Ecojustice08’s Weblog

It’s Okay (In Most Cases) by Emily
June 14, 2008, 7:26 am
Filed under: Emily

So, during the first half of the first quarter of the ecojustice challenge, I’ve found myself having to learn to say, “It’s okay.” After all, I’m doing much more than most people in this country are doing at this point, and if I follow Mandarine’s original question of “What if 7 billion people did what I’m doing?” we’d be slowly but surely shifting the economy here (and doing quite a lot of damage to big business). If I hadn’t adopted this “it’s okay” attitude, being the high-strung, type A personality that I am, I think I’d be dead from a heart attack, despite eating almost-all natural and organic food.

At some point, I decided it’s okay only to choose two actions from my original list and to focus on them for now. Originally, I had chosen three, but we just were never getting around to the early blackout night once a week with all we’ve got going on here (our schedule is just way too unpredictable), and I decided it was okay to drop that one. I’m envious of those of you who can do it, as I think it probably goes a very long way in slowing down the pace of life. I can pretty much say I’ve replaced it with the no driving one day a week, as during the average week, I probably go at least two days without driving, but there have definitely been some weeks when I got in my car every single day.

Then my copy of Much Depends on Dinner arrived. To read the back cover copy, one would think this book was nothing but an amusing little history of food. I began to wonder if I’d been mislead by the colleague who’d recommended it to me years ago, telling me it would completely change the way I think about food. I kept telling myself, “Well, it’s okay if this book doesn’t really meet the challenge.” It really was okay, because when I started the challenge, I had just started Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I’ve now finished, and that book certainly made me think, as well as giving me ideas for this challenge. Anyway, I finally got into the introduction of Much Depends on Dinner to find that it is what I thought it was, but I haven’t yet gotten much past the introduction. Which is okay.

Finally, there’s the eat nothing but local and/or organic two days a week. I decided it’s okay to turn this one into buying 80% local and/or organic, which I have definitely been doing. I’m also adding buying seasonally. No longer will I buy strawberries except in May and June, not after picking them on a friend’s farm and discovering something that tastes like a strawberry, something that is small and juicy and oh-so-sweet. Forget those monstrous, dry things labeled “strawberries” in the grocery store (even if they’re organic). No longer will I buy those long, anorexic-little things in the grocery store labeled “scallions,” not even when the recipe I’ve got calls for them. Ditto the anorexic, floppy “asparagus.”

I heard something on our local NPR (Negative Public Radio) station, which seems to be jumping with joy to report every other minute how food costs are on the rise due to oil costs (I know, I should be happy about this, but I do wish the station could be a little more optimistic about things) that got my blood boiling. It was another one of these “food is so expensive” reports in which they were interviewing different people at different grocery stores. (Sometimes NPR really does seem to be a parody of itself. You couldn’t have picked more typecast people if you’d had tryouts with thousands of wannabes). Anyway, when they got to the “I –guess-you’d-call-me-upper-middle-class” woman, who owns two homes (one for which they paid cash) and some “building” (also paid for with cash) who had decided she could no longer shop at Whole Foods, because she realized she had over $300 worth of food in her cart and didn’t even have three meals’ worth of food for her family, I found myself wishing I could call in and give them a piece of my mind.

Where had they found her? Why standing in front of a rotisserie chicken at some grocery store that wasn’t Whole Foods, but where such things are much cheaper. Well, yes, if you’re going to buy fully-cooked rotisserie chickens instead of spending ten minutes to prep an uncooked bird to stick in the oven, I suppose maybe you do have to decide that “the first thing to go is organic food.” I was so mad. She’s doing exactly what the big food companies want her to do: she’s decided organic is what’s expensive, not buying already-prepared foods. Meanwhile, is she even bothering to check out her local farms and farm markets? I get free-range eggs for $1.50 a dozen (that’s not a typo). I get beautiful heads of just-picked lettuce (not certified organic, but I’ve asked and know that the farmer is using no pesticides) for $1.00 (nor is that a typo) a head. I can get fresh-baked bread for $2.00 a loaf. Fresh-picked strawberries are $2.00 a quart. Organic does not have to be more expensive, and buying locally is certainly cheaper than any grocery store I’ve ever used.

Still, I’m driving all the way to the nearest Trader Joe’s (a forty-minute, one-way trek) on occasion to indulge my Greek yogurt cravings. Trader Joe’s is not the only thing that’s out that direction. I do tag my visits there on to other expeditions, and at least I’m driving a Prius, but still, that is not okay. I think I’m going to have to learn how to make my own yogurt.

10 Comments so far
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I have a type-A personality too, which is why for a long time I told myself just not to worry about it. But lately, I’m thinking I’ll join in the next quarter of this challenge, because I’ve already been making a bunch of lifestyle changes anyway! If you’re interested in cooking seasonally, you might want to check out “A Year in a Vegetarian’s Kitchen.” It’s full of delicious recipes grouped by season; the author and his family are part of a co-op farm, so the produce tends to be local, but of course the spices, etc. come from all over (so definitely not local). The author lives in NY, so his seasons should be pretty close to yours. 😀

A lot of times, in my grocery stores, organic canned stuff is cheaper than non-organic! If you successfully make your own yogurt, you should definitely share; I love my yogurt so much. Oh, and I thought of another option you might want to add to your list: commit to making fifty (or twenty-five or whatever) percent of your meals vegetarian or vegan. If you need the reasons why that would help the environment, let me know!

Comment by Eva

I hear that homemade yogurt is the way forward. There’s a large section devoted to its delights in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral.

Here’s a dilemma I hit upon during my last shopping trip: do I buy the organic peppers wrapped in plastic, or the non-organic peppers wrapped in nothing? Which choice is better for the environment, the planet, and me? With choices so loaded and fuzzy, it’s easy to understand why people just carry regardless shopping mindlessly. The best thing for me would be organic local peppers bought at my market in town, but that is not always an option.

Comment by charlotteotter

There is nothing like strawberries in season. I grow my own and after three weeks of strawberries everyday I am glad to wait until next June. The woman on NPR is what is wrong with most people. Food is so expensive! But they never stop to look at what kind of food they are buying. My csa starts delivering next week. For about 20 weeks I will get a bushel of fresh from the field organic veggies. The cost works out to about $24 a week. Since I’m vegan I will have to buy hardly any other food for the rest of the summer.

Good work on staying local Emily. I really does make a difference and the food tastes so much better.

Charlotte, I don’t know where you shop, but you could speak with the manager and ask them not to wrap the organic peppers in plastic.

Comment by Stefanie

Eva, the making 50% of all meals vegetarian/vegan is a good idea.

Charlotte, I’ve come to the conclusion, after buying organic produce that was wrapped in plastic, that grocery stores must wrap it in plastic because it tends to go bad more quickly, and when it’s wrapped, the customer can’t tell as easily that it isn’t fresh. It’s really annoying!

Stef, yes, I’ve o.d.ed on strawberries this year and feel I can easily wait until next season for more. And good idea to tell stores to quit wrapping their organic produce in plastic.

Comment by Emily Barton

Way to go, Emily. That’s been my philosophy all along: setting high standards, doing one’s reasonable but sincere best, and acknowledging “it’s OK” when not all goals are met. If you of all people can say “it’s Okay”, then the world will be saved.

My latest “It’s Okay” changes with food are: “it’s OK to skip a meal when I do not feel like eating”, and “it’s OK not to cook a full-fledged three-course French meal every time”

PS: as I am reducing my dairy intake, I have been experimenting with oatmeal ‘yogurt’: at least as gooey as the homemade yogurt my mum used to make, but fine enough with chocolate or blackberry jam.

Comment by mandarine

Mandarine I am curious about your oatmeal yogurt. Is there dairy in it? And if not, how do you make it? I buy soy yogurt now and then but it is expensive so it ends up being a treat.

Comment by Stefanie

I have not checked whether there are ‘official’ oatmeal yogurt recipes, but mine goes along the lines of: water, oats, sugar, vanilla, boil, blend, pour, cool down, eat. My wife prefers almond ‘milk’ instead of water, though.

Comment by mandarine

Emily, I am sure you are doing more than most and even if you don’t meet your own goal 100%, you’ve still done a lot. This is just the start!

Comment by ZoesMom

Thanks Mandarine!

Comment by Stefanie

ZM, “This is just the start” will join “It’s okay” as a new mantra.

Comment by Emily Barton

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