My understanding about where food comes from started when I
was a kid. My teachers included the Cocoa Cola polar bears, the Honey Nut
Cheerio honeybee as well as my mom and dad. And up until college (I am ashamed
to say) I regarded all of these sources as equally reliable and factual. I
majored in philosophy, not agriculture, but I took an ethics course that
featured a section on what could most easily be called animal rights. And like
any trendy college kid I jumped on the vegetarian bandwagon. And at eighteen
years old I thought I was pretty cool. And when you live in southern Missouri
like I did, its pretty radical to go vegetarian. I still remember my very last
meat meal, Chinese chicken (which is basically fried chicken in sauce on white
rice). It’s still to this day one of my dad’s favorites.
was a small part of me that felt like a traitor to my kind for going veggie.
Outside of the fact that anyone over the age of 30 in my family had no idea
what to feed me at family get-togethers, my grandfather had been a cattle
farmer before he passed away. He and my grandmother had lots of meat cattle (no
diary cows) a few horses (for pleasure, not food) and they raised chickens for
eggs. I have many fond memories on my grandparents farm, lots of summer
vacation was spent with them. I even went through a stage when I wanted to be a
cowgirl and own a ranch myself; my grandma still has the pictures to prove it.
I had a taped PBS program about the life of a cowgirl, red cowgirl boots, and I
once won a children’s dance competition to the song, “The Boot Scootin’
Boogie.” The phase didn’t last
long but I never would have dreamed that I would grow up to be a trendy
vegetarian college student.
eventually finished my degree and moved out of my small hometown in
Springfield, Missouri to a slightly larger town called Los Angeles, California.
I live in the heart of Hollywood. You can see the famous Hollywood sign from
the roof of my apartment building and down the street is the walk of fame (all
those pavement stars with celebrities names in them). It’s crowded, smoggy and
there is absolutely nowhere to park but to me its home sweet home. And although
I am quick to admit that big city life is not for everyone I absolutely love
you might be asking, “What does all this have to do with food?” Well this is my
dilemma: I am a city dweller who cares about where her food comes from, how its
production and distribution effects the environment, and how it effects the
lives of farmers like my grandpa was. These are questions that I have been asking
myself since I went veggie in college, it has moved from idealistic hobby to a
passion in my life (as cheesy as that sounds). I am constantly reading books on
the subject and recently I was reading, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara
Kingsolver. In her book she basically takes her readers on a personal (and
informative) journey she and her family embarked on for a year. They only ate
food that was produced locally, either by themselves on their little farm or by
farmers in their community. Early on I learned that it takes an awful lot of
fossil fuel to grow produce via farming machinery like tractors and combines
but also through synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. It takes
even more fossil fuels to move that produce to a grocery store near me via
trucks, refrigerators, packaging plants, etc. The book then stated, “if every
U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and
organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil
consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.” Whoa. And last I checked oil was one of those
resources they call finite, meaning its going to run out someday (someday when
our great-great-grandkids need to drive to work) not to mention how much
cleaner our air would be if we cut back our oil usage for produce carrying
trucks, packaging plants, and all that. And trust me, LA could use cleaner air.
Every time I go jogging around my neighborhood I question whether the benefits
really outweigh the smog I must be breathing in the whole time. I am not
getting up on a soapbox. I’m no activist or politician. I’m just a girl who
lives in a big city and who cares.
So when I read this it sounded to me like a project.
I can’t move to a farm and start a whole new life, I lack the financial
resources and the skill set to operate a farm. I don’t even own ANY land (or
square of dirt) to garden on. So what is a city slicker like myself to do?
Well, I do know there is the Hollywood farmer’s market held down the street
every Sunday morning. I am sure there has to be a few fish markets around, I do
live on a coast. Plus this is California, one of the greatest producers in the
US, right? The more I thought about it the more I felt confident that this
would be a project that I could finish. I could do this. The plan was to make
at least one meal a week that consisted entirely of ingredients that were
produced locally and organically. And I didn’t just plan on eating salad with
no dressing the whole time either, no this was going to be a crash course in
eating sustainable alongside with eating well. I was going to make around 48
sustainable gourmet meals or die trying.