Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 - The Year of Sustainable Food

While *B* and I were on our honeymoon, we read a lot considering how busy we were.  Two of the seven days on our trip turned out to be reading days.

I read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

I loved this book.  It put into words a lot of the things I think about on a regular basis.  Pollan breaks his book up into three sections:  industrial, pastoral, and personal.  In each section, he tackles something new.  I was especially taken in by the first two sections.  I knew that we relied a lot on corn, but I never realized exactly how much corn and oil (as in petroleum) it takes to get food to our tables. 

Because I enjoyed this book so much, I've started reading another book of his, In Defense of Food.

So far, so good.  It talks a lot about the processing food undergoes on a regular basis.  His main point, as noted on the cover is "Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants."  I'm a little over halfway through it.  He had an in-depth discussion on the Western diet during the first part of the book, and I'm now getting into his definition of food.  I'm rather fond of one well-worn piece of advice:  don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

These books got both *B* and I thinking and provided ample conversation points.  We discussed our plans, past and future, and came up with a framework for what we want to do starting here in 2011.

Grow Our Own Food
Last year was our first foray into the world of gardening.  We've learned a few things in that first year.  One such thing is if you don't like tomatoes, do not grow tomatoes in 50% of your gardening space.   Another would be that carrots actually are better if you thin them out.  This year, we're organizing our garden in such a way that we maximize the natural partnerships that occur in nature.  We're going to try the three sisters method by co-planting corn, beans, and squash.  We're also using what we thought was dead space.  I'm very excited to make trellises up our fence for snap peas.  We devoured them last year, and given how many we harvested off of 8 or 10 plants, we'd be set for a good while if we made a perimeter out of them.

Eat Locally
Our next goal is to eat locally.  I'd rather have squash out of someone's garden that might have been sprayed once or twice than eat organically grown squash from California.  When you know where your food comes from, you're better off.  We've been going to the farmer's market in town and a larger produce market a town over for a while now.  I'm confident we could keep this up as far as produce goes.

Purchase Humanely Raised Animal Products
One of the passages that haunted me from OD was the bit about laying hens.  Those that spend time in battery cages are often put together with a number of other hens.  They can sometimes rub their breasts raw on the front of the cage.
Cage free birds are not a whole lot better.  They have more room to themselves, but they still don't have access to the outdoors. Free range birds have access, but they don't necessarily use it.  From what I've researched, the best things you can do are a) raise them yourselves, b) buy them from a farmer where you can see them raised, or c) buy eggs with a humane certification stamp on them.  Basically, we're looking to purchase products from animals that have been raised as close to nature intended as possible.

Eat Organic
This one is last because, if you manage to hit the other goals, it's least important.  For things that we can't grow ourselves, we're going to try to eat organic from our local market.

All this boils down to a diet of whole, unprocessed foods.  We're looking for food to be tasty and nourishing.  Groceries overall will be more expensive, but the food will be a better quality, which leads to greater health in the future.  I am hopeful that in trying to eat this way, we'll both shed a few pounds, too.  But the main focus here in 2011 is eating healthfully and sustainably for a better us and a better planet.


  1. I loved both those books too, now you need to try reading "Nourishing Traditions", that is another eye opener. :)

  2. Thanks for the recommendation - I'll check it out!