Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Two Ways to Dine in the Hudson Valley

There is a hummingbird feeder outside my window. I put it up after a hummingbird came to the window in late May and looked inside as if to say "There used to be a feeder here". Now I can watch the different hummingbirds come to the feeder and they all seem to eat in different ways. This sparked me to think about the different ways we eat.

1. Inflight refueling (Some hummingbirds come to the feeder and never perch.)

This reminds me of the industrial eating we do while carrying on our busy schedule. These meals usually comprise cheap fast food, eaten without attention to the food or how it tastes. If the food can be handled with one hand while driving with the other, so much the better. I use the term industrial eating because production of this food comes from U.S. Government subsidized agribusiness, based largely on corn and consumption of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are used in the machinery to plant and harvest the corn, to create the liquid nitrogen used to fertilize, and herbicides to keep weeds out of the field. Some of the corn goes to the feedlot by truck where it meets a steer that also arrived by truck. Some of the corn goes to wet milling and becomes high fructose corm syrup and other byproducts used in creating a fast food meal from food science. The fast food calorie wastes most of the calories that are directly available from the corn itself before all this processing takes place. The food industry burns nearly a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the United States. It takes between seven and ten calories of fossil fuels energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to your plate.

Think globally, eat regionally.

In our first article "Proximity to the plate", we talked about the carbon footprint of your plate, and other reasons we get our supplies from local farms. You might wonder why we emphasize bioregional food and not "Organic" food. Some bioregional food is organically grown, but not all Organic food you can buy locally is regional. Dutchess and Columbia Counties have many Organic farms and orchards which deliver fine products. "Organic" food has become an $11 Billion industry with major corporations involved. The USDA, heeding the influence of "corporate Organic", has defined what "Organic" means, that is, what is acceptable in processed food while still able to be labeled "Organic". Organic food production is still industrialized, and distributed via regular large scale shipping. The big Organic suppliers are in California, and other states in the West. Organic beef can still be readied for slaughter in massive feedlots. The largest Organic dairy is in Idaho, and milks a heard of thousands around the clock, milking each cow three times a day. "Organic" has more to do with the way the land is treated rather than the way the food is processed. While organic farmers use about a third less fossil fuels than conventional operations, they can catch up quickly if their compost is not produced onsite or nearby. Organic growers don't use petroleum derived fertilizers and pesticides, but industrial organic growing operations can use more diesel fuel than conventional farming hauling compost and cultivating fields for weeds.

2. Sit, Relax, Enjoy (Some hummingbirds sit on the perch and drink long from the feeder.)

At Swoon Kitchenbar we think we are pretty skilled at this kind of dining. This is the other side of dining that is equally important, your experience and how the plate gets from the kitchen to you. We take great care in understanding what gets into your food before it gets to us, and then to you. We want to make sure you can come to Swoon Kitchenbar to sit, relax, and enjoy.

Resource: Information for this article came from The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, published by The Penguin Press. Try your local bookstore first before ordering it online and having it shipped across the country.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I love it! Think globally, eat locally. That's one of the reasons that Swoon Kitchenbar is our favorite restaurant!! I did much to much inflight refueling in the past - too busy to sit down and enjoy. But now, after discovering the delights that local food has to offer, no more of that!!