...and knowledge is power. I suppose both of these can simultaneously be true, but I think that is not the case for food. While it may seem better to remain blissfully ignorant, enjoying tasty (ok, that's relative) and cheap food, it comes at the cost of a healthy body and environment. But at the same time, it is often overwhelming to confront the growing pool of information and think twice (or thrice...) about every piece of food that enters your mouth. As one who constantly reads about news and events related to food and agriculture as part of my job and at home, I tend to let these issues dominate my thoughts. Let me give you a peak into today's musings and the food item that led to them tonight.
I am confused. On the one hand, the food movement in this country seems centred around local and season products. Slow Food USA has blossomed in the past few years, emphasizing freshness, flavor, community, and traditions. The number of farmers markets in the United States more than doubled in the past ten years!
But getting your produce from the local market is not the be-all and end-all. First off, food miles (or the distance your food travels) is not the largest consumer of energy in your food (USDA found household preparation and processing to be the culprits). Second, farmers market produce does not necessarily equate to low pesticide or fertilizer use. However, it does offer the opportunity to ask the farmer these burning questions in person, and form a closer and more trusting relationship with the producer of your food.
Many farms are taking the organic or alternate production methods route. Organic certification sets specific standards for non-chemical fertilizer and pesticides, as well as no genetically modified organisms. Biodynamic agriculture and agroecology are two other approaches that attempt to work within the natural ecosystem function to produce food.
Finally, we happen to operate within a global food system. That means we can easily obtain coffee, cane sugar, chocolate, spices, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, etc. from anywhere in the world. With such power comes responsibility. Ecolabels are one way of helping consumers make more informed decisions about the social and environmental status of certain products. I've written a lot about fair trade lately, so I will refer you to those posts for more deets. In almost all cases - farmers markets, organics, fair trade, etc. - a slight (or not-so-slight) price premium may be realized in order to internalize the external cost of environmental degradation and social inequities.
But it's a complicated food world to navigate, despite Michael Pollan's Food Rules. And there are times when your wallet looks little haggard, the bank account a little slim, and you just don't want to know where that coconut came from. So, I present to you the cookies made in preparation for a hike, from ingredients for which I know nothing of the origin except the grocer. Now I don't often toot my own horn, but I have to say that this were quite exceptionally tasty little morsels.
Ignorance is Bliss Cookies
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbs molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs ground flaxseed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2/3 - 1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 - 2/3 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1. Mix all liquid ingredients together. Add in dry ingredients until just incorporated. Then mix in seeds, fruit, and chocolate.
2. Spoon out mixture onto a lined or greased cookie sheet. Should make close to four dozen medium cookies. Bake at 350F for 14-16 minutes. Allow to cool before consuming!
UPDATE! These hardy cookies served as fuel for the hike my friends and I did in Shenandoah National Park. The seeds, oats, peanut butter, and whole wheat flour gave them nice flavor and a little more substance. Check these and more healthier recipes out at Slightly Indulgent Tuesday!