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Monday, October 11, 2010

Is Eating Green An Unrealistic Goal?

I was on the subway back to Brooklyn at 7p.m. this past Saturday night trying to come up with an idea for dinner. We were meeting friends out for drinks later that night so I had a narrow window of an hour and a half to plan, shop for, and prepare a meal. I ended up deciding I would pick up a few groceries on my way home and make a simple vegetarian meal.

But time was of the essence. The farmers at the downtown Brooklyn greenmarket had packed up several hours earlier and I didn't have time to shop around. I decided that my neighborhood produce market would my one-stop-shop. I snagged a big head of cauliflower, a few purple potatoes and some assorted mushrooms. In addition to the oyster and crimini mushrooms that I purchase frequently and am familiar with, I also opted to buy a little bag of white beech mushrooms. I had not seen them in the market before, and although they were grown in China under unknown conditions, I made the decision, in the name of convenience, to turn a blind eye and buy them anyway.

I was still thinking I had made the best decision based on my time constraints, until I was cleaning and prepping the produce in my kitchen a few minutes later. I opened up my little plastic baggie of beech mushrooms and was immediately hit by a distinctly toxic smell. Could this be? I took another sniff. They didn't smell woodsy and earthy; they smelled like chemicals.

Needless to say, those suspicious little beech mushrooms did not make an appearance in Saturday night's dinner, but the whole thing got me thinking. How did those toxic-smelling shrooms end up in my kitchen? I mean, I write this food blog on local, seasonal eating for crying out loud!? Now, in this particular instance it was quite obvious that there was something very wrong with these mushrooms (I'm not exaggerating when I say they smelled like a household cleaner), but in many cases it may not be so clear. If they didn't give off such a toxic smell I most certainly would have eaten them. Am I (being a person that emphasizes the importance of knowing and understanding where our food comes from) a hypocrite or am I just totally unrealistic and idealistic in my mission?

I hope the answer to that question is: neither. The green lifestyle mission is in itself not unrealistic, however thinking that I will make the best decision, or take the best action, 100% of the time is unrealistic. The reality is, I have deviated from this ideal, and have come to terms with the fact that I will again. The next time I am at someone's house and they have prepared a commercially-raised grocery store chicken for dinner, I will probably eat the chicken instead of offending the hostess. There could quite possibly be a time when I will buy a piece of fish that I think is sustainable and come home to the internet to find out that it is on the brink of endangerment. And, can I promise that I will never again order Thai food delivery that arrives steaming inside of plastic to-go containers? Realistically, I can't.

In times like these I have to remind myself that I will never be a perfect green cook and consumer. I'm learning as I go and, last nights mushroom episode being an example, I sometimes make a less-than-ideal choice. And that will continue to happen from time to time. I admit, and expect, that.

But I have come to the conclusion that that is certainly not a reason not to make my best effort. I will continue to read and learn. I will continue to do my part in supporting local farmers, artisans and businesses. I will continue to make adjustments to my lifestyle based on what I feel is best for my husband and I, my community and our planet. And, very importantly, I will continue to remind myself that my efforts will, in fact, make a difference.

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