Locavorism for the single-issue voter

I think Stephen Budiansky makes a good point in this op-ed on the numbers abuse regarding energy consumption perpetrated by idealistic locavores. But he also overlooks a serious issue (or two), those that most affect my decision to eat local(-ish).

“The real energy hog, it turns out, is not industrial agriculture at all, but you and me. Home preparation and storage account for 32 percent of all energy use in our food system, the largest component by far.” That may be true. But my personal problem with industrial agriculture isn’t the energy usage. It’s the long-term unsustainability (not as a meme but as a fact) of the nature of the industry in this country (meaning the U.S.). I know I’m a little bit of a Michael Pollan-phile, but I have yet to hear a logical counter-argument to what he puts forth in The Omnivore’s Dilemma regarding the abuse of the system by corporate giants like Monsanto, the danger to healthy crops and soil because of massive monoculture acreages, and the subsidy-system-gone-wrong that encourages over-production of certain “staple” crops.

Secondly, and I would like to see some numbers on this, but I would rather support my local economy than, well, Monsanto. I would rather buy vegetables picked this morning (yes, ideally from a field and not a greenhouse, but sometimes Maine requires such energy-inefficiencies). I would rather support small businesses in my own community, where my dollar counts, where the money I spend can come back to me and can support my community through local reinvestment.

Lastly, local food really just tastes so much better.


What is the Middle East Without It?

By all accounts, the best shawarma place in Haifa is a two minute walk from my front door. Lucky me. Sick of eating hummus, it seemed shawarma would be a nice, healthy alternative.

No wonder their meat is so delicious; the massive hunk of lamb was spinning away on its vertical spit with a thick layer of pure white fat and an entire white onion stuck above it on the metal pole so their juices dripped into the roasting flesh. Mmmm.

How to Build a B*mb

Discussing the absurdity of the prohibitions of goods imports into Gaza, there was some debate on whether it was parsley or cilantro that was permitted to be imported. “What,” says Khaled, a professor at an Israeli university, “we are going to build rockets out of parsley? Oof.” Cilantro would be far more effective, considering some people hate it so much. I was wondering what was and was not allowed – general “knowledge” says materials that would be used to build weapons are not permitted. While in practice this is atrocious, it is at least understandable. Less sensical is the prohibition on building materials, but I can see how when the goal is embarrassment and demoralization it makes complete sense to deprive the victims of any semblance of self-respect and normalcy in their lives.

From gisha.org, here is a(n annotated) more complete list, though not comprehensive. Continue reading

A Pretty Necklace for a Pretty Lady

Within a five-minute walking radius, I can buy hookahs and tobacco in two shops, and beer, wine, and liquor in probably about five. There are four shawarma restaurants, two or three felafel places, several fruit and vegetable vendors, a couple dry-goods guys, a multitude of butchers, some convenience stores, about four pharmacies, and I don’t even want to think about the number of high-end cafes that line Ben Gurion street. There are a few electronics store, at least one DVD (bootleg? I’ll check it out) mecca, several banks, an auto repair shop, a wood-worker’s shop, a photo studio, two places to buy plants (bonzi trees and cacti and orchids) and uncountable unnamed small business offices.
Continue reading

(Get Over It, Ian)

I just spent the last hour tagging all my old posts and I realized, though my system was not perfect or all-inclusive, I used to write a lot more about politics, religion, and food. These are, after all, the three main reasons I am so fascinated with the Middle East. Individually, each is unique and eminently important to this region, but taken together they form a triad of regional distinctiveness and even a cause for intra-regional tension.

Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese, and just about everyone else all claim tabbouleh and hummus and falafel as their own. This sense of ownership leads to the sense of disenfranchisement, hence everyone’s distrust of everyone else. Throw religion into the mix and you have a veritable minefield of personal, ethnic, and national opinion directly and distinctly at odds with that of your closest neighbor. A recipe for nothing if not disaster.

HomeĀ Again

After that frustrating border crossing, we’ve arrived back in Maine. Wednesday we did a little food tour (Micucci’s and Standard and then Silly’s for dinner), yesterday it was rainy and Leah was around, and today….who knows! Went to Bayou Kitchen for breakfast, which if I’ve been there before it was many years ago, but it was delish.

Basically I will probably stop writing much for a while unless some particularly profound thoughts strike or we do anything monumental (climb Katahdin, etc.). If you want to continue following the epic journey of a Farber, read my dad’s blog about his x-country motorcycle adventure.