Belated eye-candy, and a bit about what I eat

It finally snowed here last Monday, the first significant snowfall this winter. Schools weren't in session because of MLK Jr. Day, so kids all over the neighborhood were out with their sleds. Maybe next year Daniel will be old enough to appreciate the snow a little more. Anyway, I've been wanting to post pictures of the snow, but I couldn't get any good ones until this morning.

We have this weekend routine that is practically sacred. Every Saturday or Sunday morning, we trek out to the East Side (all of 7 miles) for breakfast at Lazy Jane's Cafe (no website, alas), then grocery shopping at the Co-op, which is less than a block away from Lazy Jane's. We started this routine when I was pregnant with Daniel, and we've done it just about every week for a little more than a year.

Lazy Jane's is the kind of place you can't help but be loyal to. It's cozy and informal; when your food is ready the cook yells your name (STUUUUUUUU-AAAAAAAAART!!) from the kitchen so you can go down and pick it up. Their espresso's the best we've had in this town (and believe me, we've tried a lot of places), and their scones are locally famous, and rightly so. Nearly every time, we order the same breakfast: a scone, two espressos, and a place of scrambled eggs with cream cheese and scallions to share. Daniel flirts with the staff, and they flirt right back. There's art for sale on the walls, and oddments of kitch endearingly clutter the restaurant. We love it. After breakfast, we walk the block or so to the Co-op for the week's groceries.

Yesterday, however, we woke up to snow falling thick and fast. Not to be deterred by something so trivial as winter weather (this is Wisconsin, dontcha know?), we set off for our routine. As the car barely made it out of our driveway and onto the street, Stuart said "We might be getting freezing rain this morning. Maybe we should skip Lazy Jane's and just do the shopping." OK, no problem. But then we slipped and slid onto University Avenue, and decided that perhaps going all the way across town at this time was not such a good idea, especially since they don't plow the roads until it stops snowing, and that wasn't going to happen for several hours. So we just went to a supermarket only about a mile from our house; even though we didn't get the freezing rain after all, the main roads were a mess until mid-afternoon, so it turned out to be a wise decision.

I felt so strange in that supermarket, so out of place. Since I read This Organic Life by Joan Dye Gussow about four years ago, Stuart and I have changed the way we make decisions about what we eat. I've been meaning to write a post about what and how we eat and why, but I've been stalling because 1) I think most of what I have to say has been said before, and 2) it would probably be of epic length. For now, I'll just cut to the chase and say that we are committed to buying locally grown and produced food as much as we can. We (well, I, mostly) grow a few vegetables and herbs in the yard (there's a lot of shade, so actual growing space is limited); we buy as much stuff at the farmers' market as we can from April to November(not just produce, either, as you can get eggs, cheese and meat there); we do our best to avoiding buying out-of-season fruits and vegetables, though this is a lean time of year when we have to either break that rule or resort to eating nothing but cabbage and rutabagas...OK, you get the idea, right?

Stuart and I have also been reading (well, he finished it already) The Omnivore's Dilemma, an excellent book about food production and food economics in the U.S., and it's done nothing but reinforce our decisions about what we eat.

I'm finally coming to the point of this story. I felt so lost in that supermarket because they embodied almost none of these ideals. Sure, they had some organic produce, but none of it was local, it was exorbitantly expensive (even for organic) and had surely been trucked in from California, or farther. There were aisles of processed foods and really cheap meat (yuck) and TV dinners and snacks with all kinds of unnatural preservatives. They had fair trade coffee, though; I'll say this for Madison: you can get fair trade coffee just about anywhere. We bought just what we needed before heading home.

I can't stop thinking about American eating habits, and how messed up they are. I'm not talking about the obesity epidemic, either. I'm talking about how senseless it is that vegetables grown just down the road are twice as expensive, if they're even available to buy, as the ones grown thousands of miles away. I'm talking about how so few people consider what it means to eat seasonally that whenever I bring it up in casual conversation, most of the time people look at me like I'm from another planet. I'm talking about how sad it is that we are so far removed from the true sources of food (dirt! water! grass! worms!--you know I love my compost pile) that hardly anyone really gets the connection between the health of humans and the health of the planet.

And all this because 5" of snow stood between me and my weekly trip to the Co-op.


Pam said…
OH! This post makes me SO nostalgic for Lazy Jane's! I love that place! It's hard to believe not too long ago I lived practically next door to it. I loved *The Omnivore's Dilemma*, too. I thought it was a really good read and it totally changed the way I think about food.
Animal said…
Nice foodie post. Tess & I are slowly grinding our way toward at least the attempt to be more conscious of what we eat, and where it comes from. I like to glean little bits of information from a variety of sources & incorporate one new concept at a time; that also lets me share my delightful new discoveries either with A) people who look at me as if to say "What took ya so long?!?" or B) people who look at me like I'm from another planet.

I just read a really horrific article about hog farming in Discover magazine. The focus was on Smithfield Farms, a mega-corporation that is responsible for a huge percentage of pork products consumed in the U.S. I shudder to even relive some of the article in my mind. Needless to say, we're now really paying attention to not only our cage-free, non-antibiotic chicken & eggs, but also our bacon & pork chops.

The funny thing - well, "funny" in the sense of "tragic" - is that all this information is kind of there for the taking...but, you're right, most folks don't seem to WANT to know. Buy your canned tomato(e)s full of all sorts of shit only a scientist can pronounce, and ignore the fact that it's pretty easy to make tomato(e) soup from scratch.

Sadly, despite our living in a hick-y farm town, our local "market" mostly consists of people who make lovely homewoven handicrafts and little loaves of designer bread. And pumpkins in the fall. So, for now, our produce still comes from Kroger...and before that, points around the globe.
andre said…
This makes me very much miss my local food co-op in Ann Arbor and the ajoining cafe, Cafe Verde. It's always nice to have a place that you don't have to think about going to when you want to get out of the house. It's always among the first places I go when I'm back in A2. And I totally miss the snow!
Steph said…
I haven't quite figured out how to eat locally in the winter (except for eggs), and it bugs me. We eat SO much cabbage in the winter. Cabbage, cabbage, cabbage. I love cabbage, but I'm starting to get a little sick of it. And it's not like it's local or anything--it's just cheap. I'm thinking of learning to make sauerkraut, just for the heck of it.

I had high ideals about buying up local food like crazy at the farmer's market at the end of summer and canning and freezing a ton of it, but that didn't quite happen.

I do think there's a growing awareness about eating locally and food source issues in general. Caring about this kind of thing seems to be a little less fringe than it used to be.
Gade said…
Yeah, makes me miss cold lazy weekends in steamed-up coffee shops/cafes. You can't find places like that here in florida - I think it's too warm. People don't need warm and cozy places to go during the times of year when there's practically no daylight. Today started out nice and brisk, but the sun is out and it warmed up significantly during the day. It was almost cold enough to be fall up north!

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