Ethical Foodie-ism

Wild AsparagusIn which we discuss being a foodie, ethically, and NOT the ethics of taking wild asparagus from a roadside ditch.  It’s not stealing.  It’s not. 

I took the above picture of what is arguably the only product of any wild foraging I’ve done.  And I didn’t even do it.  I was just driving the car when my husband said “Hey!  That was wild asparagus.”  I maneuvered the vehicle, he did the pointing and the cutting.  We both took pictures.

I could also make the argument that it’s really about the most ethical, local food we’ve ever eaten.  It was just GROWING there, on the side of the road, of its own volition.  It wasn’t growing in a garden from seed shipped from somewhere else, sucking down nutrients that came from a plastic bottle, or hanging out with some imported earthworms.  It was just there, minding it’s plant business, when hubby cut out these few spears.  I cooked it up, we ate it, and we didn’t even think about the beauty of the energy transfer.  We just liked it.

Buuuuutttt…. we did top it with imported olive oil.  And imported salt.  And definitely imported black pepper.


As we’ve ventured down this homesteading path, a great deal of attention has been paid to what we eat and where it comes from.  Compared to where we were a year ago, I’d give us a gold star for striving to eat locally, eat organically, and eat ethically.  What do I mean by that?  I mean, when possible, we try to pay attention to the whole story of the food we’re eating.  How did it get to us?  What’s the cost, not just in dollars and cents, but in resources used?  We’ve all read about lettuce traveling 3000 miles, or food grown in the US, shipped to China for processing, and shipped BACK to the US for consumption.  We can expand that consideration: look at CAFOs, the issues for migrant workers, the true effects of over-fishing the world’s oceans, and on, and on.  Pay enough attention, try and avoid it all… and you’ll end up eating dandelion greens, rabbit, and mushrooms.  In the dark.  Off of a rock.

No one can be perfect, including us.  We still drink tea and coffee, still use a lot of spices that aren’t grown anywhere near Northeast Ohio, and rely pretty heavily on fossil fuels day to day.  But we’re doing the best we can, trying to find others doing the same, and work really hard to have awareness of where our food comes from.  It’s not perfect by a long shot, and it would be naive to pretend that prior to World War II, everyone just lived happily on whatever they had at hand.  For thousands of years, humans have traveled by any means possible to find and secure the foods they couldn’t access locally.  From salt to tuna, we cross the globe looking for that next delicious bite of food.

And that brings me to the main point of all this: how is it possible to be an ethical foodie?  How can you celebrate food in all its best forms and still try to lighten your step upon the earth?  By going back to the “old ways.”  Treat imported foods as the special delicacies that they are, and not just something to devour in front of the TV on a Tuesday night.  Does lobster belong on the plate for your anniversary dinner, after it’s been conservatively fished, minimally transported, and carefully prepared?  Sure.  Does it belong on your fast-food sub sandwich, drowned in mayonnaise?  Probably…not.   Should we be consuming fresh strawberries in January if we live in Ohio?  Should we be going through five gallon buckets of coconut oil in a week if we live… anywhere that you can’t grow palm trees?

It’s a rhetorical question.

Throughout the ages, we’ve relied on trade to gain access to the things we can’t produce ourselves.  It’s not perfect, and it definitely doesn’t give us an endless supply of imported quinoa, but it’s a place to revisit from time to time.  When we’ve become so used to trotting on over to the local high-end grocery store and leaving with bag after bag of specialty items, we’re failing to really celebrate the food we eat.  When we expect year-round access to anything and everything we could possibly desire, we’ve crossed over from foodie to glutton.  By taking a look at the complete food picture, we’re taking a step back towards the right place, a place where we appreciate what we have, when we have it.  Use non-local ingredients sparingly.  Know where it comes from and how it was produced.  Try to understand the real cost, and not just the dollar amount you wrote a check for.


One response to this post.

  1. Great post. I, too, think of these things.


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