Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ethical Food Choices

I retweeted Relevant Magazine's article "How Much Should I Care About Ethical Food?" because in a number of ways it resounded with the lessons my head and my heart have been learning this year.

"Ethical" is certainly a buzz word these days. And I wish it wasn't.

Let me explain.

I wish we didn't live in a world that had to distinguish "ethical" from the rest. I wish we lived in a world where things were ethically produced all the time. A world where wages were fair, workers were not exploited and mistreated, where we strived to preserve our beautiful world instead of working for the cheapest.

I come back again and again to a lesson I drew from Tsh's book, Notes from a Blue Bike: everything costs someone something.

But as this piece gently reminds, I don't want my choices to be driven by guilt. And I also can't always afford the most ethical option. I have to live within the means of our family - and right now we are a single income family, with three kids. Money is carefully budgeted and alloted to certain expenses. Some months we just can't afford certain things.

But that doesn't mean I can't try.

As I have written before, in the summer months I visit the local farmer's market to buy produce and eggs. I can buy honey this way too. With the winter months, I called up my egg supplier and asked her if she would be willing to deliver eggs if I set up a few orders each week. She did! We get a dozen farmer-fresh eggs every week. She also has a variety of different types of meat if I'm interested. 

Our meat comes from a few different sources - chickens from a client of ours, beef from our own pasture, sausage and pepperoni stick from my husband's hunting. Fish from his fishing trips - though we don't get enough in the summer and still have to buy some.

Our freezer is full of chopped apples from my husband's grandmother's tree. They were going to waste when he picked us a box ... Next year we'll try picking more! 

Our small-town owned grocery store does provide some organic produce, and whenever possible I buy their locally sourced produce as well. Obviously things like bananas and mangos don't grow in our cold temperature, but we have tried as much as possible with other fruits, while growing a lot of our own veggies.

I'm trying not to feel guilty, and trying to do my part as best as I can. It's not perfect, but my growing awareness is helping us take small steps in the direction of "ethical food".


The Modern Mrs. Darcy posted this past week about favourite poetry collections.  It made my mind whirl a little. I used to love poetry, and getting to teach it gave me secret thrills.  But as a sleep-deprived mother of three (under three, I might add!) I find it all too easy to gloss of books and other forms of rich literature, and instead turn to mind-numbing TV and Facebook.  Her post reminded me of what I'm missing, and caused me to go back into the recesses of my mind and extract some memories of favourite poets and their work.  One in particular leaped right out.

Without a doubt Derek Walcott stands out in my mind as a poet I admire, and whose work leaves me awe-struck. I was introduced to him in my first-year English course at university.  It was love at first read. His imagery and vocabulary alone give me shivers.

Taken from the Academy of American Poets:

In the Village

Derek Walcott1930


I came up out of the subway and there were
people standing on the steps as if they knew
something I didn’t. This was in the Cold War,
and nuclear fallout. I looked and the whole avenue
was empty, I mean utterly, and I thought,
The birds have abandoned our cities and the plague
of silence multiplies through their arteries, they fought
the war and they lost and there’s nothing subtle or vague
in this horrifying vacuum that is New York. I caught
the blare of a loudspeaker repeatedly warning
the last few people, maybe strolling lovers in their walk,
that the world was about to end that morning
on Sixth or Seventh Avenue with no people going to work
in that uncontradicted, horrifying perspective.
It was no way to die, but it’s also no way to live.
Well, if we burnt, it was at least New York.


Everybody in New York is in a sitcom.
I’m in a Latin American novel, one
in which an egret-haired viejo shakes with some
invisible sorrow, some obscene affliction,
and chronicles it secretly, till it shows in his face,
the parenthetical wrinkles confirming his fiction
to his deep embarrassment. Look, it’s
just the old story of a heart that won’t call it quits
whatever the odds, quixotic. It’s just one that’ll
break nobody’s heart, even if the grizzled colonel
pitches from his steed in a cavalry charge, in a battle
that won’t make him a statue. It is the hell
of ordinary, unrequited love. Watch these egrets
trudging the lawn in a dishevelled troop, white banners
trailing forlornly; they are the bleached regrets
of an old man’s memoirs, printed stanzas.
showing their hinged wings like wide open secrets.


Who has removed the typewriter from my desk,
so that I am a musician without his piano
with emptiness ahead as clear and grotesque
as another spring? My veins bud, and I am so
full of poems, a wastebasket of black wire.
The notes outside are visible; sparrows will
line antennae like staves, the way springs were,
but the roofs are cold and the great grey river
where a liner glides, huge as a winter hill,
moves imperceptibly like the accumulating
years. I have no reason to forgive her
for what I brought on myself. I am past hating,
past the longing for Italy where blowing snow
absolves and whitens a kneeling mountain range
outside Milan. Through glass, I am waiting
for the sound of a bird to unhinge the beginning
of spring, but my hands, my work, feel strange
without the rusty music of my machine. No words
for the Arctic liner moving down the Hudson, for the mange
of old snow moulting from the roofs. No poems. No birds.


The Sweet Life Café

If I fall into a grizzled stillness
sometimes, over the red-chequered tablecloth
outdoors of the Sweet Life Café, when the noise
of Sunday traffic in the Village is soft as a moth
working in storage, it is because of age
which I rarely admit to, or, honestly, even think of.
I have kept the same furies, though my domestic rage
is illogical, diabetic, with no lessening of love
though my hand trembles wildly, but not over this page.
My lust is in great health, but, if it happens
that all my towers shrivel to dribbling sand,
joy will still bend the cane-reeds with my pen’s
elation on the road to Vieuxfort with fever-grass
white in the sun, and, as for the sea breaking
in the gap at Praslin, they add up to the grace
I have known and which death will be taking
from my hand on this chequered tablecloth in this good place.