Above, a meal entirely sourced from my local Farmers’ Market.
As I mentioned in my review of The Compassionate Carnivore, I enjoy a good steak. Now that’s not to say that every meal I eat has to contain some sort of meat product, and in fact, about a year ago I moved to cut back on the amount of meat my family and I eat to one meat meal a day (with smaller portions of meat) with two or three total vegetarian days each week. Last April, I made the decision to get our beef and chicken exclusively from a small, local farms (i.e., the farmers’ market) instead of King Soopers or Costco (or even Whole Foods), deciding that I was no longer going to opt-in to supporting the factory farm model of meat production. The Compassionate Carnivore has strengthened my resolve to the extent that now, when I go out to eat, if I can’t be sure of the source of the meat, I’m going to eat vegetarian. I really just can’t bring myself to eat factory farmed meat anymore. (Of course, thanks to my determination to avoid high fructose corn syrup, GMO’s and trans fats, my options are even fewer, but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.) Fortunately I don’t have to. Within the past month I’ve found local and humane sources for beef, chicken, pork, lamb, and bison; even my eggs and milk come meet the standard of humane and local. The addition of meat to my locavore ways has been a recent and welcome addition to my diet. For the past few years, the only time I’ve purchased non-local produce has been when the farmers’ market has been closed for the season, or if I happen to get a particular craving for bananas, oranges, or some similar food that can’t be grown locally. There have even been increasing numbers of meals at my house that are 100% local; last week I made a stir fry that consisted 100% of ingredients from my local farmers’ market, and I washed it all down with raw milk from Windsor Dairy. (It was pretty tasty if I do say so myself.) Has this new and improved locavore lifestyle been a lot of work and effort? Oh yes, definitely. Making sure I could eat locally year round meant tracking down a farmer who offered a winter CSA as well as a steady meat supply. I’ve been able to set up a year round supply of meat, and I’m able to get fresh, local veggies for nine of 12 months; the only time I may end up having to rely on frozen or grocery store produce will be January-March, which isn’t so bad, and since things like bananas are in season then, I’m still able to eat seasonally if not locally. It also means that on those days when it’s pouring down rain (or snow), I still find my way to the market to get my groceries; as I told one farmer on a particularly cold and rainy Saturday a few weeks ago, “My determination to eat locally and support local farms overrides my common sense that tells me to hit a nice, dry, warm supermarket.” The result? My food tastes better and because it is more nutrient dense, I’m eating less (dieters take note!), and in many ways I feel a lot better. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I know my food is also safer, and not subject to the whims of an ineffective FDA. One of my students recently asked me if the difference in taste and my health was simply psychological. Is that possible? Yes, but in the long run, does it matter if it’s “merely” psychological, or if it’s psychosomatic? The end result is the same, really, and as I’ve said before, living mindfully may not be convenient, but it is worth it. (With no argument from my kids… they are beginning to understand the issues more with every recall of food, toys, and other products.)
The other part of this whole change is the noted lack of convenience foods in what my family and I eat. I do still buy some things pre-made: pasta, pizza crust, bread, some soups and such because some things do tend to take more time than I have most days, but I haven’t made mac-and-cheese out of a box in a couple of years now, and putting the time, effort, and energy into feeding my family just feels good. I’m not an official member, but even my kids have noticed that slow food means good food, and the fact that I’ve added a touch of social rebellion to our lifestyle only adds to the appeal for my teens.