I am currently lacking a camera – the battery is charging – so I can’t show you any special recipe today. Today’s dinner wasn’t a complete success anyway. It was supposed to be pitas stuffed with avocado, portobello mushrooms, and plantains. Those are all things that I happen to enjoy a great deal, so I thought they would be good together. It was…interesting. After the first one, I just ate everything separately and enjoyed it all a good deal more. The pitas, in particular, were amazing. I’ll be sharing that recipe sometime soon.
Instead I wanted to put down some thoughts about why I take such interest in how and what I eat. Last summer I read a book called Hope’s Edge by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe. This is the sequel to Diet for a Small Planet, which – unbeknownst to me – was a quite popular book in the seventies. Hope’s Edge takes a look at several different communities around the globe who are choosing to create food differently. Instead of using harsh chemicals that destroy the soil and cause diseases in farmers, they grow food organically. They choose not to inject food and animals with growth hormones or antibiotics. They choose to grow local fruits and vegetables rather than hundreds of acres of bananas or coffee or wheat or corn. The authors believe (and I tend to agree with them) that there should be no food shortage. There are physically enough calories to go around. The problem is that these calories are not used efficiently. It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce a single pound of beef. Most animals that we eat for food are packed into pens and houses and fed grain rather than allowed to roam free and eat grass. Not even taking the animal’s welfare into consideration – though that certainly is important – if the grain these animals eat was eaten directly by people rather than converted into meat, five times as many people could eat. At the same time it takes 2,500-6,000 pounds of water to create one pound of beef and only 60 pounds of water to grow one pound of grain. That’s a lot of water that people could be drinking.
Because of this information Brad and I decided to become vegetarians. We’ve learned a lot in the past 9-10 months and completely changed our eating habits. Instead of Wal-Mart or Aldi, we shop at the natural food store (this requires a lot of planning on my part because the store is 45 minutes away, so I try to do the shopping when Brad has to meet with a client in the same town, once a week). We don’t buy meat but we do eat it if served to us (and on vacation). Obviously, food at the natural food store is more expensive since it is usually organic (or at least all-natural) and/or local. This has forced us to be more careful about what we eat. We don’t like to pay a lot for the pre-packaged foods (think crackers, cookies, frozen meals, etc.) so we started making a lot more from scratch. I don’t want to pay $6 for a pack of cookies, so if I want them I have to make them, which means we don’t have a lot of sweets and snacks around usually (typical dessert is 1/8 of a bar of fair trade dark chocolate). As we moved in this direction in our eating, we realized that we should really produce our own food. We have a big backyard so surely we could have a garden. Our first attempt, last year, was mildly successful, and this year I’m trying to grow a few more plants and learn a few new things.
Our next step was to learn more about eating local food. We started to realize that our food comes from somewhere: bananas from Costa Rica, oranges from Florida, lettuce from Oregon. All that food has to be brought right here to Arkansas, usually by truck. On average, every item on your plate has traveled 2,000 miles to get there. That’s a lot of gas. Wouldn’t it be better for God’s earth if we just ate what we could grow and produce nearby? This would also allow our family in other countries who are growing wheat to send to the U.S., to then grow their own food – food that they could then eat themselves, rather than send somewhere else. During the summer there are lots and lots of wonderful growing things to enjoy, and hard-core localvores (folks who try to eat only local foods) stockpile a lot of these things to eat during the fall and winter.
So that’s where we’re at: learning to make things from scratch, eat less meat and more veggies, grow our own basil, and store food for the winter. We’re definitely not perfect at this whole thing. Sometimes we just can’t resist the burger at Chili’s. Sometimes we order take-out pizza because we didn’t buy enough cheese to make our own. Sometimes we can’t afford to buy organic. We’re still learning. And it’s interesting, but I feel like I am learning a lot about God through this whole process. He is teaching me how the choices I make, even the little choices, affect other people, people who may live on the other side of the world. He is also teaching me about how amazing He is. He invented cilantro, for goodness’ sake, and I can grow it in a pot in my backyard!