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"Transporting a single calorie of a perishable fresh fruit from California to New York takes about 87 calories' worth of fuel. That's as efficient as driving from Philadelphia to Annapolis, and back, in order to walk three miles on a treadmill in a Maryland gym," she writes. "Pardon me while I ask someone else to draft my energy budget."

I don't normally do food diaries, as much as I admire and enjoy the work of Orangeclouds115 and others.  But when I read Think global, grow local by Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Goodman in this morning's Boston Globe, I could not resist.   The quote above is something she extracted from Barbarak Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Or as Goodman herself says

I have seared into my memory the fact that every item on my plate has traveled an average of 1,500 miles to get there. Some 85 cents of our food dollars go to processors, manufacturers, and transporters who make up the food industry, a phrase that used to be an oxymoron.

As children my sister and I delighted in helping in the family garden, which was actually fairly extensive.  We grew berries, various vegetables, and had so much excess that we would peddle them to the neighbors.  But by the time I was in 9th grade and my sister in 11th we no longer had the time.  Over the years my sister has returned to growing her own food.  For much of my life I lived in apartments and thus lacked the ability to grow my own, although in this the 23rd year in our own house I no longer can use lack of land as an excuse.  We have an ancient apple tree, and have grown few things like mint and catnip.  Now it would be hard, not merely because of our lack of time, but because a family of rabbits can often be found in our immediate neighborhood, and they have attracted at least one coyote as well - oh, and we are well within the original 10-mile square of the District of Columbia, with the Pentagon perhaps 5 miles away as the crow flies.

Reading Goodman made me remember a different time - and a different way of eating.  As she notes near the beginning

It all began with parental virtue. It seemed to me that we expend so much energy around sex ed, telling our children where babies come from -- and so little time on food ed, telling them where lunch comes from.

I wanted my daughter to know that a carrot was the root and a tomato was a fruit, that food came from the earth rather than the supermarket. Now I offer this biology class to my grandchildren.

Goodman is a graceful writer, and I want you to read her column.   It is something that will remind us again (as the Vegetables of Mass Destruction crew so often do) of the intersection between what and how we eat and governmental policy.  I admire the way Goodman can connect seemingly ordinary things about life, like planting seeds, and issues of policy, weaving in pointed statements by others, such as this:

Michael Pollan, author and a one-man consciousness-raising group, says of the massive federal farm bill that is now up for renewal, "the system is rigged to make the most unhealthful calories in the marketplace the only ones the poor can afford."

Until now, he writes, our policy "essentially treats our children as a human Disposall for all the unhealthful calories that the farm bill has encouraged American farmers to overproduce."

I realize that when I seek to buy the least expensive (in terms of out of pocket expense) food I am often not only eating unhealthily, but may be costing myself more indirectly in the damage done to the environment - by pesticides, by the carbon footprint noted by Kingsolver, by the destruction of community as factory farms displace family farms, as rural communities are destroyed.   I see also the connection  with the displacement of American workers as the Walmarts of the world transfer their purchasing to low labor sites in China and elsewhere - the carbon footprint also obtains, especially given China's increasing dependence upon dirty coal and its ravenous need for petroleum, the latter inevitably contributing to the instability in places like the Middle East.

The time "saved" by fast food meals is more than offset by the the other damages, whether directly to our health or indirectly to the natural world and to the communities destroyed by the way we industrialize.   Of course, I have choices in what I eat and how I allocate my money and time, choices unavailable to many in this country and to most around the world.  And the amount of impact of my individual choices will be miniscule.  

And yet, if I am unable to exercise what choice I can, how then can I place upon the government the responsibility for policies which service the perceived wants and needs of people like me who do have choice?

I will not be able to grow my own fruits and vegetables.  But I live in a community with multiple farmers' markets, in which the vendors come from places far closer than the industrial farms producing much of the produce in our supermarkets.  I can make the choice to begin to change.  Changing lightbulbs, washing with cold water where possible, buying locally grown produce, eating less or no corn-fattened beef, driving a hybrid and at slower speeds -  all of these are things available to us, actions that will make the world healthier, and ultimately lessen many costs, direct and indirect.

So that is my food diary for the day, or rather a brief reflection on the column by Ellen Goodman.  I could offer another snippet - both her opening and her close are gems. Let it suffice for me to note that I chose the title I used for this meditation deliberately - good and healthy food is something that still matters to me.  And I becoming increasingly resolved to become again more aware of what and how I eat.

How about you?


Originally posted to teacherken on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 02:55 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I apologize 4 the drive-by nature of this posting (16+ / 0-)

    It is now just about 6 AM, and I have to be at the Comcast Center at U of Maryland by 7:30.  From when I walk in the door there until I arrive on campus at Haverford for my reunion I will be unconnected and unable to monitor or respond to comments on this diary.

    I will check in before I leave, and as I may stop for a cup of coffee on the way, also do one last quick check.

    I hope that at least a few of you will be drawn to the Goodman piece.  That will justify the 20 mjinutes it took for me to put this diary up.

    And take the time to enjoy what you eat, to actually savor the food.  Perhaps that might help in transforming our eating patterns to things that are healthier for our planet as well as ourselves.


    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 02:46:00 AM PDT

  •  on the road to Maryland (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiaD, BlueInARedState

    I will stop briefly for coffee and check in then, although it seems as if this will not need that much attention.


    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 03:05:39 AM PDT

  •  Going to the grocery store shortly. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, rapala, Morrigan

    I'm going to make this wonderful creamy carrot-leek soup that I throw together, randomly based on a couple of recipes for Thai carrot soup.  Mmmm, sambal.  Ginger.  Mmmm.

    Oh yes, and it's healthy - I don't put a ton of coconut milk in it, so it isn't too fatty.

    And no, we aren't vegan or vegetarian.  We just like vegetables.

  •  Shut Up!!! (7+ / 0-)

    I am now in a Bill Murray-esque struggle with a mole out back intent on getting at my radishes, green beans, basil, tomatoes, corn, sunflowers, melons, zucchini, carrots, etc.  And, I'm trying to do it without the help of Tom Delay instead using vibration mechanisms, castor oil pellets, and pee.

    My neighbors in Annapolis, with our sandy soil, are all damnably impressed especially since I spent less than $150 on equipment and supplies (no topsoil or planting soil added). And, since I came here last year to my friend's house as he is still overseas, and they heard the repetitive, voluminous complaints about my not being a suburban.

    Damn it, this city boy wants a badge for my gardening sucess!!

    Give me ten lines from a good man and I'll find something in there to hang him. - Cardinal Richelieu

    by lgrooney on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 03:11:58 AM PDT

  •  I'll Give You A Badge (4+ / 0-)

    I live in a building with a garden committee that grows tomatoes and flowers and herbs. BTW, we compost too, and added tons of more compost as well. Everything grows very well and beautifully in soil that was never meant for much more than grass.

    At my prior place I had a neighbor who grew tomatoes in the small grass strip next to the building.  I doubt if anything was added besides a little topsoil since we were renting. The results?

    If you have never tasted truly fresh tomatoes right off the vine, you are in for a treat! The same goes for homegrown apples, peaches, and pears. A childhood memory was eating blackberries that grew wild outside my house-I can remember the taste even today. Growing up with truly fresh produce was a delight-they smelled vital and fresh, the aroma coming through the bag very strongly.

    Homegrown vegetables were once a standard practice in many old suburban homes (pre-WWII), and truck farms the standard way of providing fresh produce for cities.

    I miss that fresh produce now. The stuff in the bag has appearance only to recommend it.

    A Crushie for Democracy

    by CarolDuhart on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 03:17:29 AM PDT

  •  real tomatoes, ahhhhh (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rapala, Morrigan, RiaD, zhimbo

    one of the vendors at the main farmers' market in Arlington specializes in heirloom tomatoes.  They are not all bright red, but oh my the taste - it explodes in your mouth.

    That of course is another issue in factory farming - the loss of biological diversity

    and we should know by now the damages done my monoculture, although apparently the World Bank still seems inclined to impose it upon  developing countries - grow cash crops

    I have to acknowledge the 20+ years I spent in data processing, where I did a lot to "improve efficiency" - but I don't think efficiency is een close to being the highest goal.  We are losing our connections with the natural worlds and with each other

    oh, and as a teacher of government, I cannot help b ut note that our Founders deliberately designed inefficiency into our governmental structure as a means for preventing the arising of tyranny.  I would do an excursus on this thought, but I have to get going to the university shortly.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 03:46:03 AM PDT

  •  okay, now have to run (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maybeeso in michigan

    please, feel free to comment, to dialog among yourselves.

    I will eventually revisit this diary.

    And thanks to those who have already taken the time to read and to comment.


    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 03:54:50 AM PDT

  •  Have started going to the farmers' market (3+ / 0-)

    And now that we're retired, we're starting to grow more of our own food.  We've got parsley, tomatoes, potatoes, and English peas in the garden now.  I wanted to plant raspberry and blackberry canes and strawberries, but that might have to wait until next year.

    I do like to ask where the vegetables come from when I buy from the farmers.  The cantaloupes have been coming from the Carolinas at this time of year, but the rest comes from Westmoreland County, Virginia.  I live in Fairfax County, Virginia.

    If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got.

    by Diana in NoVa on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 04:00:01 AM PDT

  •  Couple points (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiaD, SaraPMcC
    • "I don't normally do food diaries" ... this is an energy diary, no?
    • "Goodman is a graceful writer," and so are you.


    Blogging regularly at Ecotality Blog for a Sustainable Future.

    by A Siegel on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 04:24:21 AM PDT

    •  Seconded!! n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel
    •  both food and energy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      because the quality of locally grown food is better, tastier.  And while there are energy ikmplications to be sure, I am not addressing them separately.

      Have now stopped in s Starbucks in Bryn Maw to check email, this diary, before I head on to Haverford campus for reunion.  Actually pleasntaly suprised that this got as much traffic as it did.  I dod hope y'all read Goodman's piece.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 10:14:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  this morning (5+ / 0-)

    i'm starting the seeds for my third round of mustard so far. i'll also be starting more basil, as the basil plants in the ground will be reaching harvesting size in another week-two weeks.

    i just fixed breakfast with some of the now 3 dozen eggs i traded for 3 tomato plants i grew.

    i have 7 varieties of tomatoes growing this year, 5 of them heirloom. the runner beans are beginning to produce little bean babies, the zucchini and watermelon are getting pretty darned big, and the eggplant has shot up overnight.

    and i woke up to rain, meaning i won't have to water today and i certainly can't mow.

    everyone should have a garden. even you, teacherken. but if you can't, patronize your local farmers. at the very least, by eating locally, you're that much more unlikely to be ingesting melamine as a part of your diet.

  •  Great Topic--Great Comparison (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Morrigan, RiaD, zhimbo

    I'm an addict and I'm here to confess: I love tomatoes, the fresh kind I can grow in a pot, not the plastic kind that I can find at a grocery. I'm blessed to be able to spend winters in the south and summers in the north, so I can grow two gardens a year. (Tiny, just enough for us.)

    It's amazing that Europeans and South Americans are comfortable with fresh, in season food, but we are convinced we can't live without cheap (migrant-picked) out-of-season food all year. Then there's what we wrap it in--multiple layers of oil products (plastic.)

    The effort to reduce our energy consumption can begin with very small steps.

    •  Tomato in my driveway (7+ / 0-)

      My wife and I moved into my old family house two years ago when my mother passed on. I worked out my grief by obsessively gardening. We're now into our third spring, so we know better what things to grow, and it's all food. In another week or so the tomato at left will turn DailyKos orange.

      Along the side of the driveway we planted pineapples from tops we bought at the grocery store as fresh pineapples. You just twist off the top, stick it in a glass of water for a couple weeks and plant. They usually take about two years to fruit, and we just saw our first (of about 60 plants now) day before yesterday.

      Collard greens are my favorite veggie. Chop the leaves, cover with water, add a little salt and simmer in a crock pot. Add a can of coconut milk and some Vietnamese curry (Panang is my fave) and the soup's delish. In Orlando, Fla., the county dump offers free compost by the pickup truck if you shovel it yourself. So far, I've dumped 39 loads in raised bed planters in the back yard and stuff grows like crazy, haven't used a drop of fertilizer ever. In the winter we grew lettuce leaves big enough to wear as clothing.

      My wife planted the corn about six weeks ago. I thought she put it too close to the compost pile but my wife is half my age and a saint and besides I'm wrong about two-thirds of the time anyway.

      She also planted the okra, another favorite. We've traveled to Mexico several times and the flour they use to make tortillas, masa harina, is made from corn. It makes a kick-ass batter for fried okra, and fried or steamed we will eat it every day when it starts producing and it will produce for about three months. The flowers are unbelievable, I'm hoping to get a pic or two in about a month.

      I took all these pics about an hour ago for a contribution I hope to make tomorrow morning on the Saturday Morning Gardening Blog here at dKos; it's a feature I've always admired and wanted to contribute to, I have a couple stories  to tell about Barbados cherries, onions, and a 25-year old grape arbor that's fruiting like crazy.

  •  There was a lot of discussion (4+ / 0-)

    yesterday at Would You Give Up Steak To Help the Environment?

    RIRedinPA wants to get a group together to promote 'Victory Gardens' again (although for the same reason as diaried here: reducing carbon footprint) and diaries about it in Victory Garden: What Is It Good For?

    We grow most of our own food, including 60 pounds of organic asparagus this season. We have 27 heirloom tomato plants starting to bloom, 600' of green and soup beans sprouting, 20 pepper plants, four beds of sweet corn, onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, romaine, chard, collards, squash, cucumbers, melons, potatoes, peas, soup peas.......

  •  live outside Philadelphia (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jersey Girl, Morrigan, CincNavWif

    not to far from Haverford...Have a great time..FYI you will be close to the Ardmore Farmers Market Surburban Square off Lancaster Ave..
    I belong to a Food Coop here...and the food coop sells as much local produce and organic stuff as it can find. And local organic meats..At Thanksgiving you could pre order Ebenshade organic turkeys which I did In my family of foodies every one kvelled over the turkey. It was the best I ever had.

    On another note I loved your post about the AP history test.My daughter has AP history Her history teacher sounds a like in regards to teaching (although she voted for Bush at least once my daugher thinks)and spent weeks at night preparing her students...And while my daughter who is going into 12 grade thinks standarized tests are the "man", she knows that good SATS will help with scholarship $$$$, which we will need. She just got her results back from the AP history...775. We started out looking at the SAT optional schools like Hampshire and Sarah Lawrence and now moving in another direction...Swarthmore is first choice now.Followed by Goucher. She adores history and politics.Belongs to Youth and Government, started a human rights club at school and tomorow has organized a gun amnesty program here with the police. She goes to Springfield High School whre in December a student killed himself with his fathers AK 47

  •  Confession and Community Garden Plot (5+ / 0-)

    A month ago I signed up for a community garden plot.  I've never done any gardening except 14 years ago my mom visited and planted veggies in my backyard, what a harvest that was!  I have photos of my then 1 yr old with baskets of tomatoes eggplants bell peppers.

    I'm watching the neigbhors' assorted green shoots go up.  I'm nervous and feeling clueless.  I can't even decide what to plant.  I feel like a gardening loser.

    Okay, I've shamed myself into action.  I will today sign out the tiller (never operated one before!) prep the plot which is about 2.5 minivans wide and 4 minivans long, (I don't do measurements in feet). And pick out some veggie seeds.

    •  If you're nervous, (4+ / 0-)

      start slow.  I've never used a tiller, but if it were me I'd want to go out and get to know my plot a little before I started rampaging around it with a machine.  It's awkward to act goofy in a community plot, because people might be around... but I think there's nothing to make you feel more comfortable in your garden than digging close to the dirt, discovering what small critters live in there, what the weeds are (I can't name most, but there are usually just a few oft-repeated forms in any individual garden), what the texture of your soil is like.  Then you can remember that this is just a little piece of ground that you happen to be growing some vegetables on, not a blank slate that it's up to you to create.  For me, anyway, thinking about gradually adding value to an already living and working-- but degraded-- piece of land is less intimidating than having to design and implement the whole thing at one blow.

      •  Thank you (4+ / 0-)

        You're absolutely right.  I was thinking I had to conquer this piece of land, and beat it to submision, before I can enjoy the kind of bucolic communion with nature wherein I grow my own food, wearing my pretty straw hat.  You point out that I can so commune before I plant a single seed.

        No wonder I was stuck!  I was rightly afraid of the gas-guzzling tiller!

        Plus, no one shows pictures of when their garden was just dirt and weeds.  All I envisioned were green plants laden with fruit!

        •  Check out the Saturday morning home and garden (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          teacherken, Morrigan, CincNavWif

          diary.  Frankenoid usually gets it up between 8 & 9.
          It often makes the Rec List by about 10AM  Eastern.

          There are bunches of people who love digging in the dirt and growing our own food.  Anyone who asks a question gets more information than they need, along with stories about things that went wrong.  Good place to check for veggies, fruit, flowers, pictures of NYC conservatory, Paris flower market, knitted lace and a lot of things.

          Good luck with your plot and I hope you get as much good out of it as I do mine

          911 did not change things. George Bush with his sycophants and enablers have changed way too many things. me

          by maybeeso in michigan on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 07:56:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Community gardners usually helpful (4+ / 0-)

        At my community garden, the experienced gardners were usually friendly and eager to help a novice, so I felt very comfortable asking questions.  If you ask around, you probably can find someone who will till for you, for a modest fee; or one of your plot neighbors may offer to give you a hand.

        Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory. ~ Cervantes

        by Deep Harm on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 08:37:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary, (3+ / 0-)

    and I'm eager to read the Kingsolver, more even than the Goodman.

    Teacherken, people have been growing food in the presence of rabbits and coyotes for some time.  If you want to give it a shot, I wouldn't let that stop you.  :)

    •  give what a shot, the rabbit or the coyote? (0+ / 0-)

      Sorry, couldn't resist.

      Actually, while we may not this sumer, we are planning what we are dloing with house and grounds for next couple fo years, and it is possible we will be doing some growing of our own - the mint does find by itself!!!

      In the meantime, I will manage to drag myself down to the farmers' market on saturdays when I in in town - obviously tomorrow I will be busy on campus.


      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 10:19:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is just sad (3+ / 0-)

    I went to a farmers market last weekend with a neighbor.  My goal?  Illinois strawberries.  First stand we came to had strawberries, but I didn't like the looks of them.  We moved on.  Last stand had Illinois (!) strawberries that looked as if they might actually occur in nature, and had a lovely aroma.  I bought 2 quarts.

    The sad part?  My neighbor said the ones at the first stand looked a lot better.  Well, underneath the table of strawberries were boxes of strawberries in those plastic clam shells they come in from the local mega-grocery.  From California.  The people were taking them out of the plastic containers and selling them in those cardboard quart boxes, as if they'd picked them!

    My point:  ask where the produce comes from, and keep your eyes peeled.  Some markets require that the products be locally grown, obviously some don't.  And secondly -- people are used to the corporate tasteless crap that looks pretty, but has no flavor!

    •  Complain to market managment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maybeeso in michigan

      Some markets have rules that prevent non-local produce from being sold; others require it to be clearly labeled.  If yours doesn't, tell them you want them to implement a rule or you'll tell your friends and you'll all shop somewhere else.

      Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory. ~ Cervantes

      by Deep Harm on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 07:22:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  By all means GROW something (4+ / 0-)

    And think creatively.  When I lived in an apartment, I found a community garden where I finally - for the first time in my life - had a place to garden.  Loved it.  There were birds, groundhogs, rabbits and deer to contend with. But, through a variety of measures, large and small, we scared off most of them (there are entire books at the library on wildlife control).

    At the other end of the spectrum, are people with land who don't have the physical strength, time or desire to grow their own gardens, but love fresh produce.  Some of the smart ones make deals with land-poor gardeners, splitting the harvest between them.

    My first try produced mountains of heirloom tomatoes, a decent crop of beans and peruvian potatoes, armfuls of aromatic basil, and colorful baskets of hot peppers.  (The sweet peppers, alas, succumbed to critters, but the habaneros survived untouched.)  My second year, a personal crisis cut the season short. But, I still managed to harvest some tasty carrots and lettuce, more exotic stevia (a sugar substitute) and endless rounds of zucchini. (If only we could use that stuff to run cars.)

    Where there's a will - or an appetite for good food - there's a way.  Go for it!

    Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory. ~ Cervantes

    by Deep Harm on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 08:27:00 AM PDT

  •  Supporting local farming (0+ / 0-)

    I have a "subscription" with a local organic farm and LOVE to pick up my box every week and find out what surpises it holds.  Just got the first delivery of the season last night and the spinach and rhubarb never even made it into the frig.  They went straight to the stove and table.

    Nothing beats fresh, locally-grown, organic produce for feeling good about what's on your plate and in your stomach.

    Support your local farmer!

    We are putting in a vegetable garden this year, so we may have some bounty to brag about in the future!

    "When people show you who they really are, believe them." - Maya Angelou

    by Pennsylvanian on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 12:26:40 PM PDT

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