Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Venison and Spaghetti Squash

Tomorrow I will be discussing an excerpt from Michael Pollan's book Food Rules with two sections of ENG 100 students. I'm considering teaching this book in its entirety in a future semester, since it is persuasive, relevant, well-researched, readable, and concise.

While the main thrust of the book is aimed at establishing guidelines for a healthier, simpler diet, I also hope to discuss the implications of our choices as food-consumers on the economy and the environment. I believe that what we choose to eat is not just a personal decision, but a social and ethical one.

Recently, I have been trying to eat less meat of uncertain origins. This means not ordering meat dishes at restaurants and only purchasing meat from local farmers. I am lucky, though, that sometimes I get to eat meat that was not purchased at all, but personally hunted by my future father-in-law (with a crossbow, though I like to imagine him sneaking up behind a deer with only a Bowie-knife), who regularly appears at our house as if some kind of superhero. He will drive his 25-year-old Mercedes diesel-powered station-wagon up from Maryland with a cooler full of deer steaks, and change leaky pipes in our basement while he's here. All we have to do is treat him to eggplant parmigiana and some Sam Adams Octoberfest.

Yuriko is particularly skilled at seasoning and marinating all sorts of things, and so last night we had a delicious pre-Presidential-debate feast of venison rib-steaks and cheesy-spaghetti squash (with a dash of hot sauce). Yum.

As for Pollan's rule about eating “mostly plants,” I am working on this. Most days I try to have some raw vegetables for lunch, and we always have some cooked vegetables with dinner. We've also been getting the majority of our produce from a local farm this year: CrawfordOrganics. Even more important to me than the potential health benefits of eating organic produce regularly, is knowing that we are supporting local family farmers who are practicing environmentally-conscious farming techniques.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

102 Tons

Tomorrow my ENG 100 students will be discussing the introduction to Edward Humes's book Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash. The numbers that Humes throws at the reader in this book are staggering. 102 tons is the figure he comes back to again and again; that is the average amount of trash that an American will produce over his / her lifetime.

The introduction artfully begins with an anecdote about a pair of hoarders who were discovered trapped in piles of their own garbage in a Chicago home in 2010. The book is not about hoarding, so at first this seems like an odd choice. Then Humes makes the connection--hoarders are not really the "freaks" we tend to think of them as. We all produce such gross piles of waste; hoarders do us the favor of making our own national vice visible.

My fiancé occasionally worries that her father is something of a hoarder. He's not--at least not in the pathological sense--but he does, like hoarders, have a hard time accepting the wastefulness of our culture. As a result, he hates to get rid of things that he think can be re-purposed in some way. His garage has a frightening amount of gadgets, loose objects, machines, machine parts, and containers--all waiting for some new mission. Maybe that mission will never come, but it does seem like such a waste to ditch things that could be useful. The accumulation of such objects should serve as a reminder to us all of how senseless it is for us to acquire what we do not need--all wrapped in packaging we also do not need.

I try to do little things to reduce my own waste, like bringing reusable bags to the grocery store and recycling what I can--we even started getting our milk in refillable glass bottles and our produce in refillable cardboard boxes. But we know that, like all Americans, our wasteful tonnage is still excessive. What can we do to change? I hope my students are up for some critical thinking on this topic tomorrow. Maybe they'll have some ideas for all of us.