Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Philosophy of Eating - Part 1

The following are the tenets that drive my eating-related actions. Or rather, these tenets inform my food-based decisions. (At least in an ideal world) Essentially, these are things that I believe and therefore things that I try to follow. These are the major themes of Cooking 4 Four.

1. Prepare as many meals yourself as you can
Basically, if you can cook it yourself, you should. This puts you in direct control of the ingredients and the process, which allows you to decide which ingredients and which processes are included (and which are excluded). You can eliminate low quality, artificial and/or unnecessary ingredients and processes. The assumption, of course, is that what you eliminate isn't good for you and/or isn't particularly tasty. Home cooked is generally better than non-home cooked.

2. Cook and eat as much variety as you can
Food and drink sustain us - there are a multitude of components found in them that we need to survive and be well. We can't possibly get them all from one food. Nor from some pill or extract - in many cases, the form of the compound or the interaction of that compound with other compounds matter. If you eat a variety of different foods chances are you're getting most every coenzyme, cofactor, and trace mineral that you need. Besides, eating the same thing over and over is depressing - it makes eating not very enjoyable. Eating should be enjoyable - if it isn't, eating becomes more of a chore and you stop caring what you eat (so you end up eating nothing but hot dogs, twix bars, and coke and that's not good)

3. Use as many locally-produced ingredients as you can (the more local, the better)
If it were possible and feasible to produce everything we wanted right here on our own property, I would. But we can't. So, instead, we produce what we can, when we can - our vegetable garden grows a bit every year. We're going to plant some fruit trees. (if only I could have my own hops and barley field!) For those things we don't produce ourselves, we get from increasingly expanding circles of proximity (is that the opposite of degrees of separation?) - first friends and family (my dad has a great wild blueberry patch in his yard and some friends harvest honey from their bees), then from local farmers (our milk comes from a local dairy, our meat from a local farm, and we try to get eggs and as much produce from local farm stands and farmer's markets), then regional producers (for example, I'm more likely to buy Maine potatoes than Idaho potatoes). Clearly, living in New England, especially during the winter months, we can't get everything locally. So, sometimes I have to make a compromise between this tenet and the one above - I either have to sacrifice using local ingredients or sacrifice variety. So I do. We always have bananas in the house, yet I refuse to buy asparagus in January.

My order of preference:
1) Eat something that we prepared ourselves using ingredients we produced ourselves.
2) Eat something that we prepared ourselves using ingredients from as local as possible.
3) Eat something that was prepared locally using local ingredients
4) Eat something that was prepared locally using non-local ingredients
5) Eat something that was prepared non-locally

Please remember that all this is under ideal conditions. Hockey practices, basketball games, grading lab reports, sick kids, harsh winters, uncooperative geography, and general crankiness do not always lend themselves to ideal conditions. During such times of less-than-ideal conditions, take-out is certainly a viable option.

(to be continued)


Adrian Thysse, FCD. said...

As the official cook for our family of three, I can say that the hardest part here in Edmonton, Alberta, is buying local produce. That would limit us to a Ankh-Morporkian diet of cabbage, saurkraut and potato, with the occasional turnip or woody carrot thrown in. The local market is half a city away, and only open on Saturday.

But I hear what your saying...

Kevin Zelnio said...

Despite having nearly the largest family owned open ground farm in the US, here in NC, we can barely get any locally produced goods. The "crappy" grocery store though, called Piggly Wiggly, does make it a point to go out of its to buy NC. But nothing in the chain stores. And, despite being in a rural area, there are no farmer's markets! There is a co-op though. Once we move into our new house and get settled in I may look into it. It was fairly expensive though.

Jim Lemire said...

I know that it is difficult and can be expensive. We're fortunate to have a lot of local resources available to us (and it seems more and more everyday). The cost is definitely something we consider and there are definitely items that we feel are not worth the price and therefore not in our pantry. There are a lot of costs beyond the price to consider though with the highly processed, non-local foods, which I'm sure will be the subject of some future post. In the end though I think you need to take into consideration the various constraints and opportunities in your area and figure out what works best for you. This blog is really nothing more than a forum to share and discuss the choices that I and my family have made given the particulars of our situation.