In last week's Year of Plenty discussion, we talked about eating local meat. The chapters we read were about chicken dignity (from the Goodwins' experience raising chickens) and being "green" as Christians, so technically the topic of local meat fell under both chapters.
Eating local meat in Spokane is expensive; there's no getting around it. I suspect this is the case for other cities, too, but I don't know for sure. I've had several forays into local and organic meat, including buying ground beef and sausages from a local farmer this summer and organic whole chickens from Costco, but neither of these methods seem sustainable. The farmer's market where I got the beef and sausage is closed for the season. And while Costco is always easily accessible, I honestly would rather buy Costco's $4.99 rotisserie chickens because they're cheap, tasty, and thrifty. I can get four main dish meals from one chicken. In fact, I just used 2 cups of leftover cubed chicken meat for two meals: hummus/chicken/spinach wraps and a pot of chicken noodle soup.
However, our conversation on Sunday renewed my conviction that the way most American meat is grown, processed, and transported is a violation of the basic dignity of the animals God has created. Don't get me wrong, I'm no vegetarian or vegan. I fully believe that God allows and intends for us to eat animals, but I want eating animals to be consistent with my Christian beliefs.
Two disclaimers: 1) I don't think buying meat from a chain store is morally wrong. If it's a question of feeding needy people vs. caring for the dignity of animals, feed people. As I said, eating local meat is expensive, so I'll only be buying one or two meat items a month. 2) I don't know a lot about this subject, so bear with me on this road of discovery. If you have helpful insights, thoughts, or corrections, don't hesitate to speak up!
In an attempt to explore this local meat-eating thing, I scheduled another foodie foray for Saturday. The destination: Egger's Meats. When I told my housemate who grew up near Spokane where I was headed, she said her grandma always bought meat from Egger's. Perfect. Local and historic.
When I walked into Egger's, I immediately saw an employee in a red apron and hat. He asked if he could help me with anything. I told him it was my first time and that I was just looking. And look I did. I studied everything. The prices, the kinds of beef cuts, the kinds of sausage. I asked about ham with and without the bone and how much they both weighed on average. I'm sure they thought I was really weird. Who is this young person who cares so much about meat and is so weirdly excited about it?
I tried a sample of Egger's own bacon and a little piece of ham. Both samples were delicious. As I was standing by the case of sausages, I struck up a short conversation with an older man named Floyd. He was buying a pound of ground beef to share with his dog. I told him I was going to buy a pound of deli ham. My lunch plan this week is ham, Gouda, and tomato sandwiches with mayo and whole-grain mustard.
With my pound of ham in hand, I signed up for a monthly mailing list, grabbed another sample (homemade sausage stuffing!), and booked it out of there before I bought anything else. As I drove off, I was so excited that I turned in the wrong direction. :)
I didn't have the guts to ask where Egger's sources its meat, but I will definitely be asking that question on a future trip. As I back-tracked from my initial wrong turn, I decided I would purchase as much of my meat there as possible. Even if the meat isn't strictly local, Egger's is local. I figure it's a good place to start and, if the clientele was any indication, it'll be a good place to stick around, too.
I had another locavore adventure today. My dad asked for another box of McIntosh apples from Green Bluff, so after church, I drove up to the bluff. I'd never been up in November. The fields and trees were covered with snow and the landscape had that lonely, fallow feel of winter. I stopped at Siemer's and tentatively poked my head into the barn. I didn't see anyone. I walked back into a storage/work room and saw a huge orange cat and heard someone working. I retreated and an older man presently came out. He looked surprised that I was there, but asked me pleasantly what I wanted. The onions were tempting, so I ended up with a 10-pound bag for $2.95. As I was about to pick up my bag to leave, Mr. Siemer (for that's surely who he was) picked up a buttercup squash and asked: "Have you cooked with this?"
I shook my head. He said, "These squash are just so good. Cook 'em like an acorn squash, and you'll love it." He put the squash in my bag. "On the house," he said.
I didn't tell him I already had about 10 squash of various varieties at home. You don't mess with a farmer's generosity. I ended up talking with him for 15 minutes after that and heard a taste of the farmer's life. He reminded me of my grandpa...skinny, tall, and with a nose that gotten bigger and redder with continual exposure to sun. As he talked on, it occurred to me that most of the time, a farm is a lonely place. The crowds of harvest in September and October are the exception rather than the norm.
As I drove back down to the valley, I realized that Craig Goodwin's journey also started with piles of winter squash in Mr. Siemer's barn. We're set to finish Year of Plenty next Sunday and it seems I've come both to the end of the book and back to its beginning. But surely I'm really just beginning.
End Note about the Title: I was discussing with my housemate what the title of Ricky Martin's song "Living La Vida Loca" means, and we roughly translated it to "living a crazy life." Sometimes, the local life is a crazy life (though crazy in a good way), so I think the title of the song fits, even without my slight alteration. Thanks for going along with it. :)