Dear reader, (yes, Justin, I’m talking to you – you’re the only one) today I found my self wallowing in the pits of despair. I was on top of the world only to have it all come crashing down on top of me. When I look outside all I see is blackness and cold (in the figurative kind of way, not as any sort of positive relief from the hot weather and my inadequate swamp cooler). All I feel is every ounce of fear and hate the ever did and ever will exist in the world. If yesterday was sunshine and roses then today was a a hurricane followed by a tornado followed by an earthquake, followed by a fire followed by a 5000 year flood and poison ivy. The world has finally turn completely against me just as I had finally convinced myself that every anxious moment in my life was my own doing. The night’s dreams of sugarplums and balsmaic vinegar quickly turned to whatever the opposite of those two things happens to be (dog poop and Pepsi?).
There I was, about to cook the most delicious lunch anyone had ever created when careful inspection of my newly acquire balsamic vinegar revealed three horrifying words: “From Modena, Italy”. Now, just to avoid any potential confusion, I want to be perfectly clear. Those three words weren’t three random words taken from the side of the golden vessel I held in my hands. And they weren’t part of a sentence like, “The beautiful people from Modena, Italy love this balsamic vinegar so you should too.” No, these three words seemed to be indicating that this balsamic vinegar was from Italy, which by my careful calculation is somewhat outside the 100 mile radius (remember, I used to be a math teacher) circle that includes where all my food hopefully comes from.
My mind quickly looked for a way out. Maybe what they meant was that the RECIPE came from Modena, Italy. No… But why would they tease me like this? What did I do to them? Maybe I should just use it anyway. It DOES have the words Phoenix, AZ on the bottle and no one really has to know. Maybe I’ll use just a splash. Yeah, just a splash. How could that really hurt anything? And no one really has to know. I’ve been so GOOD. No one has to know.
Something appeared at my feet as I turned toward the stove to apply the sweet, cursed liquid. I nearly fell to the floor as I tried desperately to refrain from crushing the small black and white animal that appeared as if from nowhere. “Don’t look at me like that Kitty Cat.” In case you didn’t know, kitty cats think they are perfect and always seem to demand your attention at the most inopportune times. The momentary distraction brought me back to my senses. The balsamic vinegar still sits unopened on my kitchen counter, mocking me. Kitty Cat is sleeping outside tonight.
The rest of the day was a blur. Part way through my work shift, friends, perhaps noting my sullen state, invited me over for the firework show. I reluctantly obliged despite merely wanting to return home and cry myself to sleep. I took my old friend, Borderland’s sour beer, Citrano, to milk and pass the night. I’d nearly forgotten my unhappiness when the hostess decided to break out the ice cream.
Me: Sorry, I can’t have any. I’m eating only local foods for the next two weeks.
Them: Oh that’s no problem. This ice cream is from…how close does it have to be from?
Me: 100 miles is my limit.
Them: So if it’s from 108 then you won’t eat it?
Me: Well, I’d consider it.
Them: You can have some. We won’t tell anyone. No one will know.
Me: I’d know.
Them: Hmm (pretends to look carefully at the side of the container). Oh look! This ice cream is from 50 miles away! You can have some!
Me: 50 miles? So what? Casa Grande? Breyer’s has a plant in Casa Grande?
Them: Yeah! Casa Grande! So, how many scoops do you want on your ice cone?
They bring up some interesting points. Or maybe just one interesting point. If the ice cream was from 108 miles away, I’d probably have gone ahead and eaten it. I suppose I’m more interested in maintaining the spirit of the goal as apposed to focusing on following it strictly. For the first couple days I used canola oil that was definitely not local but decided that I had to have some sort of oil for cooking. Also, it may surprise you to discover that I did not extract salt from my body sweat. That was merely a poor, not to mention disgusting, attempt at humor. I recently added pepper to my diet, too. Judge me if you wish. General boundaries have been set, I hope to break them only when it is reasonable to do so, not when it is convenient.
Individuals have the convenience of trying to be situationally reasonable, institutions do not. It’s part of the inherent silliness that exists in our society and why we end up with written laws that are thousands of pages long. How can any simple rule ever really cover every possible circumstance? It can’t. Even an organization as small as the co-op needs strict boundaries to follow. Organic foods don’t have GMOs but some of our products are simply labelled as “natural” a designation that holds no governance and could include GMOs. We allow GMOs in the store and only replace a product when we can find an equivalent non-GMO replacement. You may argue that we shouldn’t have any GMOs in the store but at our heart we are here to serve our community and our owners. We’ll stop carrying those products when people stop buying them. There was a time not so long ago when there was some uproar when the store began carrying more meat products. But the fact is people bought them, so we brought more in.
Those standards put limitations on the things I’m trying to accomplish with my goal. Perhaps Food Conspiracy doesn’t carry a local product because they use a preservative that prevents us from bringing it in. Or maybe a small local producer isn’t able to meet demand and frequently leaves an empty spot on our shelve (heresy at a place constantly constrained by our given space). It leads me to shop other places and look for other sources. That doesn’t mean the store is doing a poor job of serving me and the community, it merely means that imperfections inherent in an organization put constraints on the effectiveness of its goal attainment.
1 bowl of Small Planet Bakery granola in raw goats’ milk from Fiore DiCapra.
Sautéed zucchini (Forever Yong), garlic (Forever Yong), onion (Forever Yong), tomato (Sleeping Frog Farm) and basil (my hulking windowsill basil plant) with salt and pepper.
Steamed Tucson variety tamales (Tucson Tamales) over torn and lightly steamed arugula (Sleeping Frog Farm) with Chilttepica hot salsa over the top.
That meal was amazing. I’ll definitely be having more Tucson Tamales in the future.
A hamburger and pasta salad from the Food Conspiracy hot/salad bar. Also, two white peaches (English Fruit Farm) and a Peanut Butter Swirled Chocolate Brownie from the Food Conspiracy Kitchen. In the words of Clare, long time Food Conspiracy shopper and, now, employee: “That was the best brownie I’ve ever had in my entire life.” I admit, she might be biased, but it was delicious.
Beer from Borderland to celebrate the 4th.
Hope yours was a good one!