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The Urban Eats Project

by Emma on September 5, 2009

in Books

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.2567196240_ed5046298c

There
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.Red-01

I
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
it.

Now
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.Kingsolver

Now
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.

{ 8 comments }

elsie flannigan September 6, 2009 at 1:46 am

i’m so happpy!

Julie Armstrong September 8, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Hello Emma,
You don’t know me, but I am a huge fan of the Red Velvet Girls. I read your sister’s blog and Rachel’s. I’ve purchased your goodies often and constantly am inspired but what y’all put out there in blogland. I am inspired to write because of your post about Kingsolver’s book. I’ve been pondering getting her book – tossing the idea around. And by chance I check out Elsie’s blog, read you’ve one of your own, and what would be one of your first posts, but an inspiring piece about taking better care of the environment. Thanks for the push.

Lesley September 8, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Yay! Your blog sounds very intresting to me, I’ll be reading it regularly. You seem to be leading a healthy lifestyle. I am too a vegetarian and although I don’t eat meat I don’t always eat very healthy. Recently I started eating about 90% of my food raw. With this as my new start I wanted to try something called the master cleanse. I’m not to familar with it but wondered if you had ever tried it and if the out come was good because although it sounds good it seems a little hard.
Thanks!

Alice September 8, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Glad to see you’ve started a blog too! Great job on bringing up eating local food.
I went vegetarian when I was 12, and turned vegan more than two years ago. My grandparents own a cattle ranch as well, and I was always looked at kind of strange when I visited them and turned away meat.
Going vegan made a huge difference in my way of life. It’s quite scary to read about the way animals are treated for meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as the health effects on our bodies. I highly recommend two books, Skinny Bitch & The China Study.
I look forward to reading more of your blog!
Alice

Sara September 8, 2009 at 9:53 pm

I did the One Local Summer challenge last summer. Very similar to what you are doing…one meal a week, entirely local. They have a post every week with meals people prepared, by region of the country. Might be helpful in your quest! http://farmtophilly.com/index.php/C21/
It was hard for me last year, but the challenge helped me find new sources of local food and now I catch myself eating mostly local meals without planning it.

Jenae September 9, 2009 at 11:59 am

Sounds like a fantastic idea. makes me want to at least try ONE meal a week too. It’d be nice to make a little bit of a difference. Good luck!

Kate September 9, 2009 at 2:40 pm

i am so excited you are doing this! I also read your sisters blog (though, ironically, have never commented lol). I have been vegetarian for years and when I read this book – the light bulb went off as to WHY I am! Now I feel like I can answer people :)
I am adding you to my reader and can’t wait to see what you come up with! (and pictures? your sister is so prolific!) perhaps you will inspire me to try the east cost version ha!

vivianna December 14, 2009 at 11:39 am

I am reading this book right now! Oh man! I am lucky that I live in San Francisco because it makes it easy for me to buy locally. I been eating junk my whole life–time for a change. First on the list: learn to cook second buy locally.