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Renewing My Vows

As I type, I am enjoying my very tasty and healthy breakfast of fruit, nuts, oats and yogurt.  The fruit is local blueberries and raspberries.  The yogurt I made myself – still using the same culture that I’ve had since Christmas and going strong.  Now that I am using jersey milk, the texture is different (almost gelatinous), but the taste is pretty much the same.  The oats are from Ontario; the nuts are organic but not local.  I got both from Grains, Beans and Things, a small independent business in downtown London that carries quite a variety of organic foods in bulk (I can bring my own jars and fill them on site, eliminating any need for plastic bags or containers).  Both oats and nuts are first soaked overnight in a little water with a little whey from the yogurt (for why this is extremely important to do, read this).  Finally, I sprinkle some cocoa nibs on top for a little crunch.

August 01 marked the second anniversary of my commitment to eating local.  And over the past two years I have stuck to this vow – in my home – about 95% of the time.  The few non-local things I have been bringing in include olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, a few fair-trade spices (pepper, cinnamon, curry, cloves, nutmeg), a little fair-trade organic rice, coffee, tea and organic lemons.  The only exception I made fairly regularly has been to buy meat for the dogs – they have to eat meat every day (4.5lbs collectively), and try as I might, I sometimes run out of local meat and have to resort to the grocery store.  Now that I have my freezer dedicated almost entirely to dog meat (I had been sharing it with a lot of food belonging to my former roommate), I buy large quantities from local farmers or abattoirs and hope to eliminate the need for grocery store meat.

The first year that I embarked on this project, I was really good about making my food at home and bringing it with me so that I never had to buy from fast food restaurants and otherwise eat out except for social reasons with friends.  This past year, however, I really let that slide.  I even ended up eating at Tim Hortons probably once a month, although regretted it every time.  While I stuck to my guns for what I brought into the house, I found myself eating out more and more as life got busy and stressful.

Moving down here to the lake-side has slowed things down again.  There is a little restaurant on the beach, and independent business that serves very good food (albeit in styrofoam take-out containers… I really must speak with the owner about this!!)  But otherwise there are no businesses around.  I have to drive 15 minutes to get to the nearest store.  It is just as close (or closer) for me to drive down the road to pick up milk, meat, fruit or veggies directly from farmers or farm-gate stands, or go to one of several local farmers markets, than to go to the grocery store.  How cool is that?

This type of access also means that I have to start cooking again as everything is in it’s original form – beats, cabbage, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and so on.  I get large amounts of produce and I need to do stuff with it, quickly.  I also am inspired to get back to canning and preserving.  Today, for example, I will be making raspberry and peach-apricot jams.  Later this week I hope to make pickled beats.

So where am I going with all this?  After two years of reworking my diet and consumer patterns, I find myself more dedicated than ever.  I thought right from the start, and I was correct about this, that there really is no going back.  At least for me.  That said, I am easing up on a few things, like the chocolate nibs and imported nuts (I will, however, buy more local nuts from Grimo’s Nut Nursery come their fall harvest), or the occasional use of fair-trade, organic cane sugar.  But otherwise I am going to carry on with this (life-)project.  Indeed, I am completely determined that when I leave this wonderful home on the beach (probably sometime in 2010), I am going to find a farm property where I can raise my own sheep, goats and chickens, and plant a good size kitchen garden.

I find this dedication to eco-friendly food to be rather ironic in a person who spent much of her life disdaining food.  In my younger days I used to boast that I’d be perfectly happy taking futuristic food pills and being done with the whole concept of eating altogether.  And to be honest, I’m not much of a “foodie,” per se, in the sense that fussing over cooking and presenting lovely meals is really not much of an interest to me.  Of course I’m always happy to eat it if someone else prepares it, but for the most part I remain an extremely simple cook.

What drives me is not taste but health – my own, yes, but more importantly that of the environment & animals in our food chain.  I have always been devoted to the environment and wanting to live a greener life, but until recently I had no idea how much of a role our food choices make in this matter.  Indeed, research has convinced me that changing how I eat and purchase food is the #1 thing I can do to reduce my ecological footprint.  I think that’s why I find it easy to make the often cumbersome and occasionally non-economical decisions that I make.  Eating the way I do is about something much bigger than myself.  Yes, I am trying to heal my health problems (but am convinced that most of my issues come from stress and not diet), but mostly I want to help heal the planet.  And most of all, I don’t want to support practices that continue to destroy our mother earth and her wonderful creatures.  From this perspective, the decisions are simple, and easy.

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