Sunday, September 16, 2007

The New York Magazine cover story this week is by a dude in Brooklyn who took a locavore experiment to new heights. He vowed to feed himself for a month exclusively on food grown or raised in his Brooklyn back yard. It sounds like he faced some insurmountable problems that Barbara Kingsolver was able to avoid, thanks to her several acres of fertile Appalachian farmland. I'm not sure I could live basically on chicken, eggs, tomatoes, and a few eggplants for a month.

In the same issue, the always-vocal Adam Platt weighed in with his own concerns about how locavore ethics could hurt the quality of food in the restaurant scene. As as foodie who loves truffles, french cheeses, olive oil, and imported chocolates, but who still cares about sustainable and local agriculture, I've thought about many of the same factors. But I do think that, at least when it comes to luxury foods, it's okay to make exceptions if the quality payoff is worth it. In another recent piece about the scam that is the bottled water industry, Charles Fishman interviewed the controversial ethicist and father of modern vegetarianism Peter Singer on a similar topic. The never-ambigious moralist feels that, "buying the [French] merlot may help sustain a tradition in the French countryside that we value--a community, a way of life, a set of values that would disappear if we stopped buying French wines. I doubt if you travel to Fiji you would find a tradition of cultivation of Fiji water."
So basically, buying cured meats from Palermo has a couple of differences from insisting on buying inexpensive, out of season fruit flown in from South America. First, it respects a tradition of excellence that may die out if everyone outside of the region boycotted it on locavore grounds. Also, since these premium items tend to secure high retail prices, this isn't a case of wealthy Americans using the world as our race-to-the-lowest-price farm. Hence, until global warming changes the New York climate enough to allow for excellent local olive oil production, I won't feel too guilty buying imported Italian cold-pressed XVOO (take that Rachel Ray, I'm starting a new acronym!).

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