I know, I know, we were tagged ages ago for the "Blogs That Make You Think" list, and I still haven't posted the nominations I collected from the other Ethicureans. Soon, I swear. But this other meme that's going around the food blogs seemed like a fun break to take in the middle of a dire freelance story, so I'm doing that one first.
Sam at Becks'n' Posh started the whole thing by taking a picture of the contents of her refrigerator one morning, with no styling or strategic hiding of incriminating junk food (apparently she has none), then posting the annotated photo for the world to see. Others, including our friends Cookiecrumb and Mental Masala, have followed suit. Navel gazing by bloggers? Maybe. Voyeuristic by viewers? Sure. But I think there's something weirdly fascinating about seeing what your friends really eat, and even more compelling if it's people who care a lot about food. Whenever I go to people's houses for the first time, I wish I could rummage around in their fridge. I'm never tempted to snoop in medicine cabinets, however, like people do in the movies. That seems weird. I confess that I have wished to sneak around in the closets of my fashionable friends, to glean how to build a wardrobe that consists of more than t-shirts from one's favorite food purveyors and hand-me-down jeans from one's sister, but I haven't yet succumbed.
I've put an annotated version of the fridge photo above on Flickr (mouse over the fridge to see notes). Some highlights:
And the last thing I'll say about this: a few weeks ago, lots of local food bloggers and civilians were participating in the Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge, in which they attempted to eat locally and healthily on the average American family's meager food budget. I think it's great that they did this, and that Penny-Wise got lots of press, but the premise did not appeal at all to me: my philosophy is that Americans spend too little on food, and that we should value it higher in our budgets. I was thus documenting our own profligate food spending in what I intended to call the Pound-Foolish Project. Unfortunately, I managed to leave on a plane the little notebook in which I had faithfully recorded all of my farmers market expenditures for the past month. United Airlines has yet to list it in its Lost & Found website, which is a real bummer since lots of other notes are in there that are important to me.
I estimate that every week, my husband and I spend about $120 on food from the Berkeley farmers market (at least $40 of this goes to Fatted Calf bacon, ham, etc), $50 on staples from Berkeley Bowl (mostly dairy, cereal, sandwich bread, and spicy V8), another $50 on wine and beer (no comment, please), and about $200 eating out, primarily at restaurants that serve locally grown produce and ethical meat. Every few months, I also spend several hundred dollars buying large batches of beef, pork, and chicken from local farms. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, this puts us in the top quintile when it comes to food expenditures. But before you start calling me an elitist yuppie food snob, know that I pinch other pennies until they squeal like pastured heritage piglets. I can't remember the last piece of clothing I bought that wasn't secondhand. (OK, I can. It was a $15 Fatted Calf t-shirt.) My Honda Civic is 10 years old and has hit-and-run scars on every corner, and I try to do my food shopping on bike to save on gas. I am so cheap that I save rubber bands from asparagus for my office, set aside carrot ends and mushroom stalks for stock in the freezer, and reuse bread bags for cat litter. I will scrape forests of mold off cheese and turn the remainder into a spread so as not to throw it away.
Basically, I believe that real food — food grown greenly, fairly, and cleanly by small farmers — is worth every penny you can afford to pay for it. To me it is worth more than movies, than vacations, than expensive haircuts and big TVs. Now that we are both self-employed, we must start economizing somewhat more, by eating out less often and eating less meat, and I wonder if my Pound-Foolish attitude will change. But I would rather give up cable TV than my $8-per-gallon raw milk (if that wouldn't mean giving up my husband, too).
P.S. The Ethicurean turned one year old yesterday. We've published 792 posts, about a third of them news Digests. Oink!