Friday, July 28, 2006

Why Has Shopping, and Eating, Gotten So Hard?

I just finished reading an article that my mom told me about, Is buying local always best? The very first paragraph made me think, because it puts the whole issue of buying stuff into moral terms. I'm not ready for that kind of responsibility.....I just want to make good food for my loved ones, not be responsible for the success or failure of some farmer around the corner or across the world.

And that's what really gets to me, having that kind of thinking pushed on me so that every time I go shopping or start cooking, my head starts to spin with images of poor Indians harvesting turmeric or kari leaves and American farmers growing corn or raising cattle and barely holding on to their farm. Each of them does something valuable for me. Can't I just buy the food I need or like from them without a guilt trip no matter which one I choose?

Don't get me wrong, I admire people like Lucette, the vintage cook who try eating locally and discover new things like ramps and purslane. I wish I had more time to explore for things like that here. But I'm not willing to let eating local put limits on what I can eat. I'll probably never live in a place that grows vanilla or cacao beans, and there's no way I'll ever give up vanilla or chocolate just because they need to be harvested and processed someplace else. Especially not when my daughter's gluten intolerance means getting creative with other ingredients so that she can enjoy cakes and cookies. And I absolutely love getting to try new things from all over the world. I remember when it was a very special treat for my gramma to get some lingonberries from her home country. I was lucky if I got one taste from those small jars....And now I can get lingonberry preserves from Ikea and make delicious things with it pretty much whenever I want!

I don't like the big box stores very much, but with a large family and a fairly tight budget, Costco and WalMart are sometimes the only way we can get everything we need. I wish I could buy meat locally, but I wouldn't be able to buy enough for all of us if I did. The big-box places don't always have what I want, especially odd produce and ethnic ingredients, so I try to find a local store or go online for those items. And what about the local families that depend on those places for jobs? It just isn't a simple situation.

I'm not really sure what my point is, maybe I need another cup of coffee to wake my brain up before I'll find one....but the article has some good points about possible downsides of the keep-it-local movement that are worth thinking about. It's hard enough buying food for everybody in my family without getting all worried about being moral. The way I see it, anybody that's trying to make an honest living is worth doing business with, at least once. And if I'm ever able to get my own home business going, I hope that, and the quality of my items, are the main things my customers think about.

You are right, there aren't always easy choices out there. When I worked for Safeway we were forced to not support Walmart in anyway and even were supposed to help boycott. However, as a single mom I shopped Walmart and just tried to not let anyone know. I think the most important thing is that you care enough to have any of it cross your mind and help you make choices as a responsible person in this great world we live in.
I've always worried about about buy local campaigns, in particular buy Australian goods instead of imported. If we want to trade with the rest of the world, how fair is it that we want to sell to them but not buy their products?
Thanks Linda. Neil, very good point. Can you imagine going without some of those delicious French cheeses?
Just found this--I agree with you, of course. Do without chocolate or turmeric or olive oil because they don't come from Ohio? Not so much.
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