you make your kitchen slaves, I mean children, help with the dishes). Can packaged cookies even compare to the smell, let alone the taste of a batch of hot cookies on a cold afternoon? I think you know where I’m going here: My eggs are worth a little extra time.
Last, and perhaps most important: If sustainable and local foods didn’t taste better than conventionally grown, fast , cheap, processed foods, none of the above would matter. My eggs, with their glossy orange yolks, produce sublime desserts and inspire leisurely brunches. They are eggy eggs. One taste of them and you know you’ve been robbed by all those years of eating those ersatz white oval things. To sum: My eggs taste great.
But don’t take my word for it. Let me help you find and enjoy some incredible eggs, and other sustainable food, for yourself. Because cookie batter shouldn’t be a thing to fear.
Rachel here again. If that piqued your curiosity, go buy the book. I haven’t read it all yet, but it looks like a good one. And if that made you crave our delicious Provenance Farm eggs, you can visit our website to find out where to buy our eggs and other products: http://provenancefarm.com/
Photo credit: Danae Jones Photography