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Food for Thought

February 15, 2007

I love fresh bread, so I had to whip up a new batch before we ran out. Here is the dough before its first rise, after I let the first half of the ingredients soak for 24 or more hours:

No longer a huge lump, the little loaves are going to rise a second time:
Finally, the glorious loaves emerge in all their yeasty goodness from the oven:

Now, for the weightier stuff. I have been doing a lot of thinking about our food sources for the past week or so. You may remember that I had “Mad Sheep: The True Story Behind the USDA’s War on a Family Farm” on my reading list last week. When I had only read the foreword, I had a conviction to finally do what had been on my mind for a while now. I talked about it with Lawrence and we both agreed that we will stop buying mass produced meat. We will only buy natural or organic meat products from now on, with the possible exception of ham. We will also try to buy our meat from local people that we can meet; we are already doing this with beef, but have been purchasing chicken and pork from the grocery. This has been a subject which we have thrown around many times, but we couldn’t seem to commit ourselves to it. I would call ourselves moderate meat eaters, so this will definitely mean a reduction in the amount of meat we eat because of cost. We already buy as much organic produce and other products as we can (or can afford, sometimes the cost difference is too great), heck, for milk, we pay four times the typical grocery store price.

Why has it been so difficult to finally make this decision? I am still not sure. I can’t even say if it has been cost that has holding us back. Reading this book though, really opened my eyes to how completely the USDA (and many other government agencies) are controlled by huge industry. It has renewed my commitment to put as few dollars into huge industry (especially the food industry) as possible. The ways our family, and any family really, can do it is by growing as much food as possible in our garden, supporting local CSA’s, buying milk products and eggs from local farmers, buying meat from local farmers, frequenting farmers’ markets and eating at home; we are also contemplating buying some chickens for eggs and possibly meat; our city allows us to have a certain number of chickens in the city limit. I can’t do the slaughtering, myself, but Lawrence grew up in a mostly self-sufficient military school and everyone had to do chore rotations and one of these were chicken slaughtering. (I hope this doesn’t offend the vegetarians out there, but somebody has to do the dirty work and at least we can ensure it is humane and quick.)

I have been thinking about this for a few days now and even wondering if I should post about it because it can sound kooky and too alarmist to some people, I would imagine. But I decided to put it out there anyway. I don’t think that having national control of our food supply is safe or healthy for our population. No amount of reassurance from our government or “independent” studies is going to change my belief that pumping our food full of antibiotics, hormones and preservatives; treating our ground and plants with chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides; or growing GMO’s is safe. You can only tamper with nature so much before there are dire consequences.

I also think it is so wrong that many people, especially children are so removed from where food comes from. I am proud that my children are exposed to food sources and knowledgeable about nutrition. It is so strange that in the past half century or so, the reality for kids is that meat comes from the grocery store in styrofoam and plastic packages, not animals. Milk comes from plastic jugs, not cows. Produce comes from crates, not plants. Our food source has become very abstract to a majority of people. The connection is gone and with that, the appreciation and concern that should accompany the choices that we make for the fuel that makes our body survive.

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