Maggie and I like to eat. One of our favorite things is to take fresh produce and turn it into a delicious dinner to share with friends. When we lived in Glen Ellyn we’d often ride our bikes to the French Market in Wheaton to stock up on summer fruits and veggies. Now that we live in the city we frequent our Logan Square Farmer’s Market during the summer and the Green City Market year-round. This is a photo from last fall after visits to the market and an apple orchard.
While books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle have provided us with sensible reasons to eat locally, taste has been our primary motivation. Local food just tastes better than anything that had to be shipped across the country (or world!) to make it to our table. No offense Washington, but your apples are positively tasteless after their westward journey compared with our local honeycrisps. And salad-in-a-bag has nothing on sweet Midwestern winter spinach.
One of the benefits of local eating is the knowledge of where dinner really came from. We buy corn from the folks who picked it the night before. The man who sold us our Christmas steaks was the same person who raised and harvested the beef. As a recent article in Gourmet points out, knowing where our food comes from is more than conversation fodder over dinner. In “Politics of the Plate: The Price of Tomatoes”, Barry Estabrook writes about the tomato fields of Immokalee, FL. A short drive and a world away from affluent Naples, the workers who provide the labor in these fields could easily be considered modern-day slaves. Of one such laborer Eastbrook writes,
Lucas’s “room” turned out to be the back of a box truck in the junk-strewn yard, shared with two or three other workers. It lacked running water and a toilet, so occupants urinated and defecated in a corner. For that, Navarrete docked Lucas’s pay by $20 a week. According to court papers, he also charged Lucas for two meager meals a day: eggs, beans, rice, tortillas, and, occasionally, some sort of meat. Cold showers from a garden hose in the backyard were $5 each. Everything had a price. Lucas was soon $300 in debt. After a month of ten-hour workdays, he figured he should have paid that debt off.
But when Lucas—slightly built and standing less than five and a half feet tall—inquired about the balance, Navarrete threatened to beat him should he ever try to leave. Instead of providing an accounting, Navarrete took Lucas’s paychecks, cashed them, and randomly doled out pocket money, $20 some weeks, other weeks $50. Over the years, Navarrete and members of his extended family deprived Lucas of $55,000.
Not all commercial farmers should be lumped in with such shady characters, but there are enough of these stories to take a lot of the fun out of a trip to the grocery store.
With spring in full swing this might be a good time to consider adding some local food to your grocery list. Almost every town and city has a seasonal farmers market and some of us are fortunate enough to have shops like the Green Grocer that stock local produce and products. The Local Harvest website is an excellent national resource for markets, farms, and CSA subscriptions. From my vantage point, the economic and environmental benefits of eating locally are too many to ignore. And did I mention how delicious fresh, local food tastes?
I met with a community group leader at Cafe Gelato (highly recommended, thanks Liz) yesterday afternoon. Between the meeting and dinner with a friend at Piece I rode over to Humboldt Park to check out the Fiestas Puertorriquenas.
I sat behind this guy for a while and listened to the music. The festival runs through Sunday and, from what I could tell, looks like a good time.
My friend Thom pointed out a film festival about the sex trade happening this weekend at DePaul University. Here is the schedule from DePaul’s website:
Hosted by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation & The Women’s Center. All screenings are followed by a panel discussion. Admission is $5 for each film, or $10 for an all day pass. Funds to support CAASE’s work on Community Response Kits to help communities end demand in their neighborhoods. Screening times and locations:
Saturday May 24 in SAC 254: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
Sunday May 25 in SAC 270: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Adults
Maggie and I are out of town this weekend so will miss the festival. Of the six films I have only seen Trade (and blogged about it back in October). The sex trade is devastating in so many ways but important to acknowledge. These types of films can be a good/hard first step at recognizing an ugly reality.
If anyone goes to the festival (or has seen any of these films) please leave a comment and your recommendations. Thanks.
For those of you Chicago-landers, I’m highly recommending that you go see Purple State of Mind at the Billy Graham Center on the Wheaton College campus. The documentary will be screened at 7:00 PM on Thursday. I had a chance to see an advanced copy of the film a few months ago and was really impressed. Here’s a description from the website,
Welcome to a conversation between two old friends. Welcome to a real conversation about the things that divide and unite all of us: our memories, our identities, our beliefs, our choices.
Craig Detweiler and John Marks have known each other for twenty-five years. When they roomed together as sophomores at Davidson College, they were devout Christians. It was Craig’s first year in the faith, John’s last. After college, they parted ways, and when they met again, years later, they never talked about what happened… until now…
Their conversation starts as a bull session between pals and becomes a story about how people make friends, and how they lose them; how people change, how they grow, and how they deal with the big stuff: death, sex, the meaning of life, God. The conversation between Craig and John captures in all its intimacy and difficulty a one on one reckoning between two people who want to understand each other but won’t compromise their beliefs.
At a time when the country is ever more divided over questions of faith and doubt, welcome to a new way of talking… welcome to a new territory of the heart. Welcome to a Purple State of Mind.
I’m particularly interested in the honest conversation on display in this film. I hope you can make it. Here’s the trailer…