How far did dinner travel?

Eating locally produced food is important and I try to, but don’t always eat as locally as I’d like. Emerging Tar Heel Leaders discussed eating locally after The New York Times featured an article the other week. A comment to his blog post mentions the Slow Food movement that’s been going since 1989.

Slow Food is good, clean and fair food…We consider ourselves co-producers, not consumers.

I grow my own seasonal vegies, despite the smallness of my garden (I want a paddock) and my tendency to be the lazyst gardener. Beans and tomatoes (interspersed with marigolds) take over in summer, peas in winter – I’ll have to plant them soon. Lettuce and carrots any time (with our climate) but there’s periods when the last lot have gone to seed and the next lot haven’t produced yet. And my carrots are miniature; Michael likes this because he agrees with his Dutch grandmother who calls our shop-bought carrots horse food. Recent bok choy was reasonably successful, but Michael planted these seeds that I thought were so old they couldn’t still be viable. A few weeks ago I planted some cabbage seeds, and after the bok choy I thought the old cabbage seeds would be fine, not so. The spinach I planted at the same time are tiny shoots, so I have to make sure the snails don’t snack on them! Herbs are a success of mine, mainly parsley and basil and the basil does feed the snails as well as me. If only I ate succulents, there are too many of them! Sunflower, my dad’s gardening handiwork

The verdure of my dad’s garden, avec twenty-eight parrot snacking on a sunflower. Or is it all just green to you? When thinking of gardening, I compare myself to my gardening mentor, my dad. He’s been gardening for as long as I can remember and he has a large amount of space in his suburban garden, dedicated to veggies and herbs. He is also a lot less lazy than me. Perhaps I shouldn’t be comparing myself, but rather aspiring towards his gardening achievements as a long term goal. In terms of space, I used to live with Josephine, Brendon and Garreth and one Christmas Josephine and Garreth fenced off a good amount in our huge back sand pit (because of dogs running and digging everywhere) for a veggie garden for me to grub in. It was the best present ever and we grew lots of tasty treats. I subsequently discovered how much Baxter and Khori (the dogs) loved to gnaw on carrots.

I try to buy seasonal fruit and vegies, and also produce from Australia rather than other countries. I shop at a chain supermarket (which I know is evil, evil, evil) and they mark fresh produce with the country of origin. Of course Australian veggies can travel a huge distance, but buying things in-season kind-of helps, although I could try harder. Michael likes asparagus – what’s his problem? :) He cooks it wrapped in prosciutto. Until a couple of weeks ago the asparagus sign in the shop said it was grown in Australia, but then it started coming from Peru. As much as I love Peru (those mountains!), Michael’s missing his asparagus – time to plant some seeds!

I also try to buy fresh foods, rather than packaged because that saves a lot of resources. I’m a lot better at this than I used to be, but I still like to chuck some packaged piece of plastic in the microwave. Why do I have no taste?

And meat? I know it’s truly evil to eat meat. So many more resources are used in the production of meat than plants and I’ve recently been reading about the greenhouse emissions of livestock (Russell, Geoff 2006, “An inconvenient global imperative” Dissent, no.22, pp.40-42). But does a cow really fart more than Michael? I keep telling him to save his methane for outside, but he refuses.

Riddle (with apologies to Geoff Russell): What if everyone in China starting eating as much beef as we do? Would there be an epidemic of reality TV weight flaunting or would it be so much worse?
Answer: We should decrease our meat eating and replace it with rice & beans (or a locally suitable substitute) like the majority of the world’s population.

Seeing as I refuse to be a good citizen, I should keep and slaughter my own animals. First of all, there’s my tendency to name everything in sight, trees included. I’ve heard slaughtering Lucy the Lamb can be problematic, but I’ve had a few pets euthanaised over the years. Ok so this is always traumatic and their graves or ashes surround me – maybe it wouldn’t work. I do want chickens. I don’t like chicken meat, but I love eggs. I could live on eggs and after Josephine and Brendon moved to the south western Australian town of Denmark they got chooks out the back. I’m so jealous.

Kyah, one of the culprits in the back-paddock cat-fest The other problem is my current lack of great outdoors. There is a paddock (with room for a donkey) out the back. Unfortunately “my” paddock does not belong to me, despite the number of cats who sleep in my house using it for their territory and fights with every neighbourhood cat. My dad suggested it wouldn’t be a good idea to plant trees there because I might get a bit upset when the owner removed them. Livestock would be easier to move than a tree.

That covers keeping, onto slaughter. I’m squeamish about cutting up raw meat, does this bode ill for my slaughterhouse skills? Luckily Michael handles meat cutting duties and seeing as he’s worked in an abattoir (and the stories he tells are not repeatable) I do have that covered. One out of three isn’t so good tho.


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