Saturday, July 28, 2007

draw the line

I've always considered myself a geographic bad ass.
I know, it's not much of a title. Oxymoronic to some, and just plain dumb to others.


I don't care. Those who say this can stay in their tiny little world with their spatially challenged minds, never really understanding the enormity of the mistake in native americans being called indians when first encountered by europeans. These are the type of folks who think that the north pole is terra firma, rather than an imagined bit of space contained within a lead in the ice, occasionally seen in the summer these days thanks to global warming. Or what about explaining why Greenland and Antarctica look so frickin' huge when projected onto a map to these people? Oh, wait. Am I talking about you?

My point is, that we americans in general, suck at geography. We have things fixed in our minds, that don't correspond to the reality of our planet. To me, this is the greatest challenge for people to overcome when trying to eat local. First, people have to know what local is. Then, they have to wake up and realize that local is a relative term. Defined by whatever it is you're talking about. The avocados pictured here are local. About three hundred miles away local (Ventura area) but that is waaaaay better than Chilean avocados.

Let's get tougher though and tackle chocolate for example. For all but one of the states of the union, this is not a commercial crop. Any guesses which one that might be? It's not Milwaukee! (Besides, remember, that's not a state.) It's Hawaii! Our Island state out in the middle of the biggest puddle on our planet. If you live in the islands, you can get local chocolate products in a very limited supply. But if you're here on the mainland, nope. Unless you want to call 2000+ miles local. Which I don't. The geographer in me........just can't go there.

I bring this up, because this morning I decided to make fun of my geekiness to help me solve a dilemna. I've been struggling internally with how to deal with non-local products in my diet. You know, the ones that just ain't from around here. Like chocolate, or coffee say. Or dry spices like cinnamon and pepper. Do I just ditch these things when I'm attempting to eat more local? Do I say: "I'm gonna try and eat things, whenever possible, from within 200 miles of my home" and just give up my garam masala, late night chocolate, and morning joe? Hell no.

I use my head, decide what's best to do on a case by case basis, starting with coffee. I draw an imaginary line from myself in space, extending some 2500 miles from here in the east bay. I imagine this as my "acceptable" radius of coffee. I figure this will cover Hawaii, all of Mexico, and maybe get me somewhere past Guatemala and into El Salvador. Then I bust out the technology and check my imaginings with the realities of satellite accurracy enabled mapping. Turns out Hawaii and Mexico are fine, but I'm only going to get into western Guatemala. Not too bad I tell myself. There are certainly some kick-ass coffees being produced in central america. But I really should spend more time with the map of the area. I mean, what the hell was I thinking, that maybe I'd be drinking some fine Costa Rican stuff too?

Then again, maybe I could stick to Hawaiian coffee for the month of September. My sis just got back from the islands and brought me back a taste of the volcano. Turns out this stuff is a special brand made for geographers like me.........jackasses!

Okay. So I'm sorry if I rubbed anyone the wrong way by poking fun at our collective geography skills or by mocking how ridiculous our definitions of local can be. Remember people, taken all in moderation and with a grain of local salt, the world can be a better place. Or at least a better place to make fun of it all. Can we at least agree on that?


K & S said...

I know I suck at geography. Another blogger introduced me to a World Map game and the first time I played I had 22! At least, my score is higher.

I've tried this coffee and didn't like it much. But that is just me I guess...I lean more towards Lion Coffee.

Stacie said...

ok, just wait until your kid comes home from school talking about pilgrims and indians! i went to the pre-k teacher and asked her why? and she said all her teaching paraphenalia (not too bad at geography, but spelling sucks!) says pilgrims and indians... and that was that! so i correct the lil bugger every time he says it, and maybe one day, it'll slip out in class... but i am not givin up coffee or chocolate... i think those and the spices were the birth of global trading, for good reason!

cookiecrumb said...

(Ha, ha. You snuck Straus into your bottom photo.)

I'm with you. Carve out some exceptions to your local diet fervor. You will not become Idi Amin if you do.
Eat well and wisely, oh Monkey Wrangler.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Kat: Mmmmm that's some tasty Lion. I think I can get it at Safeway around here so thanks for the reminder. As for Bad Ass, I really like it if not brewed too strong (and I like it strong). But I'll agree it certainly ain't the best of Kona. I fondly remember Sugai as having some great coffee as well as Kona Pacific Farmers Cooperative (KPFC) peaberry that was probably the best cup of joe (naw, let's make that joseph) I've ever had.

Stacie: Oh boy, I really can't wait to hear what comes back from school. On a positive note though, at my ma's the other night my monkey told a friend of my cousin (a 22 year old man) that he shouldn't drink soda because it's unhealthy. I was so proud.......but mildly alarmed.

And I'm totally with you on the birth of global trading thing. That's basically how I reason it too. These are items that just don't come from here, so I'll barter or trade (ideally, but far off) or pay good money for them.

Cookie: Thank you. That felt like a blessing from a sage of the local scene.

We'll make it a point to have you over in September (I better brew some more beer!)

I got to hang with Chilebrown yesterday morning and he told me I need to meet you over at your market sometime (he said Cranky gets there at first light) You do the Thursday sometimes? Early?

Mimi said...

I've thought about this topic a lot. What it boils down to for me, is all things in moderation.

Back before the days of cheap oil, people had things like spices, coffee, chocolate, etc, but they were precious items. They were costly and rare. I don't suspect regular folks had a daily coffee habit. I can even bet that chocolate and spices and sugar were used onlu for special occasions.

We have become such an affluent society and these special foods have become so common that we can all have them whenever we feel like. In fact, having coffee or something sweet is just a normal daily thing for many of us. I don't think we even consider it treating ourselves anymore.

Once again - this is where all things in moderation should be our mantra. If we use these foods sparingly (and we ALL go back to using these foods sparingly), so many problems will be lessened. Less energy will have to be used importing (and exporting - I'm sure there are some happy canadians munching down some of those yummy ventura avocados), obesity rates may go down, and when we do treat ourselves, these foods will dance on our palate because they will be extraordinary again.

Good post!


Monkey Wrangler said...

Mimi: Wow! Great, thoughtful comment. I was hoping this post would precipitate such a thorough response from someone. Like Stacie, I'm with you on the global trading thing, but what you added was another layer to the thought. These items are special if viewed in their historical context. What all of this confirms for me is that getting back to our "traditional" uses of food items ends up being healthier and more sustainable for everyone. It is indeed our american gluttonous attitiude that has removed us from identifying certain foods as special occasion.


Rev. Biggles said...

I don't get involved in such things, don't have the time. I buy and eat local every day, at my local grocery and at home. That's how I do it.


Monkey Wrangler said...

Irrev: What the hell are you talkin' 'bout? I've seen you at the Berkeley Farmers' Market! Or maybe you didn't realize that the stuff there is local?

Catch you Saturady if yer around, I've got a knife to pick up.....