Posts Tagged ‘Good food

in.gredients to Me: “Because” (Guest Post)

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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

Carolyne Kauser-Abbott has a corporate real estate and financial background, but now is happily soaking up the slow life in France and Calgary. You can follow her travels on her own blog, Ginger and Nutmeg (she’s “Nutmeg”), or her monthly articles on My French Life, where she’s a contributor.

“Because – make no mistake – good meat is expensive. Especially if you buy the premium cuts. The French know that. The Italians, too. And the Spanish, Mexicans. In fact, anyone with a strong food culture. But in Britain, as in America, we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Raising the Steaks by Tom Parker Bowles, Esquire, June 2011, p. 118

An interesting quote to start a guest blog post – a clear gauge of modern society’s ills. My husband and I live in Alberta, Canada, a place of undeniable beauty. There are majestic mountains, big open skies, and expansive rolling foothills, which lend themselves to enormous ranches that are home to free range cattle and wildlife. However, the city we live in – its culture and the seemingly endless land gobbled up – has led to a vast urban sprawl, and (shamefully) a society that’s tied to their cars.

I grew up in Eastern Canada, in Montréal, and my family spent many years in the beautiful state of Vermont. My mother was dedicated to recycling long before it was fashionable. We spent many a Saturday morning at the Stowe dump sorting out our plastic waste based on the tiny number in the triangle. She made her own granola to avoid packaging and preservatives. There was even a period when we had sourdough brewing in the kitchen. I think my brother may have “killed” it after one too many sourdough muffins.

My belief is that Tom Parker Bowles has it right. In North America, culturally, we allow ourselves to take the easy route way too often, without processing the impact. Yes, we can buy prepared packed dinners, leaving immeasurable amounts of protective packaging waste and horribly deficient nutritional value. We can purchase raspberries from Chile in January. Lettuce is available all year long thanks to the fields in California, and the transport trucks that bring it north. But at what expense?

While spending twelve glorious months in the south of France, my husband and I have visited numerous food markets and monuments, and made some fantastic new friends. However, the most enlightening thing for the two of us is being closer to the food we eat. Fresh fruit, vegetables, and meats are grown outside our back door, with local farms supplying fresh food markets daily.

We had no idea what a “Dover Sole” fish (it’s perhaps not the friendliest of sea creatures) really looked like before it arrived on our plate with lemon butter sauce. We consciously bought only the fruit and vegetables that were in season. We sampled fresh figs and walnuts directly from the trees. Our choices were mainly based on where the food came from – in France, everything’s labeled to tell you where it originated.

However, our food purchasing priorities have changed during our sojourn: we now look to what is the freshest, and what the merchant recommends as being local and top quality. We’ve come to realize the French people will not tolerate inferior quality food, and demand food that consistently tastes good!

The French are immensely proud of their Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC), originally started for winemakers in 1935, to control the quality of product. Today, there are AOCs in France for everything from chestnuts to lentils, with good reason the quality is superior. From the markets to grocery stores, food is expected to be of exceptional grade and ready for the table.

It’s with somewhat heavy hearts that we return to Canada for the start of winter. However, we’ve made a conscious decision to continue to reduce the “global footprint” in our food choices and, where possible, avoid or minimize packaging. Personally, I’m thrilled by the concept of in.gredients‘ zero-waste grocery store. Not only is it possible – it makes sense, and I can hardly wait until there’s one in Calgary. In the meantime, we’ll be shopping with the same idea in mind. Because!

The Sociology of Groceries: Why We’re Out to Change Things

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A recent post by the Sustainable Cities Collective cited a study that found that people with practical access to supermarkets with healthy food options have the lowest rates of obesity, while those who don’t have the highest rates of such diet-related diseases.

Why? The problem is first linked to transportation. Those who can’t afford cars must rely entirely on public transportation (or on their feet) to get to the grocery store. Since typical post-World War II US city planning segmented land zoning, commercial property is all too often too far away from residential property to be convenient – meaning many of those without cars must endure a long, complicated journey to food.

It’s not only the car that causes problems here. It’s simple business principles. For a grocery store to survive, it’s got to pick a location that’s not only highly-trafficked, but has enough residents and money around it to generate a consistent profit. That’s not usually the inner city. The urban cores of most large US cities are often plagued by poverty, and are often minority-majority – the former the trickle-down result (in a purely academic sense) of white supremacism, the latter the result of white flight. Regions with higher poverty generally have higher crime rates, higher crime rates cause lower land values, lower land values send money elsewhere, and that renders the area unattractive to businesses and residents alike. That’s exactly why chain supermarkets – which ironically offer the lowest food prices around – are usually reluctant to open in decaying urban cores.

Sustainable Cities Collective cites Detroit as a prime example of this. Detroit, with nearly a million residents, doesn’t have a single chain supermarket – leaving independent grocers to serve a population that’s trying to recover from massive economic collapse. Unfortunately, the placement of these grocers and Detroit’s mass transit network don’t offer every Detroit resident easy access to food. Since independent grocers serving low-income communities are more strapped for cash, they can’t offer the same low prices as supermarket chains. And as the cited study indicates, it’s not just access to affordable food that’s the issue here. It’s access to affordable, healthy food.

To put things simply, inner city residents usually don’t have access to good food – and if they do, it’s usually too expensive to afford.

in.gredients is slated to turn these problems upside down. By offering organic, locally-sourced, package-free food, we’re able to sell healthy foods for lower prices. That’s because our customers aren’t paying for packaging costs (usually 10 percent of item cost) and shipping costs (at the average grocery store, most items are shipped cross-country or, in the case of out-of-season produce, cross-continent). Frankly, we’re excited to bring this new business model to the Austin community, since the grocery industry has yet to produce such a solution to healthy food access. It’s not just reducing packaging and food waste that’s important to us. It’s helping our community by providing good food at accessible prices, and stimulating the local economy by refusing to buy food from out of town.

We hope you’ll share our excitement, and take part in our grocery revolution in 2011!

Written by Brian Nunnery

January 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm

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