Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I believe in the power of incremental change. I believe in making the effort, even if it means doing only slightly better. And, I think that often the sure path to defeat is the one of absolutes.

I've been thinking a lot about the 'eat local' movement, and about the overall green (environmental) movement -- these are topics so wonderfully dominant now. I'm delighted that people are so passionate, and that those passionate people are making others more aware, but I shake my head at the zealots who look to judge and divide the movements rather than celebrate all the small, incremental steps of change. [PLEASE note that I am not, repeat NOT calling the local food folks behind the 'eat local' link zealots -- I do think these are reasonable, thoughtful people looking to make others aware and in favor of incremental change -- I'm just talking about any movement's zealots and I hope you know what I mean.]

Here's how I view the problem: I was thinking about how I could make at least one meal each week with local ingredients (my recipe came just at the time that I was ready to start). But I stumbled at the pasta -- are there any local pasta companies? Laugh along with me as I checked the label on my Prince Spaghetti box; I remembered the old "Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day" commercials where the boy runs home through the streets of Boston's North End and thought maybe it was made locally. No such luck. Now, I appreciate that I could drive miles out of my way to a Whole Foods store and probably find fresh local pasta, but I'm not interested in using all that gas and creating all that pollution, etc. I thought about making my own pasta, but since wheat is not a locally grown crop, I wouldn't be able to find local flour. Would that 'count'? Making my own pasta with midwestern flour? Then I thought (as it is human nature to do) -- well this is too hard so maybe I really can't do this. And I'll tell ya, this is where I see so many good efforts by so many people (scolded and shamed on by the zealots) go by the wayside. It's too hard to do it all just right so I won't do it at all.

But that's not the point. The point (in this case) is to help sustain local farms. So making a summer pasta dish out of locally grown vegetables certainly does count, regardless of the Parmesan cheese or the pasta or the olive oil. Trying a little harder, taking a small step, makes a difference. Giving up gets you nowhere. Doesn't matter if you're trying to eat locally or be environmentally responsible or exercise more or shed a few pounds or drink a little less wine or shop less or whatever -- doing a little better helps you on the road to doing a lot better or reaching your goal. Giving up because you've made some transgression(s) leaves you stuck where you are.

Here's to the beauty, the benefits, of starting somewhere, of starting small. Of starting.


Beverly said...

thanks for the lovely, thoughtful post!

Felicia said...

The weekly market I participate in with a craft booth really focuses on local items. All foods are grow by local farmers and all crafts are handmade. Its pretty wonderful to be a part of a local community effort.

Mary said...

Perfectly said, Jennifer. Sometimes I feel like a fraud with my OLS meals, knowing full well I've eaten terribly the rest of the week. But you're right - taking a small step is always better than standing still. I'm positive that the local farmers want us to use their veggies and don't give a hoot or a toot if we can't get just the right pasta! I'm enjoying the challenge because even if I never find local flour, at least I can honestly say I tried. For me, it's all about taking my head out of the sand and making a small, well-intentioned effort. Thank you so much for putting it so beautifully. Your words will surely inspire!

Helen Conway said...

But if you bought your non-local products from a locally owned deli would that not go someway to stopping big business and if you think about it a producer local to someone else might not survive at all if his only consumesr were very local to him because the market might be too small. So eating only very local might actually cause the failure of small 'local' businesses? ( just playing devils advocate!)