Friday, June 12, 2009

guess what's coming to dinner

I've complained a lot about the rudimentary cooking facilities I have at my disposal but what I haven't told you is how we are eating. I've complained about shitty markets but I haven't shared much about what I am actually able to buy.

Things fall into two camps here: it's either locally produced, organic and fresh or it's shipped from a million miles away and it's total crap. (think vienna sausages, macaroni and cheese, velveeta, tang and cheetos). Yes. Really. I was all set to carry on about US imperialism until I realized that someone on this end is actually ordering all this bullshit and asking for it to be sent down here so I'll hold my tongue.

One thing that irks me beyond belief is the lack of healthy snacks for M, I've stopped snacking entirely and am better for it but kids or at least my kid, she likes to eat. A lot. And snacks here are for shit unless it's fruit and a kid will only eat so much of that. Everything and I mean everything has high fructose corn syrup in it. But on occasion and sometimes to please M we buy some of the distant crap, a hard day means we might just make a box of macaroni. But on a good day and there are happily more of those than bad I cook.

The other day we made flour tortillas by hand, I cooked and refried some dried beans I bought at a local supplier, cooked up chicken bought from the farm in town and bought produce (tomatoes, onion, cilantro, peppers) from the local market where the farmers come and sell their produce daily. Even our cheese (if you aren't hungry for velveeta) comes from less than 10 miles away.

So when we sat down to eat it suddenly hit me: every single thing on the table was locally grown, farmed or manufactured. While that means we have a lot less choices we are also finally living up to one of the ideals we'd set. We are sustaining ourselves food-wise within our living area about 80% of the time. And that's even without our own garden, something we've yet to establish because the season is wrong.

So I forgave the oven and I sat back and I smiled, M pointed to each food and asked where I got it and how far away it was and we realized we were within a 10 mile radius all the way. It's the first time in all this time I'd really thought it through and now it's a challenge every day, to see how close to 100% I can get.

Don't misunderstand, we aren't always batting a thousand here, like I said boxed mac and cheese finds it's way here sometimes but now at least it's matched with bread I've baked or gotten from the local bakery, paired with sweet tropical fruits we've either found or purchased. Simply put, it's just the way it's done here and for many folks they live their entire lives like this, living and eating and working in a small circle, eating fruit off their own trees and eggs from their chickens and their imprint on the earth is tiny and it reminds me once again how often the poor carry the rich on their backs in ways known and unknown all around the world every single day.

So when I can forget about the lack of work and the scorpion waving it's tail in my kitchen yesterday I start to think maybe, just maybe we're not entirely full of shit after all. This move has been hard in many ways, eye opening in others, stilling and refreshing and scary and adventurous and hot and wow, yes wow, kinder to the earth after all.

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Magpie said...

Oh, this is beautiful. I'm happy to hear this.

We picked up our first CSA delivery yesterday, and I was feeling all locavore - but the farm is nearly 100 miles away.

Anonymous said...

I'm working to eat more locally, but the food system here just isn't made for it. It's inspiring to me that you're able to do it. And it's my hope that as more people work to improve local food choices more will come to my part of the world, too.

painted maypole said...

"how often the poor carry the rich on their backs in ways known and unknown all around the world every single day"

that statement is going to have me thinking for a while

Omaha Mama said...

I just put us on a waiting list for 2010 for a CSA that's about 30 mi. away. It's a start, thanks in part to you. :-) I've been trying to think about those things too, it's just overwhelming sometimes. There is a such a long way to go, globally. Sigh.

Bon said...

that's awesome about the food. other than the fructose stuff...but i know from my own travels that after awhile without it i feel better.

the poor do carry the rich. the rich don't believe it.

Seattle Mamacita said...

love this vignette, this window into your life there...these are the reasons you endure the heat and the bugs and the whole lot...I'm re-reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle so it is fitting that I read your post today reminders everywhere that what we do does make a difference..
celebrando la vida simple!

Anjali said...

This is lovely to read. You are living the way you were meant to!

meno said...

You need a pet meercat, they eat scorpions.

People have been eating the way you describe for aeons. It's neat that you can see the beauty in that.

alejna said...

So much to think about.

How exciting that you are making such progress in this goal. I bet your local fresh food tastes wonderful, too.

Thanks, jen, for sharing these details.

flutter said...

you are practicing what you preach

krista said...

i had a moment recently where i realized what an asshole i sometimes am. i was baking cupcakes for an event and had four completely different recipes going. i had to go to three different stores to get everything. drive. i had to drive to three different stores.
yes, they were delicious and a success and it was for a job. yes. but i still felt like an asshole considering i used so damn many resources for the sole purpose of cupcakes.

Cecilieaux said...

One thing this (and several other posts) bring to mind -- and here's a cause to sink your teeth into -- is that in more traditional societies with fewer technological advances, someone (aka women) gets tied to the laborious process of making food, clothes, etc.

I knew this from my own experiences in South America, but I had forgotten it.

It was only when you mentioned cooking to make macaroni and cheese as a "snack" that the whole laboriousness of life without washing machines (I remember seeing women working on a washboard), let alone dishwashers (I stiil don't have one, even in the big city), let alone convenience stores, etc. (don't like 'em much for regular shopping, but gee, it's great to be able to drop in and grab an ice-cream bar).

Think about this -- if you haven't already. My apologies if you wrote about this and I missed it.

The Chick said...

Hi, Jen! I've missed your blog so I need to catch up. But I finally read "Fight Club"!

kgirl said...

I'd bet that the fresh, local food was on the 'pro' list of moving to the jungle, so I'm glad to hear that it's plentiful, although, as a mother, I can well imagine how stressful the lack of snacks can be.

Maybe you can find a recipe for no-bake granola bars using local products?

Kim said...


Lisse said...

Give yourself some time to be completely self-sufficient. It's a long way from running to the store to pick up some ready-made dinner, which I found myself doing more often than I'd like.

Alli said...

Hi Jen,

Have you thought about making fruit leather? I found a recipe online and it is something that looked feasible for even here.

I was at a yoga retreat yesterday and had some "crackers" made in a food dehydrator. They were made from flax seed, tomato, and some soy sauce. They were fabulous. You won't find a food dehydrator here, but could have one brought in.

If you are lucky enough for M not to discover Ideals yet congratulations! As a kid we made tons of popsicles with coolaid. I am sure you could do the same with fruit juices found here. I would do some for myself but my freezer is tiny. I became addicted to fruit smoothies and have gone through several blenders in the last three years.

I hope this helps for a few ideas for some healthy treats.