Sustainable Eating #5: Fever for the Flava

2010 Continues!

A lot of exciting things are supposed to happen this year.  If Arthur C. Clarke is right, this is the year that Jupiter will turn into a sun thanks to Roy Schneider.  We’re 2 years away from the Mayan (Aztec?) apocalypse.  Yep, this is an exciting time to be alive!

In all seriousness, while 2010 is a year of great opportunity, it’s also one of great challenge with the glocal economy still on shaky footing, joblessness soaring acros the world, and some very credible evidence that the environment is getting more and more unstable.  Fixing the environment is a big job, but it’s not so big if we all pitch in.  That’s why Caitlin from Roaming Tales and I are doing this series on sustainable eating: so everyone can make informed decisions about food and the food supply. 

A few tidbits from my weekend:

  • We ate at a restaurant that specializes in serving food from local producers who don’t use a lot of hormones and additivies.  (
  • It looks like very soon there’s going to be  a Slow Food meat tasting event in Kansas City that I might have something to do with.
  • At a farmers event at the Shawnee Farmers Expo (go to the one in Liberty, MO if you are available), we talked to a lot of meat producers who were growing food locally, sustainably and organically…aka “the right way.”

So I got to thinking about why I care about the right way and what, exactly, that means.  We’ll start by addressing the harder question first.  What is the right way?

The Right Way–Sustainable Eating

Well, as I stated before, I am an organic-avore, which is, as near as I can tell, a word I made up.   (I can hope, can’t I?)  Basically, what being an organic-avore means is that the most important thing when I go shopping is to find food that has been produced as naturally as possible.  That mean free ranges, no antibiotics, definitely no pumping the meat full of salt water to make it look nicer, etc., etc.  (That includes nice sharp blades to do the killing when it comes time to, you know, kill in a nice way.)

In general, I like the farms who can get as close to nature as possible and still provide the required level of food safety.  That’s not much of a trick these days if Whole Foods is any indiciation.  The good news, though, is that I am willing to pay for it.

Still, when I say the right way I’m not an organic-snob.  I’ll do natural.  I’ll do cage free.  I’ll even do antibotic or hormone free in a pinch.  Any of these can claim a share of being the “right way” and all are generally okay in my book.

Why I Care About Sustainable Eating

It’s all about the flavor.  Seriously.

Listen, I love the environment as much as the next guy.  I’m not really that hip to animals suffering unduly so that I can eat.  (In fact, the lingering vestiges of vegetarianism tend to creep up when I start thinking about that…)  But I probably would be writing a wholly different series on sustainable eating right now if it weren’t for Mrs. WellDone and her chicken experiment.

That experiment: chicken, salt, pepper, and a bit of olive oil in a 350 degree oven until done.

The unsuspecting subject dupe: me. (Well, the me that once complained that organic chicken was at least a dollar more a pound and who would ever pay that??)  Without telling me ,she went to Whole Foods and brought home a pair of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and served them, never telling me what they were.

To this day I remember that being some of the best chicken I’ve ever had.

So why do I care about eating food done the right way?  Because I enjoy it more.  Maybe it’s the diet, maybe it’s the lack of bad stuff, and maybe it’s the love the growers and producers shower on the food, but food done the right way tastes better and that’s enough for me.

Sure, I feel like I am doing my part to help the environment and generally up my karma by treating God’s creatures right, but that all fades away when I’m in the kitchen whipping up something delicious.

So my challenge to you is that if you haven’t tried my wife’s experiment, do it.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell.  Even more than that, I also challenge you to compare a good “non-right way” chicken breast to a “right way” chicken breast and see if you can tell the difference.  I bet you can. 

Also, notice that I said a good non-right way chicken breast.  I was once told that there was no difference in flavor between high end chicken breasts and organic chicken breasts.  Perhaps that right.  My problem is that I can’t find any non-right way chicken that’s high end.

Just a thought.

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