Monday, September 14, 2009

Local Diet - One step at a time

About two years ago on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) we heard an interview with the authors Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon who wrote The 100-mile Diet: A year of Eating Local, and stopped to consider. About 11 years ago we moved to Nova Scotia and discovered that the local grocery stores had no idea about “President's Choice” items from Ontario. At the time, we were nutritionally demoralized. We were feeding two kids, two cats and two adults. Initially the cats suffered the most because it is murder to convince a cat to change their brand of food. Have you ever tried this? There is no amount of reasoning with them, and if you can convince one, the other remains unimpressed. Don't try demonstrating the yumminess of the new cat food, cats are impervious to human enactments of logic. Eventually, the one cat, a true glutton, decided any food in a bowl would do and the other cat decided if it included streamer ribbons, wire ribbons or crinoline netting, he would eat. Needless to say cat #2 remains unsatisfied.

The children were easier to convince into a better, healthier diet especially if ice cream were offered as a desert. Steve had been diagnosed with high cholesterol, so we began to explore different resources on what to do. The library had cookbooks geared to Diabetes and these were generally the best on offer and the Low-Fat Living Cookbook by Leslie L. Cooper was also a good resource. This meant that more food was being produced by us and less food was being bought in boxes and cans. Steve has been baking his own fabulous sour dough bread for several years now. We thought we were just the duckiest food know-it-alls around. And then we heard this interview.

In many other areas of life, since we have been little kids raised on the Reduce/Reuse/Recycle message of the 80's, the Don't litter of the 70's, and the Back to the Land of the 60's, Steve and I felt we were pretty savvy when it came to being what is now referred to as Green. Little did we know. Our rice, flour, sugar and meats while all unprocessed to death were traveling huge numbers of miles. Chicken travels something like an average of 1000 miles to get to our table. The miles for meat were shocking. What was truly appalling however were the eggs.

We determined that to begin being more conscious, we would begin changing our dietary habits one step at a time, so as not to become overwhelmed but also so we could consider carefully each adjustment and figure out its consequences. We decided to start with organic eggs. We didn't change anything on our grocery list but for this one item and when we bravely and rather righteously stood in front of the egg section of the fridges, we found we had no local options at all. We could get an inorganic (as in not pesticide free, eggs will always be organic in the carbon chemistry kind of way) egg from Ontario, we could get an organic egg from either the States or B.C or we could get liquid egg whites from I forget where but it wasn't any where nearby. Not a single egg from Nova Scotia. Well, we knew this was crazy. In the area of the province around Wolfville, there has been an eagle re-population program in place for years and the farmers toss out the dead chickens for the eagles. The eagle numbers are climbing wonderfully, the dead chickens are disposed of economically and so there must be eggs. Chicken/egg, egg/chicken. You know the question, but here we were, no local eggs in sight.

I confess we were so dumbfounded, we left without eggs. We went to the local organic grocery and yes they had organic eggs, but from far away. At this point, I hadn't clued into asking the manager. That was in the future and involved local cleaning products but that's another story. No eggs.

We decided not to cave in and went for a few weeks without eggs, moaning and complaining to friends who eventually said, “Hey whiney, why don't you try the farmer's market? There are several people who sell local eggs there.” And we did. Both. We stopped whining and we bought local eggs. Yup they were more expensive and being a person not especially committed to the taste of eggs, I can't say if they taste any better, but I am happier knowing that they traveled about 30 miles to get to my fridge rather than 1000.

Two years into this journey, a friend called to say she had seen the movie Food Inc. and she was finally convinced to change her shoppings ways and what did I recommend? I said, “One step at a time. Choose an area in the fridge or cupboard and see what you can change.”

The moral of the story truly is start one step at a time. It took us several weeks to resolve issues to the one item of eggs. Imagine if the entire grocery list had had the expectation that it all be local RIGHT NOW. I would have been weeping in aisle 3, trying to find local cat food. OK, I'm still hunting for that item, but given our experiences as described in paragraph one, I'm not certain I'm ready for that.

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