Friday, January 3, 2014


Add to Google Reader or HomepageHe probably smiled to himself as he made the decision to send the book to me. He knows me very well and knows how the hypothesis would work on me. He has seen how we live in France and probably made a connection.

Now we are back in France and I am trying to address that for which I have been ruminating as a result of John's gift of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and family.

The book is about how they became “locavores” for a year at their family farm in southern Virginia. The family agreed to eat only what they could obtain from their own garden/farm or the gardens/farms of neighbors. That meant no broccoli or oranges from California, no lamb from New Zealand, no red bell peppers from Holland or anything outside their region. The author claims that “Every food calorie we presently eat has used dozens or even hundreds of fossil-fuel calories in its making…” and once the food is processed, “Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has travelled an average of 1,500 miles” (co-author Stephen Hopp). The family wanted to know where things were raised and how things were raised: (pesticides? herbicides? growth hormones? antibiotics?)

So, as John knew it would, reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has caused me to assess my shopping habits from a “locavore” perspective. When we are in Michigan, I go to the Allen Street Farmers Market on Wednesdays or make meals from the vegetables of my own garden (no pesticides, no herbicides there!). The majority of my food shopping is nonetheless done at big box stores. I do pay attention to finding fruits and vegetables that are in season – as in Michigan’s seasons. (I love it when asparagus from western Michigan is available and cheap In the spring).

In France, I think it will be easier to get closer to a “locavore” profile. For one thing, the French display prominently the country of origin of all fruits and vegetables.  Restaurants usually have a display showing the sources of beef and pork.  Cheeses, some meats and wines are origin-protected. Origin-protected means, for example, that only the sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of France can be called ‘champagne’. (You may remember my post a few years ago when I bought a 10 pound origin-protected turkey for Christmas and paid more than 100 € for the privilege – to my great shock.)

If Ellen and I are to be “locavores” in France, it would mean shopping at the local independent stores and not at the big box stores. The one ‘caveat emptor’ is that in the center of town there is a small grocery – part of a franchise large enough to offer their own brands…

We are going to try it. (John probably predicted this decision.) That means that we will buy our vegetables at the local épicerie (grocery store), our meats at the butcher shop and our fish from the fish monger and continue to buy our bread at a local, made-here bakery. I will include the market on Tuesdays as it is the day on which we can buy all that we might need even though the Tuesday market includes fruits and vegetables from Africa and Spain. (The “little” market on Saturdays is populated with farmers who bring produce from their farms.)
Since we are starting “cold”, I don’t have a cellar filled with canned vegetables or fruits that I could use to bring some summer back to the menu. I will have to get really creative to make inviting dishes to reduce the boredom of winter vegetables. “On verra.” (We’ll see) how this works out. Stay posted.