Sunday, April 19, 2009
Lemongrass, Galangal, and Turmeric -- not so local flavors
My amazing mum sent me two galangal stems & tubers, a few stalks of lemongrass and a piece of turmeric from the fridge. I planted them all a few days ago and have been keeping the kitchen steamy and hot in the hopes that they're tricked into thinking it's tropical.
Unfortunately, the turmeric rhizome got moldy, so I think it's going to have to go in the garbage. Perhaps I'll be able to find a replacement in Bellingham or in Seattle if I ever make it out there.
That's one thing that gets me about this "eating local" business. In general, I love love what "local" stands for. Eating what's near you makes sense -- it can be fresher, it takes fewer resources to transport, it's technically easier to involve yourself with your food by actually talking with the farmer or (gasp!) going out to actually visit the farm where it's produced. Plus, I understand and support strengthening local economies -- I do believe when you buy food from your neighbor, you're ultimately doing yourself a favor.
But then how do I get things I love without guilt? I love cooking Thai, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Burmese foods. Let's say my little indoor pots of tropical tubers don't work out or they don't produce enough for all the lovely curries I want to make. Do I eschew curry or make adjustments that essentially change a dish? I'd say neither.
I've certainly been eating differently since I arrived, less meat, more gorgeous produce, and that adjustment has been wonderfully delicious. But I miss curry and spice and tropical fruits. So when do you draw the line between practical, ethical, joyous eating and overzealousness tied up with guilt? Especially when what's practical and "right" for me and practical and "right" for you is so different.
The NY Times columnist Mark Bittman says we should avoid labels and just strive to eat "wholesome," "good" food. I agree, but here you bump up against the problem of definition -- some folks have been brought up with very different standards for "good," and folks have different levels of access to "good."
I guess it really does come down to a question of ethics and making complex moral tradeoffs. I'm going to see what some of these books have to say on the subject and get back to you.