How long before the world of Wall E becomes our reality? In the movie, the earth had become so polluted that nothing would grow, and the people were forced to board a ship and live in space. The most disturbing part of the movie, however, was that everyone on the ship was obese and had become so weak that they had to be carted around on something like one-person train cars. Food had somehow been made even more quick and convenient than in our current reality. The people were all simply carted around, passive and unthinking. Are we not half way there already?
Without going into a deep Marxist discussion here, I want to point out what I see as a serious flaw in the way that we shop here in the United States. We are so incredibly removed from the source of our products, especially food. Everything about the way we buy food seems designed to make it impossible to trace it to a source. Sadly, it’s “normal” to just accept this, and it’s “weird” to question it. We have a store here that sells “local” organic produce. When I first started my search for a CSA, I went there to find out where they buy their produce, and I will never forget how disappointed I was to find out that no one at the store could tell me—but they were happy to look at the stickers on the fruit to at least pinpoint a country of origin. Gee, thanks guys! Frustrated, I went to an indoor, year-round farmers market to find out where they buy their produce; luckily, they went into great detail about the various farms around Georgia that they have built relationships with. But they had no idea what a CSA was. I can’t fault them for it, but I can be a little disappointed, right?
But, like in Wall-E, we are expected to move constantly forward, as if on a conveyer belt. We are not supposed to question the status quo. We are not supposed to know the answers. We are not supposed to know how things could be different. We are not supposed to wonder how things have come to be as they are. We are just supposed to buy them. I’m always shocked by the number of people around me who refuse to see past the conveyor belt. First step: ASK QUESTIONS.
Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned so far is to always ask where food comes from. I have learned, again and again, that one should NEVER make assumptions, even when things appear cut-and-dry. For instance, the Marietta Square Farmers Market, which by definition should be entirely comprised of foods that are Georgia grown and produced, has vendors who carry products and produce from many places that are out of state and even out of country! Last night I had dinner at a restaurant that goes to great lengths to promote itself as a farm-to-table farmstead restaurant…but at closer examination I found that their definition of farmstead isn’t consistent with my own understanding of it. After enjoying a fantastic meal, I struck up a conversation with the server who, to her credit, was extremely knowledgeable about where the meat and produce came from. She informed me that they have partnerships with farms all over the world, including Columbia. Columbia like the country…so much for our new miracle restaurant.
So far, despite my best efforts to stay as close to the source as possible, I have [accidentally] bought “local” apples from New Zealand, and I have enjoyed “farmstead” fare from Columbia. And every time I think I’ve learned my lesson, I find myself learning it again. It feels awkward to ask sometimes, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s only awkward if they don’t know—and that’s not my fault for asking, it’s theirs for selling a product they know little or nothing about. I am also learning to expedite the awkward moment—chances are pretty good that if they don’t understand the question, they’re probably not going to know the answer. Even people running farmstands at the farmers market look at me like I’ve grown a new head when I ask where their produce is grown. Some proudly boast about how far their vegetables have traveled to be at our farmers market! Judging from the reactions I get when I ask, it’s pretty obvious that I’m not supposed to know. Isn’t that all the more reason to dig for the answer?
Moral of the story? Ask questions. Communicate until an understanding is reached, and make no assumptions. I can’t assume that everyone is speaking the same language when it comes to words such as local, organic, ethical, and sustainable. And it doesn’t mean that any one definition is wrong—anyone who is out there making an effort gets my respect, even if I disagree with their method. It’s just frustrating to be a conscious consumer in an economy that has become so disconnected—especially in East Cobb, where it’s suddenly really cool to be healthy and there are so many hip suburban moms shopping on the organic bandwagon. (Dear god please don’t let me be one of them…)
Today’s recipe: Baked Donuts!
This recipe uses a special baking pan that has cups in the shape of donuts; you could also form into balls and bake on a cookie sheet to make donut holes!
***A quick note about flour: most recipes call for a certain kind of flour, depending on the desired consistency. Personally, I’m more interested in the nutrition. I think any kind of flour would work in this recipe; I have used all whole-wheat, but my favorite flour to bake with is unbleached white flour w/germ. It has more protein and fiber than wheat flour, and the taste and consistency aren’t as overwhelming in baked goods as whole wheat sometimes can be.
Next time I make these, I will be replacing ½ cup of flour with ½ cup of quinoa for more protein!
1/3 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar or honey
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 c. flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
big dash of cinnamon
Splash of vanilla
1/2 c. milk
Blend together butter and sugar; mix in egg, vanilla, and milk. Add dry ingredients. Mix until you have a thick dough. Pour into a plastic bag with corner cut out; squeeze into donut pan, filling each circle to about half its height, careful not to overfill the cups (muffin top donuts look pretty funny!). Bake for about 20 minutes at 350.
You could top these a number of ways, or you could even leave them plain. I used a quick icing made from powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk, and then let my daughter add sprinkles. The others were coated lightly with melted butter and tossed with cinnamon and sugar.