Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wild weather

My quest to get to Seattle for a kid-free weekend with my hubby is in great peril. It seems like a big swath of Washington between here and there is underwater, and conditions are not improving very quickly. The freeway may be closed through the weekend, and it's hard to say how train travel will be affected. The detour is 400 miles out of the way. It's really bizarre to be so completely cut off from a city that's so close.

The crazy weather has me thinking about climate change, and this brings up some stuff I've been meaning to post about for awhile. I haven't gone of on one of my crazy political rants for quite awhile, so it seems like it's about time. Or maybe I just need to go find some cheesy Lifetime movie to watch for the next hour...

The Book (i.e. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver) had quite an impact on me. It has directly affected the way I've been living my life recently. Its message was something I've been hungry for, which might explain my fanaticism. And I think I mentioned before how I've got sort of a messed up relationship with food that I do not want to pass on to my kids.

The Fly Lady has also been helping. Getting my life organized has helped keep the kitchen clean and a menu planned. This in turn has helped motivate me to actually cook for the family. The Barbara Kingsolver book has motivated me to try to use fresh, local, season-appropriate food in as much of my cooking as possible as well as starting from as basic ingredients as I can. For example, this week I made us a quiche (with frozen Spelt pie-crust, four eggs, some frozen spinach, cream, milk and cheese, Canadian bacon and garlic) which was relatively basic but not entirely. The next night I made a pot roast in the Crock Pot out of meat, water, garlic, celery, carrots and potatoes with a little rosemary, salt and pepper thrown in for good measure. It was so incredibly delicious and it's hard to get more basic than those ingredients! Tonight I made the kids some play dough out of flour, water, salt and oil. I didn't have to worry about them eating it (except maybe for some extra salt intake), and it didn't have that weird Play-Doh smell. And I can compost it when it all dries out.

I am also becoming very fanatical about shopping locally at small businesses instead of the big chain stores and restaurants. I still need to work on my Starbucks habit, but that's a problem for another day... The benefit to shopping at local businesses is that around 60% of the money spent at a local shop is recycled back into the community. Not true of the Wal-Marts and Targets of the world - the money goes back to corporate headquarters and shareholders all over the country. I fear that in our quest to only buy the very cheapest thing we can (and a lot of it), we're driving our country to unsustainability not only environmentally but also economically.

When Wal-Mart drives a bunch of small businesses to shut down in a town, what happens to all the people who are unemployed in the process? Sure a Wal-Mart opening creates some jobs, but are they the kind of jobs that can actually support a family? Wal-Mart is out for one thing, and one thing only - profits for their shareholders. The owner of Wal-Mart isn't going to be living in your community (unless you happen to live in Arkansas, perhaps), sending their kids to the same schools as yours. They've got absolutely no incentive to try to improve things for everyone in the community like the owner of a small business would. So the small businesses shut down, forcing everyone to shop at Wal-Mart because it's the only game in town. The owners of Wal-Mart get richer and people may feel better because they're getting a few things cheaper, but what is the ultimate cost of those businesses shutting down? The newly unemployed families (because these are usually family businesses) may have to leave town or work for someone else for a lower wage (and the same goes for their employees).

Barbara Kingsolver talks about local farmers a lot in her book, and it really scratched that "support local business" itch. She goes so far as to quote someone who believes that buying local and supporting small businesses is the most patriotic thing you can actually do. The only thing that's going to keep the middle class in this country middle class is if we're willing to pay a little bit more to buy things from people who contribute to more than a corporate bottom line. The current system is ensuring that the rich continue to get richer while the rest of us struggle and amass lots of debt while being told it is our duty to spend money to keep the economy going. You know what would help keep the economy going? A massive influx of tax dollars from the wealthiest people in the country! We could use it to pay for that war we've been charging on the national credit card.

Does my reasoning get faultier as the wine in my glass gets lower?

Anyway, I appreciate that The Book has made me think about these kids of things. We have a great range of small businesses, from coffee shops to restaurants to used clothing stores, all within walking distance. The other day, Bill decided that he was going to get his new pair of running shoes from the store around the corner instead of ordering them online. He ended up with an entirely different pair of shoes than he would've ordered because he got fitted and took each pair being considered for a test run. I try to check our local hardware store, which is family owned, before heading off to Home Depot, which is not. I shop exclusively at our wonderful natural foods store New Seasons instead of sussing out the deals at Safeway or Winco, because I figure we can spend a little more on groceries and a little less on takeout. New Seasons is an amazing company which supports local growers and is great to their employees. And they're locally-owned.

All right, time to go find that cheesy made-for-tv movie. Rant complete! Thanks for listening!


Blogger Cindy said...

I'm with you all the way, girlfriend! :)

12:27 AM  
Blogger Katy said...

Fellow Portlander here; new to your blog, and really enjoying it.

If you liked AVM, you would also like Plenty (Alisa Smith and JB MacKinnon) - very similar topic. After reading it I bought a share at People's Produce to complement my weekly trip to New Seasons. We are fortunate to be able to get competitively priced organic foods where we live.

Hope you can make it to Seattle - keeping my fingers crossed for you!


6:37 AM  
Blogger Meghan said...

Wonderful post! I also love The Book. Has made me really itch to start a garden this next year and try canning. =)

12:45 PM  
Blogger ChefSara said...

I agree with you. Hubby and I try to be good about where things come from...but other than seasonal farmers markets (which are non-existant this time of year) there aren't really any good "local" grocery stores, markets, etc. Finding someplace local that sells our staples is quite difficult. Though we have been boycotting the Wal-Mart since the first ever "urban" Wal-Mart in the country opened a mile away. I refuse to give them my money!!!

9:12 AM  

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