Posted by: lornasass | December 20, 2009

THE HIDDEN COST OF BEING 100% LOCAVORE

Yupik woman ice-fishing. Photo courtesy of Kwik-Pak Fisheries, LLC

I went to a press event at E.A.T. on Madison Avenue last week and had a sampling of exquisite smoked fish.  The white fish–a kind of chub– was caught in the Yukon by the Yapik Eskimos and smoked at Acme Smoked Fish Corp, an old-fashioned, family-run business in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

“Wow,” I thought, “this is ridiculous,”  and couldn’t understand the point of importing fish from Alaska to be smoked in Brooklyn.

It seemed frivolous and very–well–Madison Avenue.

But then I started talking with Ruth Carter, the Sales Manager of Kwik’Pak Fisheries, who explained to me that selling fish (primarily salmon) is the primary source of income for the Yupik Eskimos, a group scattered across the southwestern coast of Alaska into the Bering Sea–a group that, despite the sale of fish, still lives way below poverty level. If fine restaurants in New York City and throughout the lower 48 were not creating a demand for the high quality salmon from this part of the world, one wonders how the Yupik would survive at all.

This “aha” moment brought to mind my trip to witness the quinoa harvest in Ecuador about five years ago.

Quechua woman holding quinoa seedling. Photo copyright Lorna Sass, 2009

I was privileged to accompany the founders of Inca Organics who, several decades ago, organized a co-operative of farmers to grow organic heirloom quinoa and then created a marketing and distribution system in America.

Much of the quinoa farming is done by Quechua women whose husbands have been forced to leave Ecuador to find work.  Most of the women and children wore tattered clothes, had poor teeth, and seemed very poor–but they would be poorer still if the U.S. weren’t creating a market for this marvelous, quick-cooking seed grain, a complete source of protein.

Eating locally grown food makes sense for many reasons, not least of which is that we need to be conscious of lowering our carbon footprint however we can.

But to be a strict locavore has consequences that may cause untold suffering to the family of man beyond the hundred-mile locavore limit.


Responses

  1. This is so thoughtful. Thanks for talking about this.

  2. Hello Lorna! Thank you for this posting! We here in Finland have become more and more active in consuming local products – in order to get good food and especially in order to support local farmers and producers. But from time to time I tend to use products that are exotic in out part of the world. Quinoa is one of them. Good, nutritious, healthy and very good for you!! And your posting reminded me in a good way why I should continue doing that no matter of some “high eyebrows” from my friends!

    Thank you for a great book! I bought Pressure Perfect and I am very happy with it. So thorough instructions and also good ideas for variations. Thank you so much!! It is nice when reading the book I am wondering “what would happen if…” and then when I read further, you give just the answer I needed! And that makes this book different than the others – it goes even further, it gives new variations and also solves possible problems.

    When I received the book I had beets and was wondering what to do with them. Opened the book and voilá! The first recipe was the beet soup, borscht. I have done it several times before “in the normal way”, but needed guidance with the pressure cooker.
    Result was very good, but I had a little bit of a problem with burned stuff… I was wondering why that happened as the soup has a lot of liquid? I have hade the same problem after that also. What should I do differently at the beginning? Then again sometimes everything is ok although I have less liquid. Once I used the metal trivet under pork chops and it gave good result.

    Anyway, I keep practicing, pressure cooking is such fun!!!!!
    I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!
    Tiina

    • Hi Tiina: It is great fun to hear from someone so far away. I would be grateful if you posted your second paragraph on amazon.com/america. The scorching probably comes from ingredients burning when you are bringing the cooker up to pressure. Try adding already boiling liquid, which will bring the pressure up faster. Also, make sure you scrape up any stuck ingredients after initial saute. Did you do the water test described in the into to PP? I suspect that your cooker loses a fair amount of liquid during cooking and that you may have to add more at the beginning. Hope that helps. Look foward to hearing from you again.

  3. Thank you for posting your view on the impact of a strict locavore diet. We work with 2,000 small family farms in Bolivia producing quinoa. Their income has doubled in the last 2 years as a result of the growing demand for quinoa and sustained high prices in the U.S. market. Production is 100% organic and prices are above fair trade levels. It’s a success story of how our choices can make a difference.

    • If you’d like to send me a few photos of the farmers harvesting, I’d be glad to use them as a postscript to my blog. LornaSass@verizon.net. I LOVE quinoa. Did you get my recipe to run on your web site?


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