The choice between eating cheap supermarket food versus being a sustainable locavore is not really as simple as it looks, at least if your goal is to make the world a better place.
You might think that an all-organic, all-local diet would be best for the environment, for your health, and for an ethical world economy—but not always. Maybe not even most of the time.
Sometimes food from halfway around the world has a smaller carbon footprint than food produced locally. Many poor farmers are “organic” because they simply can’t afford fertilizers and pesticides—in which case they probably can’t afford the “organic” certification, either.
Add in the issue of farm subsidies and their negative effects on third-world farmers and things start to get really complicated.
So should people who shop exclusively at farmers markets feel even more guilty than they probably already do? Overthinkers will be happy to learn that there is no consensus, though pretty much everyone agrees we should ditch the Farm Bill. (Except for the people who get money from the Farm Bill, of course.)
B. Traven is a Billfold reader (guess which one of you!) who sends us so many tips, we just had to give him a byline. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
I don’t make resolutions, but I do want to have more dinner parties/opportunities to cook for other people this year. There are a lot of great food blogs out there, but they don’t always include video, which is why I really like Food Wishes, which has everything from making deviled eggs to fancy French stuff. Those crab stuffed corn muffins are going to show up at a Super Bowl party very soon.
I unsubscribed to all of Gilt’s flash sale emails about a year ago, but recently rediscovered their food blog, which is actually pretty good. Its contributors include former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl, Whitney Chen Wright, who was a line cook at Thomas Keller’s Per Se, and Wylie Dufresne, chef and owner of wd~50. Here’s a post on making your own soft serve, one by Reichl on making a peach guacamole, and one by Chen on making a stuffed French toast. If you, like me, enjoy reading and looking at food, well you’re in for a treat.
I’m here to convince you to shop at your local ethnic grocery stores.
I live in Philadelphia. The map above of where people of different ethnicities live in Philadelphia has red dots for whites, blue dots for blacks, and yellow dots for Hispanics. In the middle of the map, there’s a place in North Philadelphia where the north-south swath of Hispanic neighborhoods tapers down to a point and mixes with the black and white neighborhoods to the west and east. And right there, there’s a locally-owned grocery store called Cousin’s. Not surprisingly, it’s a fantastic place to shop for food.
It’s made even better by the fact that there’s a fairly strong Muslim community in North Philadelphia. So: Take a full service American supermarket, add two big aisles of Mexican/Spanish produce, meats and groceries (including all manner of hot peppers, salsas, queso fresco, chorizos, octopus, salt cod, all of those different kinds of beans and cornmeal, etc.), and then add a halal meat counter, Lebanese yogurt, and a whole aisle of Middle Eastern specialties (halva, tahini, sardines in spicy oil, etc.). It’s a dream to shop there. The prices are rock bottom, the selection is amazing, and the food quality is equal to or higher than any other major, regular-priced supermarket I’ve tried.
It’s become my favorite place to grocery shop, but I’ve had a tough time convincing any of my friends to give it a shot.
Dana Goodyear’s New Yorker piece on underground supper clubs is great fun, even if you, like me, thought supper clubs were just a thing cool people did in LA and San Francisco and Brooklyn, like, five years ago. They are not! They are alive! They are THRIVING. They are a thing cool people do in LA and San Francisco and Brooklyn NOW.
They cost $90 a person, give or take, cash, placed in “a desiccated crocodile head that sits in the middle of the table.” They are not a place to get rich, if you’re the one doing the cooking, but they are a place to break even.