Monday, January 18, 2010

Local AND Vegan: Can it be done?

My cleanse is completed, but the questions it brought up for me persist. This recent experience caused me to hearken back to my (brief) days of veganism. I find myself torn between the locavore diet and the modern intergalactic superfoods ascension-to-other-realms diet of spirulina, coconut butter, agave, goji berry juice, maca powder, and other such delicacies. I want to be well, and while I love root vegetables, I am tired of them being the basis for every meal. I am also having quite a challenge with integrating so much meat into my diet.
So I ask, can one be a vegan and a locavore? And, more importantly, should one be committed to either? Veganism seems intuitively wrong to me. Being indiscriminate omnivores is what got humans to the top of the food chain, and I have never heard of an indigenous population that subsisted on a vegan diet. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.), Barbara Kingsolver even mentions an interesting historical blooper where vegetarians from India migrated to England and became anemic. It turns out they were consuming bug parts in their minimally processed grains in India, whereas the overprocessed British flour was devoid of such delectable nutrients.

For myself, I feel the most amazing when I eat close to what is now being referred to as the "paleo" or "caveman" diet. Essentially, the paleo diet consists of meat and veggies and fruits and nuts and seeds: anything that was available for consumption in pre-agricultural times. When I eat a mainly raw-vegan diet with the occasional local organic free range egg and the occasional (like, once or twice a month) big hunk of meat, I feel light, energetic, and satiated.

However, the is always the philosophical, ethical, and ecological question of how and when it is okay to eat meat. I have come to terms with local, organic meat being okay with me, and after having participated in a chicken slaughter and various other events of animals dismemberment, I'm getting closer to having a sense of what I would be willing to eat based on what I would be willing to kill. I am still not at peace with the process, but I also accept it as part of the cycle of life.

I try to imagine living up to my locavore ideals while being a strict vegan. In essence, I would currently be living on root vegetables and kimchi. Yuck.

I would like to hear whether others experience this or similar tensions when deciding where to send their food dollars!


  1. So I can't exactly be of help in your decision, but for what it's worth I've always felt that veganism is an unhealthy extreme. I've made the joke that I'm not friends with vegans (which isn't true, I even have raw foodist friends) but I make the joke because so often I feel those people become neurotic and sick about their food sources. I can definitely understand vegetarianism and after talking with Leo about making raising chickens and going through a very in-depth picture tutorial of chicken killing, I am pretty certain I just couldn't do it. So am I ok with still eating them? This is the point where I go the my Adam Smith and acknowledge that division of labor does people good. I can make you a webpage and you can kill me a chicken and we both have equal value as humans with skills and we live in a society together for a reason.

    On the topic of where to spend food dollars though...I am still completely immersed in my raw milk research and it doesn't get any easier. I like the raw milk but I'm changing suppliers because they're too expensive, infrequent and while from Florida, too far away from me. But now as I find more and more places to get raw milk around me I'm torn. One place bring down mass quantities from a farm near Tallahassee and drops it off for all of South Tampa a mere few blocks from my house. Or a local dairy farm sells in Sarasota and possibly St Pete. So which is better...for me to drive 50 miles ever two weeks to get milk, or have one truck drive 300 miles to distribute to lots of people at once. There's so much agriculture around here too that I am often stuck between local vs organic choices as well and it's a hard dilemma sometimes to figure out what is best for oneself and the community/environment. I understand why, in its present state, even making these choices is largely seen as the domain of a certain kind of elite (those with the time to puzzle it all out, rather than just going to the closest grocery story where they have everything).

  2. Oh, and my other thought...not to add to your concerns about being in W.Mass, but I am constantly amazed by how lucky I am in terms of food/growing season for living in So. Fla. While a lot of people consider winter tomatoes a crime against humanity, it's really true that pretty much everything grows in Florida all year round. Less vigorously than in summer, but even when it gets cold occassionally it usually just serves to "sweeten" some of the crops (like citrus).

  3. Caitlin-
    Thanks for thoughts of vegan/vegetarian issue. I am largely in agreement.
    As for the raw milk issue...I am generally of the mindset that quality trumps local. Fifty miles versus a hundred is not a huge deal when you're dealing with something that, when well done, is nourishing medicine, and, when poorly done, might kill you.
    And yes, I miss the southern growing seasons for sure :) But, they seem to have fewer bug issues up here....


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