There's something I've been wanting to talk with you all about for a while. When I first started this blog, local was my bottom line. I often asked questions—questions about how meat animals were raised, about whether or not apples were sprayed, about pasteurization and pastured cheese. But not always. Local was the most important thing to me, and in the interest of keeping things close to home, I was willing to let a few concerns slide.
When I got pregnant with Sally, that started to change. I read a book—an amazing, fantastic book called Real Food for Mothers and Babies by Nina Planck—a book that I simply cannot say enough good things about. Most of the recommendations I was aware of and followed loosely already: eat meat raised without hormones and anti-biotics and on pasture, the same for dairy. Choose real, old-fashioned, traditional foods over anything processed, and make sure to get plenty of fruits and vegetables. Steer clear of pesticides, go for whole grains. We've all read this a hundred times, and for the most part, I was doing pretty well.
But the way Nina wrote it and the fact that there was now a passenger growing along with me made me ask a lot more questions. The book is filled with research about what, specifically, these good foods do for you and your baby—your health and fertility and their mental and physical development in the womb, while nursing, and beyond.
The way I shopped and the depth of my questions started to change. In some ways, it felt kind of silly. I spent a whole week researching milk (you can read more about what I learned over here in an article I wrote for Edible Vineyard) and another afternoon trying to find a better butter (we eventually settled on this). I started looking at the little things, the things that seemed too hard to find or too trivial to worry about before—organic beer and wine, organic chocolate, organic nuts, organic olives or hot sauce or whatever other little numbers we had stored in the door of the fridge.
At the farmers' market, I got pickier and ever more curious. I started avoiding things like conventional corn and potatoes and berries. When I couldn't find enough organic fruit to satisfy our growing appetite, I went to Hatch's or the Orleans Whole Food Store or Phoenix Fruit to supplement. I had what Alex labeled The Great Plastic Freak Out and got rid of just about every plastic cooking utensil, water bottle, and food container in our house. I bought glass water bottles and baby bottles and boxes for leftovers.
I started eating salmon—a fish I had avoided for years because it is not local, not even close—but the nutrients in a wild fillet were too good to pass up for a baby's brain. I ate more local seafood than ever, anything wild and fresh and prepared simply. I switched from kosher salt to unrefined sea salt, and I started replacing our spices as they ran out with organic versions. I got more careful about soaps and shampoos, switched over from lotion to coconut oil for moisturizing, invested in a few key pieces of natural make-up after a talk by my friend Jessa.
In short, I got a lot more careful. Sometimes I feel silly about it, but then I read articles like this. It's a good reminder that there are a lot of questions to ask, and that if you're the person doing the growing and shopping for yourself or your family, you need to be the one asking them.
Local is still my ideal—to buy something that comes from my community, from a person I know and trust. But I want eggs from chickens let loose on pasture and organic apples. And when I can't find them locally, I am willing to look further afield.
Do any of you struggle with this? I really want to hear your thoughts. It's getting easier, certainly, to find more and more options as the local food movement grows, but I'm curious. What's your balance? What foods are most important to you to buy locally, and which ones (if any) do you avoid? Where do you draw the line?