Tap tap tap... Is this thing on?
It's been a long sabbatical, but the past few month I've been getting the urge to post so I'm back. We'll see where this goes and for how long!
I was originally going to talk about one of my favorite vegetables: celery. Yes, you heard that right. I love celery, especially stir-fried celery. And talk about Fuschia Dunlop's newest cookbook Every Grain of Rice. If you're serious about Chinese food, you need this cookbook. In fact, why haven't you already ordered it? If you have her other cookbooks, you'll see a small number of repeated recipes, but they are greatly outnumbered by new ones. It's only January and I'm ready to declare it a top contender for cookbook of the year. There are eleven more months for publishers to come out with something to wow me, and I wish them luck because Dunlop has set a high bar with her third cookbook.
Okay... back to where I was going to go, even if not originally. See, I read this article about quinoa production in South America, and that got me thinking about food choices. I try to buy local and (mostly) in season. With refrigeration and global production and shipping making many seasonal produce items essentially available all year around, our expectations about what we should be able to find and eat year around are greatly changed from a few generations ago. When is that okay and when does it cause problems? I've read about water-guzzling asparagus crops, while making Peruvian farmers better off, are also draining away Peru's aquifers, all so we can have off-season asparagus. What happens when they run out of water for asparagus? What problems do I contribute to when I seek out imported Asian ingredients so I can cook Chinese and Thai dishes, my preferred cuisines at home.
Then, while looking for that UK Guardian article so I could link to it, I came across this personal account of someone filming a documentary about quinoa production in Bolivia. Daily Kos summarizes a mix of sources reporting/claiming both good and bad outcomes from quinoa's popularity.
I love buying local. I support local farmers and local non-chain stores (and, I admit, I go to a chain or two for some items I can't get elsewhere). And not only do I want to support local farmers, but I also want to reduce the number of miles my food has traveled. But there are items I can't get locally, and I'm not an extreme locavore. So while things aren't as dire as the Guardian article makes it out to be, at least for quinoa, I am still thinking about what this means for my own food choices.
P.S. 2013 is the International Year of Quinoa.