Day 4 Update

Alright, so it’s day 4 of this infernal project, time for an update.

First, let’s discuss what happens if you’re me and you’re planning this project, in terms of food. The idea is to eat 100% local and organic and sans packaging, so you imagine salads made from locally-grown greens with fruits and veggies chopped up in them and cheese sprinkled on top.  (This isn’t very far out there, since pre-project I already eat salads with kale from the farmer’s market and other local produce) For dressing, you picture tangy fruity vinegar that you made from scraps of fruit, water and local honey.

Now let’s discuss what actually happens.  You bike to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning, day 1 only to find out that it’s basically the end of the growing season for most greens (including kale), because it’s just too hot for them to grow come July.  (I should mention that I live in Florida and consequently it’s pretty dang hot—but more on the temperature later.)  So you think, oh crud.  Oh well, I guess I’ll just have fresh fruits and other vegetables and if I’ll use any kind of local greens I can find anywhere.  Come to find out, there is one type of green that is currently growing in Florida and can be found at the farmer’s market.  I asked the farmer selling it to tell me about it, and learned that it’s a type of spinach and has a lovely, slimy taste.  Why he thought the fact that it tastes slimy is a selling point is beyond me, but I figured I would learn to love it since I was pretty set on eating a lot of salad. And a bundle was only a dollar—sold.  Well, I tried it and guess what? It IS slimy. And guess what else? That is not, in fact, a selling point.

Other fruits and vegetables that are currently sold: cantaloupe and watermelon (delicious but don’t last more than a day or two once cut into, since no electricity means no refrigeration), tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, potatoes and eggplant (both of which need to be cooked).  Initially I hoped to not use any form of cooking during the 3 weeks, but I’ve come to realize that it’s just not feasible.  Almost anything that is organic and local (eggplant, potatoes, peas) need to be cooked.  And things like blueberries and tomatoes were devastated by storms this season so either impossible to find (blueberries) or getting rarer (tomatoes).  So I threw in the “no cooking” towel pretty quickly.  I hated to do it, but I can’t just eat carrots, tomatoes and peanuts 3 meals a day for three weeks AND bike as much as I am to get to/from work and buy food.  (I’m keeping track and the first 4 days I have biked 69.5 miles)  So overall, finding food that doesn’t come in packaging, is local and pesticide-free is no easy feat.  And making that food taste good seasoning it only with garlic (thankfully can be found locally) and oregano from my front yard is equally challenging.  Oh and if you are wondering about the vinegar: I tried to make it, but funnily enough if you pour water and honey over scraps of fruit and leave it on your counter, instead of fermenting into delicious vinegar, it grows mold.  So, I sadly will not have vinegar to flavor food and use on the rare salad for these few weeks, which is unfortunate.

Now for a quick discussion about the weather. I can’t use A/C for the project and it’s more of an issue that I anticipated. During the day, the temperature inside the house hovers between 85 and 87 and the humidity is pretty intense. (I actually look forward to taking the cold showers I have to take since heating water requires energy.)  I’ll admit it, I’ve started using the fan at night.  I feel guilty, but the first night I woke up at 12 am and couldn’t fall asleep for several hours because it was so hot.  I was exhausted at work the next day and felt cruddy.  The next night I was half asleep until 1 am when I finally decided I can’t not sleep for 3 weeks and decided that using the fan at night is necessary.

In conclusion, this project is much more difficult than I anticipated, but if it were easy, there’d be no point so I’m trying to be as positive as possible.  Granted, based on this blog, I don’t know how well I’m succeeding.

Comments

  1. svsuarez says:

    I’m curious as to why you wanted to avoid cooking. I understand why you wouldn’t want to use kitchen appliances because of their impact on your energy usage, but aren’t there sustainable methods of cooking food as well (like a solar oven)? Also, are you eschewing all electricity or only some things — are you using the refrigerator?
    Another thing I’m curious about is your consumption of meat/animal products…if you want cheese on your salad do you have to find that at the farmer’s market too?
    This would probably be a lot easier on you if it had a really great deal of advance planning, so you could grow or buy fruits and vegetables in an easier season and then can or dry them to use later.

    Your project also raises some interesting questions about good cooking, in addition to the energy and environmental concerns. You can find out-of-season fruits and vegetables in a supermarket all the time. I don’t know much about all possible implications of that, but I’m guessing one is that culturally diverse foods are more accessible. And on the other hand it hardly matters to most people that an out-of-season tomato doesn’t taste like a tomato really should — if we want a tomato we can get one, even if it tastes kind of dry and bland. I don’t think that bodes well for good taste.

  2. elisabethbloxam says:

    Let’s just discuss how glad I am that this is your project and not mine!

    Also, your project was inspired by the real efforts of the “No Impact Man” — what did he say about cooking and eating food? I can’t imagine someone committing full-time to a life style that doesn’t allow you to eat ANY cooked foods!

  3. msteague says:

    I’ve looked into sustainable cooking methods, I researched solar cookers quite a bit, in fact. The problem is that I work Monday-Friday (and some weekends) and don’t get home–via bicycle–until between 5:30 and 6:30 depending on whether I need to go buy food from the local foods grocery store or farmer’s market first. By this time, it’s hard to get enough direct sunlight to heat a solar panel, and that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that it rains and/or is overcast a good portion of the week (today, for example). Also, a lot of the solar cooker models I looked at building recommended that they were best for warming–as opposed to cooking–food.

    As far as meat and animal products, I’ve been able to find some at the farmer’s market. For example, several people sell free-range, organically raised chicken eggs (in reused containers, don’t worry) that are nice as a source of protein. I had jarred sardines on the first day of the project from a local fisherman and now use the jar for storage, as well. For cheese, there is a local goat cheese seller at the farmer’s market (thank you Cypress Point Creamery) and I tell them at the Saturday market how much cheese I want and then they set that much aside for me to pick up at the Wednesday market, and wrap it only in paper as opposed to plastic, so I don’t have to throw away the plastic wrap and I can just toss the brown paper on the compost heap. They’re really nice about it–yes, they laugh a little at my expense every week–but they understand the project and are really helpful.

    Last but not least: refrigeration. I am not using it. It’s difficult because of the heat and humidity, and it takes a lot of planning, to figure out what to eat first (what risks going bad first) and how much to buy so that I have enough to eat, but it doesn’t rot on the counter. I’m getting better, but it’s still one of the more challenging aspects of the project. Confession: once, we were eating salad for dinner and because of the humidity, it the chard was literally wilting as we ate it at the dinner table. So, because I needed it for lunch the next day I refrigerated it over night. I figured that since the whole point of the project is to minimize waste, the alternative–letting it go bad and having no food–was less desirable. But that was the only thing I’ve used the fridge for.

    You’re very right that another time of the summer would have made a lot more sense for the project, but this was the only complete 3 week stretch I had available that I was home for the summer, excluding immediately after I got home, when I was absolutely not ready to start the project yet.

  4. msteague says:

    The no impact guy made a lot of soup, because apparently in New York they grow a lot of root vegetables. I don’t remember him specifically addressing the cooking issue, but I’m fairy positive he used the stove. He also made bread with a little bread maker.