Can lettuce be sinful? What if you eat it at a Quaker retreat?
I was at Woolman Hill this past weekend, a beautiful antique farmhouse and outbuildings operated by local Quakers for various retreats. They're quite eco-conscious, with many reminders about conserving heat and electricity, and carefully planned low-waste meals with vegetarian options on everything.
It was a wonderful retreat. (In between spiritual challenges, I even got in a bit of snowshoeing with friends in the sub-zero cold.) And as usual, the food was amazing.
And... sinful. I felt downright odd about the daily offerings of salad, grapefruit, and oranges! I did eat them, however, and they were delicious! Particularly since Peter and I have been slipping gently ever-deeper into a locally and seasonally-based diet.
Oh, we eat salads--of shredded cabbage, cold-stored carrots, and sprouts from the windowsill. (Our indoor lettuce in the window-boxes, after a long hiatus, seems to be growing again, too.) And lately, since attending the local Winterfare sponsored by our community's branch of CISA, we've had the most amazing winter keeping radishes to add as well.
But fresh greens? Citrus? It felt scandalous. (And, as I said, tasted delicious.)
I don't mean to imply that I have room to criticize Woolman Hill. Given the number of people who pass through their doors--many of them clearly with carbon footprints far less than mine--they do a wonderful job balancing out the ethics of environmentalism with the economics of staying available as a resource. I'm not trying to imply anything else.
But I really was struck by how established my habit of local and seasonal produce has become. A year ago, I would have thought it silly to hesitate over a bowl of greens. This year, while I did enjoy them as a treat, I'm too aware of the cost to the earth of even organically raised winter lettuce and greens to buy them in a store. (Virtually all organic lettuce sold in the winter, according to Michael Pollan of The Omnivore's Dilemma, is grown in Arizona--and not only is there a large carbon footprint involved in shipping the greens to us across country, but the land there is so unsuitable for such agriculture that all the organic inputs--manure and compost--must be trucked in at a distance too. Moreover, the intense industrial scale of this "organic" agriculture is helping to drain the aquifer--a truly non-renewable resource.)
I'm not saying this in order to be self-righteous, actually. I'm commenting on it because eating what's in season and what's sustainable has turned out to be so easy to do that I now do it without a second thought.
It's the deviations from that rule that make me think twice now.
I'm sure there are a thousand things that I'm doing, even now, that are not in the planet's best interest. But I am encouraged that change doesn't actually hurt, once you find a way to make it. And I'm looking forward to more of it.
(And, OK, yeah. I'm also looking forward to the breaks and treats--like this weekend's citrus and salads--when they come. Because they will be treats, and not thoughtless squanderings.)