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I’m dating again. And I’m struck by how quickly I was able to repair my heart after how badly it was broken some months ago. I wouldn’t have thought I could feel so open, so ready for love and lust, quite so soon, but I guess that’s a tribute to time’s ability to heal hearts and my own tendencies toward insisting on personal growth. I’m a doer. I’m also a quick study and a committed student, and I suppose I simply refused to be stuck in sorrow for any longer than was necessary to really feel my own pain, convince myself I deserve better, and get on with the process of seeking better. Better men, better career moves, and indeed, better menus.
Today, Mac is but a distant, bittersweet memory, and being single, a reminder that I enjoy a truly unadulterated freedom that most of my married friends and the 9 to 5’ers I know envy. I am quite literally responsible for no one but myself, by which I believe I have only to focus on contributing something to this world and protecting my own standards of decency, and my baby Blue, in the process. I’m unencumbered and unbound by anything but my constitutionally protected pursuit of joy. And for a FOOD Maven such as myself, finding joy means living a food life I can be proud of. Sans guilt, con triple crème, I’m committed to making valiant food choices.
This is an attitude I take with me, on dates, in the kitchen, and even, down supermarket aisles. And this is an attitude that can get me into trouble when I encounter an audience, man or friend or foe, who doesn’t share my particular pursuit for the joy and responsibility that comes with advocating for real foods. Even my best friend Erin and I have found ourselves down slippery supermarket slopes where questions of consumption and consequence are concerned.
The Dinner Belle offers us endless fodder for debate when it comes to making real choices about real foods and the very real recession budgets we are often working with. How many times have I begged for heritage bred, grain-fed birds only to be told by Erin that our budget cannot accommodate these more expensive, more delicious breeds, and instead, I’d have to settle for their organic eggs? I can make preverbal lemonade with these eggs—quail egg toasts, garlicky mayo, poached egg salads and bleu cheese soufflés, but sometimes, because I’m not willing to throw my consumer vote behind cage-bound Tyson fowl or processed Perdue poultry, it means we can’t serve chicken. Now where’s the joy in that?
In fact, there’s plenty of joy in choosing real foods and their resulting homegrown, comfort-chic recipes. They always taste better than the alternative and boast boatloads of pride that comes from engaging in inconspicuous consumption. Whole Foods C.E.O. John Mackey had it right when he told Nick Paumgarten in a recent New Yorker article that, “conscious capitalism” is in and of itself a progressive act that helps spread goodness. He continued, “business should have a higher purpose—that, just as doctors heal and teachers educate, business-people should be after something besides money.” For caterers, chefs, and Whole Foods C.E.O.’s that naturally means cooking and eating by example.
Mackey’s is not unlike the Alice Waters example, which insists that choosing good food remains in itself a progressive act that can lead to further progress. Nor is it very different from my own mantra that suggests, consumers have a choice, and those of us who are in a position to choose (i.e. have money and access to real foods) have an equal obligation to choose ethically—between real foods that make a substantial impact on global health or fast, processed, unnatural food products that are causing the slow death of so many among us.
It’s nothing more than supply and demand. Small changes and choices for progress can have big consequences. It’s only when a majority begins to act on those choices that something as small as buying organic eggs becomes as big as passing progressive legislation for food change and subsidizing small-scale farmers who grow the heritage breed birds that bring us joy. Once that happens, quality food products like free-range, grain-fed, organic chickens become more affordable, more available, and more accessible to all. But even these small acts for progress come up against giant stumbling blocks when we’re dealing with choices as personal as taste.