Monday, July 18, 2011

One year old!

My blog is one year old today! It's hard to believe how fast the last year went. I started this project with the intention of exploring the local foods that Massachusetts had to offer, and my shopping and cooking habits have evolved quite a lot in the last year as a result. I think at this point, I have settled into a pattern that I feel really good about, and I plan to maintain it. So, I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to tell you more about the way that I eat.

Before I start, I'll just say that I don't like to put any labels on my eating style - I am not a locavore, or a flexitarian, or a lacto/ovo anything. My philosophy is to eat a variety of foods that make me feel healthy, energetic, and strong, which are sourced in a way that I feel comfortable with, as far as my budget allows. My top priority is to enjoy cooking and eating delicious food while maintaining a (mostly) healthy diet. And I am not trying to push my views on anyone else. I do think that it is important to give some thought to the food you eat and where it comes from, but many factors play into each person's choices, and I'm not going to judge that. Anyway, back to the point - here's a little bit about what I put on my plate and where I get it:

Vegetables and fruit: If you've spent some time on my blog, you'll know that I love vegetables, and they make up a huge part of my daily meals. I make a big effort to buy locally-sourced vegetables from the farmers' market. With a handful of exceptions (broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage come to mind), I really do believe that local produce is fresher and tastier. Therefore, in the summer and some autumn months, I buy just about 100% of my vegetables from the farmers' market. I really love visiting the farmers' market - it's how I start my day on Saturday mornings, taking my time to visit each stall and enjoying the festive atmosphere. And because I enjoy it so much, I end up buying a lot of vegetables, more than you would think a family of two could eat in a week, and I make a big effort not to let any of those beautiful (and sometimes expensive) vegetables go to waste. So, Andrew and I end up eating very vegetable heavy meals, which does a pretty good job of keeping keeping our meals healthy. 

Now, winter and spring are a lot more difficult for vegetables, since there's not a lot that grows here in those months. So I buy local or regional if I can - mainly root veggies - but supplement with other veggies from the supermarket. Having variety is important. I also try to freeze some fruits and vegetables from the summer to eat later in the year: shredded zucchini, slow-roasted tomatoes, roasted red pepper, cut corn kernels, shredded sweet potato, tomato sauce/puree, blanched and chopped greens, berries, and herb pestos do well in the freezer for quite a while. Occasionally I'll also make preserves, which is fun, but I usually don't have my act together enough to do that.

As for fruit, nothing beats local berries, stone fruits, or apples, but I almost always supplement with supermarket fruit so that we have more at home. Fruits are among the most expensive things at the farmers' market, so it is a treat when I get some.

Meat, eggs, and dairy: Since I started 4SoF, I have completely stopped buying factory-farmed meat. After learning more about the way animals are raised on those farms, as well as the environmental toll this can take, I felt that there was no way I could justify buying it anymore. I just don't think cheap meat is worth it.  We joined a meat CSA a few months ago, so we get all our meat from a farm in Lunenberg, Mass. Before we joined the CSA, I purchased meat from the farmers' market. Overall, the CSA is much more affordable (on a per pound basis) and has allowed us to sample many cuts of meat that I wouldn't have bought otherwise. And the meat is truly delicious. Much more flavorful than what we used to get from the supermarket. Although I consider our CSA ($8/pound) to be a good deal for ethically-raised meat, I do understand that this is expensive compared to the supermarket stuff. Andrew and I are lucky enough to afford it right now, but I'm not sure what will happen in future years, after we buy a home and start our family. And even now, to keep it affordable we eat meat less often than we used to. Even after we joined the CSA, we only eat meat with dinner about 3 nights a week, and before the CSA it was only 1-2 nights a week. I was raised on vegetarian meals, so the idea of giving up meat most nights a week isn't that hard for me to accept, and I enjoy the challenge of coming up with new ways to incorporate plant-based proteins into our meals.

As for eggs, I buy them from local farms sometimes, but not always. More often, I buy cage-free eggs from the supermarket, but I'm aware that "cage-free" doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot. I also buy dairy from the supermarket. Switching over to all local for eggs and dairy can get very expensive (and the products can be hard to find - no dairy at my farmers' market, for example). These foods are too big a part of my cooking, especially baking, and I'm not prepared to give them up. So, I've chosen to compromise there, although it is something that I am still thinking about.

Seafood: I try to buy sustainable seafood as much as possible, but I am still learning about this. There are a lot of variables that determine whether a particular fish is a good choice or not (species, location that it came from, how it was caught). Whole Foods has recently started labeling their seafood choices with sustainability ratings, and I've found this to be really helpful.

Eating out: I recently decided to stop eating meat at restaurants, for the same reasons that I don't buy factory farmed meat to cook with. As a general rule, most of the restaurants that I frequent don't get their meat from a place that has good farming practices. If a restaurant labels where the meat comes from, and I am comfortable with the source, then I might buy it. Otherwise, no. Making this transition has been much easier than I expected. Sticking to vegetarian (and occasionally seafood) tends to keep my restaurant meals on the lighter side...and that means I get to have an extra beer, right? ;-)

Okay, I think that's more than enough for now. I'm sure I could think of more to say, but I'll spare you. Of course, let me know if you have questions or would like to hear more about any of this.

Some goals for year 2:
- make cream puffs
- make croissants
- make bagels
- make apple pie
(huh...I guess my cooking goals tend to focus on baked goods...)
- make some preserves (maybe can some summer peaches or tomatoes? or make pickles?)
- try to create more original recipes (I'm pretty proud of this kale salad and this beet and chickpea salad)
- make more homemade pasta, and learn how to make really good gnocchi

Is there anything in particular you'd like to see me post about?

To wrap up, I want to say THANK YOU to everyone who has stopped by my site! It has been a real pleasure sharing my love of cooking with you, and your visits and comments mean a lot to me. On to year 2!

6 comments:

  1. Congratulations on completing one year of blogging and best wishes for many more.

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  2. Happy blog-a-versary! I'm looking forward to your preserves!

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  3. Ms. Chitchat and Amy: Thank you! I appreciate your visits to the blog!

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  4. Happy Birthday to the blog Ranju. I've enjoyed coming here though I don't visit as often as I should. Enjoy year 2!

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  5. Yayy congratulations on one year of blogging!! You are teaching me lots :)

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  6. I'm just catching up on some older posts... congrats on a 1yr blog anniversary!!
    I have a very similar food philosophy. Certainly the same with meat. We used to have a meat CSA from Stillman's but right now in the summer I just buy from the farmers market to have a bit more flexibility (and we still have a lot left in the freezer from the share that stopped in June). I don't order meat at most restaurants either... a place like Craigie is definitely meat safe though and is a nice treat.
    I have "make croissants" on my list for this year too... and possibly preserves from peaches I picked. I think I have the other ones covered already :D

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