Sunday, March 22, 2009

Eating Our Way Through News Monday

Today, I'd like to dedicate the Monday news 'blog to the all-important subject of eating.

Consider it: This week alone your Miss found articles on the First Lady, writers, kids, and farmers, and they were all linked by one big subject: Food, and the way we consume it. Everyone from the White House down is concerned with what we're putting in our mouths, and that's a good thing. But then I found an article titled, "Eating Food That's Better for You, Organic or Not." (Link is below.) It was long, and it took me the better part of a cup of coffee to work through.

The article discusses the shortcomings of the organic label in the United States, and how confusing it can be to try and remedy that confusion while still letting "organic" mean something to the general consumer. It tackles the fact that organic food is still out of the price range of many supermarket shoppers, and it made the very important point that organic doesn't necessarily mean "good for you." And, then, finally, at long, long last, it talked about the concept of local food, but only then to make the point that "organic" doesn't mean "local."

I thought, geez, if it takes one adult human fifteen minutes to read through an article that basically only presents that problems with organic, kids must be totally frustrated.

Here's a solution: Go local first, organic second. In the first place, if we're all about getting back to food the way it's meant to be grown and consumed, doesn't it make sense to also consider what's natural for the land, and growing cycles? And in the second place, kids can learn about the very nebulous idea of organic in a super-tangible way: by looking at what grows best in their own backyard.

I speak figuratively, of course: In my household, we order from a CSA group. CSA stands for "community-supported agriculture," and while it's nice to know that we're supporting local businesses by buying from farms nearby, it's also wonderful that we're getting food that wants to be grown near us, as opposed to being force-grown, in a greenhouse, or in a different state, or country. I like the idea that I'm getting, for instance, root vegetables and dark, leafy greens in the winter, as opposed to delicate romaine lettuces that have no business surviving a hard winter, and endive that had to be shipped in from Mexico.

These are vegetables that belong in winter.

These are vegetables that don't.

Eating organic is something to aspire to, and something every kid should know about at some point, for sure. But this is a great opportunity to teach them about their immediate surroundings, and teach them what belongs there--naturally. (Your Miss is reminded of the unfortunate day she found out that her assistant, who'd grown up in New York City, had no idea what a chickadee looks like. New York City, of course, is a major birding mecca.)

This is a Chickadee. Now you know, too.

Find out what the folks who lived here so long ago, before there were trucking lines and airplanes, lived on. Take a look at our history, learn from it. And, this winter, when the ground is hard and frost covers your window, cook up a parsnip. And when it's hot and sticky in the summer, find an eggplant, saute it with some cherry tomatoes. Your kids will find out right fast: It was meant to grow in the season you're buying it, it'll taste miles better, and it won't have traveled miles to get to you.

Read the article I did at the New York Times.

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