The Intentional Eater’s Dilemma

by Cynthia

The Intentional Eater’s Dilemma

I was listening to an interview with Micheal Pollan on NPR last weekend. He was doing Michael Feldman’s show, What Do You Know?, and was talking about the new addition of his book Food Rules. Micheal Pollan is smart, inspiring and convincing about food.  In the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan established himself as the Pied Piper of intentional eaters by tracing the industrial food production system from source to table.

On my kitchen counter sits Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver’s book about her family’s year long experience of living in the Kentucky countryside and eating only what they could grow or buy close to home. Kingsolver’s book convinced me of the virtues , and the pleasures, of being a locavore. 

In the same week as the Pollan interview,  I downloaded an article by Andrew Weil on the Anti-inflammatory diet, hoping to use my food choices as a way to diminish the symptoms of lupus that have been wreaking havoc on my body the past few months.  If I eliminate the foods that are on Weil’s list of no-no’s, and I eliminate foods that are non-organically grown, and I eliminate foods that were grown far away and shipped to my area, burning fossil fuels and contributing to the decimation of the ozone layer, what is left for me to eat?  Especially in the winter, and darn it, it is winter now. The only things in the garden are the winter greens. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to have them. I eat them raw. I chop them into soups. I make dips, omelets, and casseroles with them. But what about my craving for an orange? Or a fresh carrot?

Being a locavore in Zone 6b is no fun in the winter. But if I hop on down to the nearest grocery and buy an organic orange that was picked a couple of weeks ago and came to me by way of California and an 18 wheeler, I feel as if I am doing something immoral.  If I only eat what I can buy or grow in my hometown, I am resigned to the frozen or canned or dried fruits and veggies stacked in my pantry or on my freezer shelves. I try to be good, I really do. I haven’t had a fresh green bean since August.

But I have a confession to make. I buy limes. I buy them all year long, three or four at a time. Granted, I am growing a lime tree, I have good intentions. If I live another 20 years and manage to keep this tree alive, perhaps one day I will quit my guilty habit of buying fresh limes. Could Barbara Kingsolver and her family live on that farm the rest of their lives, eating only what they could make or purchase within a few miles? I wonder. Would her children grow up smuggling fresh fruit into the house under their raincoats? Would her husband leave her for the first woman who offered him a fresh vine-ripened tomato mid-winter?                     .

This food choice thing is one area where I believe in moderation. Michael Pollan talks about flexatarians- people who are mainly vegetarian but eat meat on occasion. I like that word. I’m a flexatarian. Mostly, I eat organic food that I grow in my own yard, and meat that some man in my family has shot and slaughtered. But now and then I go to Subway and get a turkey sandwich and a bag of chips. Sometimes I buy beef jerky and pretzels at the gas station and chase them with a Diet Coke. And we already know about my lime habit.  None of us has to eat perfectly to make an impact on the environment. If all of us would eat a little more organic, and a little more local, and a little less meat, the planet, and our bodies, would be a lot better off.


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