Last Sunday, the husband canned 9 jars of homemade salsa. It took no less than ALL DAY to complete said task – there was lots of chopping and simmering and mess-making to happen, but we were very happy with the final product. We have another round of tomatoes ripening at the moment, so there’s a chance we get to repeat the festivities again next weekend.
Just one day prior, I started reading a new book. Let me go on record by stating that husband does not like it when I start with that phrase. It typically means: a) a discussion will ensue b) regarding our current life habits c) involving us questioning best practices d) involving some of his favorite things. I don’t sugar coat it any more. He no longer pretends it’s cute or admirable. We just plough into conversation.
So the new book is called The Face on your Plate about current food practices in the US. The author opens the book with the notion that he is a vegan and thinks everyone should be one as well. I appreciate that he doesn’t cover his agenda (though that is not a dining lifestyle with which I will participate. I don’t think anything quite that extreme is necessary, but even more so it’s sheer laziness on my part). But he’s a smart guy who has been in the field for a while and, though it’s attached to Hinduism, I appreciate that he “gets it” that food and faith have a symbiotic relationship. So I continued reading his book.
He offered lots of facts about the cost of raising meat – to the environment (greenhouse gas emissions), to the farmer and to the consumer. He brought up a thought that I had not so long ago, but in a differing vein – where I questioned growing broccoli instead of feed corn, he offered the advantages of growing lettuce rather than offering the land to animals grown for mass meat production. He also got my mind stirring when he talked about the gardening practices of levels, that foods work together to treat the soil well and then everything is happy and healthy.
Naturally, I pushed us toward changing some of our eating practices; I’m good with the 8000 pounds of cow in our freezer because of how it was procured – local farmers, good feeding practices. Happy cows and happy people. But I’d love to be largely self-sufficient with a bulk of our food – a massive garden, some chickens for eggs, a cow named Bess for milk (she’d have a bell around her neck for sure). Oh, and about 9 children to do all the work on the farm. We might change our last name to Bontragger and dress in all muted colors.
But I digress. J’s (very good) point was: well, that’s a lot of work. And there are times that you don’t even like to water the garden, let alone weed it (though, to my defense, I have been primary weeder this season!). To be able to grow and then preserve that amount of food would be a lot of work.
And that’s when the lightbulb came on. There is a reason good food is expensive. It costs someone something. When you want things fresh and local and sans industrialization, that means that someone has to do the planting, weeding, tending, picking, cooking and preserving. And if 9 jars of salsa took all day, what will a winter’s worth of green beans take? Not to mention the back breaking task of picking and washing and snapping. And for the food we’re consuming right now, someone is doing that. And if we’re paying little for our food, those who are tending to it are making even less on their labor (because the Guy who puts on the label will surely take his cut).
It really got me thinking about my cheapskate nature. Everyone knows I love a bargain. Clothes, food, endcap sales – I am my mothers’ daughter. But now I have to question – at what cost are these deals coming? At who’s hands? I know that my purchasing decisions barely make a dent in corporate profits – they will hardly miss little ol’ me, but as KLR says, do I want to be part of the problem or part of the solution?
Just food for thought.