Happy Superbowl Sunday. I’m sure that many of you have plans for entertaining, which means that you’re cooking up game grub right now. Me? I’m not a football follower, and I’m a deadline this weekend, which means that I’ll probably have my nose in the books as the game is on. (Yes, I know. I never cease to amaze you all with my out-of-control social life. You don’t need to tell me.)
Gena – you’re always reminding us about the ethical dimension of veganism, and the value of a simple vegetable-based diet, so I have to ask: how do you feel about many raw foodists’ lack of interest in eating locally and seasonally? Buying coconuts, bananas, or cashews – or zucchini in a New York winter – raises some enivronmental and political issues; carbon footprint aside, these crops aren’t exactly associated with fair labor practices and sustainability. Not meant to criticize or implicate; just wondering if this is something you think about or what your take was.
First of all, I want to thank Katie for phrasing the question in such a respectful way. More importantly, I want to thank her for raising an important issue, which many of you have probably wondered about. Here’s my response to Katie, which I also left below her comment on the post:
The answer is complex. Yes, I do think that it’s very commendable and indeed optimal to eat locally and seasonally. While you’ll definitely see errant zucchini or avocado on my blog in the winter, I do try to lessen my consumption of those things, and focus on fennel, cabbage, other crucifers, potatoes, beets, squash, and grains in the winter. I’m not typically eating my guac as often as usual, for instance! And since I don’t like fruit, I’ll rarely eat it in winter at all.
I do of course sometimes buy out of season: this zucchini is a good example, and so would be the cherry tomatoes I ate the other day. Avocado is a repeat offender. Again, I try to limit these instances, as I recognize that they’re not ideal. At the same time, I don’t commit to eating 100% locally, because I’m not persuaded that I’d be able to get the kind of dietary variety I believe in that way. If I were to eliminate avocados, the occasional coconut, and all non-seasonal vegetables from my diet, it would be far more narrow than I am comfortable with. I can definitely focus on whole grains and dried legumes and seasonal produce in winter, then, but I can’t focus on them with absolute exclusivity.
This isn’t a perfect ethical position, naturally, but studying food has led me to believe that there’s really no perfect ethical position to be had. There are strange loopholes and quandaries no matter what lifestyle you ultimately try to stick to: veganism, locavorism, omnivorism, all raw. The best one can do is try to adopt a position that feels most ethically sound and most right, which is how I feel about veganism (and just to make my own imperfections clear here, I’m only just now beginning to adopt veganism as a lifestyle as well as a diet, an evolution you can read more about here). That doesn’t mean eating locally is irrelevant to me; it’s not. But if I sometimes need to deviate from it in order to maintain a healthy vegan lifestyle, I probably will, with an intention on doing my best the rest of the time.
Hope this makes sense!
I should add that veganism (with an emphasis on raw foods) feels like the best ethical choice to me not only because of what I eat or don’t eat (i.e., because I avoid animal products), but also because of how it makes me eat: more consciously, more locally, more gratefully, and with more compassion for mother earth. Again, it’s not a dietary choice without flaws, but it is, for me, the one that feels the best.
How do you all feel about this? What are the values and ethics that inform the way you eat?
Since we’re on the topic, I’d like to share a soup recipe that could have been inspired by this debate. It’s mostly local (local beets, parsley, and carrots), fairly seasonal, and, since it can be served hot or cold, perfect for a New York winter. I’ve dabbled in beet soup before, but I must confess that I think this one bests my last attempt. It’s thick, sweet, comforting, and perfect for shooing away the February doldrums. If you make it with homemade almond milk and fresh juice, it can also be, if not 100% local, 100% homemade and unprocessed. I hope you all try it, and love it!
Hot or Cold Beet Carrot Soup (serves 3-4)
3 heaping cups beets, chopped
3 medium sized carrots, also chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 cup red onion (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp celery seed
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 dates, pitted
2 1/2 cups almond milk
1 cup fresh carrot juice
Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender, starting on low speed and gradually increasing (the beets will be tough on the machine, but they’ll break down fast). Check seasonings, and add more salt or pepper to taste. If the mix is too thick for your taste, add more almond milk (I’ve made this with anywhere from 2-4 cups of almond milk, and the texture varies).
If you’re not using a high speed blender, try either grating all the beets and carrots before you start, or simply steaming them till fork tender. It’ll work fine that way!
You can serve this soup cold, or you can warm it up to taste, either by using your blender or by stirring it over a gentle heat. Garnish the soup with shredded veggies of choice, herbs, or whole grain bread/crackers. Enjoy!
The soup, if left on the thick side, also makes a wonderful dip, dressing, or sauce (and it’s such a pretty color, too!).
Today, as a mid-morning snack, I used it in a not so local, seasonal fashion. I topped two puffed rice cakes with a few spoonfuls of the sauce, and some sliced avocado. If I could revise the meal according to “perfect world” ideals, I’d probably go for homemade raw bread or sprouted bread, and I’d select a local veggie in lieu of the avocado, which was in danger of over-ripening on top of my fridge. But I was in a time pinch, and this is what resulted.
Is there a perfect way to eat? I don’t think so — certainly, doctors and nutritionists and food coaches and naturopaths can argue over what’s nutritionally ideal, while the rest of us can debate what’s ethically ideal. In the end, I suspect we all have to find ways of existing within the food chain and the global economy without feeling as though we’re compromising our ideals too much. It’s not always an easy or perfect process, but it’s certainly an enlightening one, and I think it makes us all better people to do our very best!