As I promised, I am back to share my thoughts and the advice I've received on how to implement the ideas from this book in practical every day ways.
The main thing that I have read, heard from several of you and my gut tells me is true, is to take "baby steps".
On the right you will see a list of the steps my family has taken. This has been a process of about two years and we are moving forward still. I would love to get to the point where we could grow almost all of our fruits and vegetables ourselves. We hope to move back to Washington State and find a place to live where we can garden organically. We will be renting at first, so that may take awhile. Not all landlords want their backyard cultivated! lol In the meantime I am beginning to learn about what it takes to garden organically. In the meantime, some Costco's carry organic produce and I also frequent our food co-op, Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's. (links at right)
Now according to Kingsolver's book, these are probably not the best options because in general they are not local produce and have been shipped long distances. I do live at the north end of the valley in California where much of the produce is grown, so sometimes it is locally grown, but still usually it has been shipped somewhere else and then transported back to the store. So in terms of thinking globally and ecologically, this wastes a lot of oil. A better alternative would be the local farmer's market. You might be surprised where you find one. Our HMO, Kaiser Permanente, has one every Friday at their hospital to promote health for employees and patients. Again, on the right, I have a section of links for finding local foods and farmer's markets. There are actually some groups that you can join up with where you can get a certain amount of produce each time with differing kinds of fruits and vegetables in season.
A third issues in the book, is eating seasonally. This makes good sense, but I feel like I have been "conditioned" and in some ways have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea of not eating a salad and tomatoes in the winter. After all, eating salad is a good thing, right? When we eat foods out of season, we are eating foods transported long distances from foreign lands or they are grown by some alternative means which produces relatively bland fruits or vegetables. In this day and age, especially if you have never gardened or lived in farming community, sometimes it is difficult to tell when the seasons are. In Review #2 I did cover that briefly.
So, I see 3 Issues for healthy eating:
1. Eat Locally
2. Eat Organic
3. Eat in Season
Is it realistic to tackle all three at once? For me it is not possible. I am starting first with eating organically. On the side bar at the right, I listed the "dirty dozen", a list of 12 foods, which if you eat those organically will eliminate about 90% of your pesticide ingestion. That's what we have started with and we are working from there. Without exception we have found the organic foods to taste better. They are picked when ready instead of gassing them when they are green. A lot of organic food in the stores tends to come in season only, except for tomatoes and greens.
When it's possible I do purchase locally grown produce. There are usually signs at Whole Foods saying where they are grown, especially for local produce. I purchase locally gathered raw honey. But, I have not found a local dairy source.
Now, I am trying to be aware of what things are in season and enjoying what I can, when it is available. One alternative is to purchase items in season and can, freeze or dry them. I already do a lot of freezing but I am hoping also to start canning this next year too. I have put that off since living in northern California where the temps could be 105* or more during canning season! While, I would prefer to eat everything fresh and make it now, realistically there are times when you have to grab something quick. I would like to have things I have made instead of purchased packages laden with chemicals!
One resource I recently found that has helped me is The Organic Cook's Bible by Jeff Cox. This is especially helpful if you are a newbie to eating veggies and fresh food. It covers just about everything and discusses what constitutes good and bad for each food covered, when it is in season and there are usually one or more recipes for each food, along with a discussion of traditional preparation methods. It's a big book and if you are fairly knowledgeable about this in the first place, may be unnecessary for you. But, it is helpful for people like me who are learning!
My friends Charlotte and Deborah also gave great advice...you don't have to go out and by specialty cookbooks. Most things can be adapted from your standard Betty Crocker's, Better Homes and Gardens etc. My favorite basic cookbook is The America's Test Kitchen Cookbook. I like it better than my others because it is well illustrated with photographs and explains *why* you do things certain ways as well as how to do it. For a questioner like me, this is helpful. They also evaluate cooking implements. If you have ever seen the show on PBS or Cook's Illustrated Magazine, you will know what I mean. If you are a bibliophile, like me, I will be reviewing other cookbooks in future posts as I have several ordered from my local library.
In summary, I believe it would be difficult for the average family to jump right into an experiment like Barbara Kingsolver's. However, I think the ideas are wonderful and can be implemented in small steps. I think a good indicator is that if you are feeling extremely overwhelmed, you might be doing too much at once. I find that if I am overwhelmed by something, I am more likely to quit or fail. Take baby steps. Your baby steps may be different than mine because we each have a unique set of circumstances. The ideas in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle are not only healthy for our own bodies, but teach good stewardship of what God has given us on this earth. They are an ideal to work towards. Big steps make big changes, but small steps contribute positively and are a good start!