During this time of New Year’s resolutions, it seems appropriate to consider our diet and examine what we eat and why we eat it. In a socially connected digital world, there seems to be an infinite number of diet options based on body type, food source, nutrition, religious practice, or celebrity endorsement. I believe it is important to review our diet periodically and I want to propose some parameters for measuring diet success other than weight loss or personal energy level. This year I am resolving to adjust my diet to include measures of community welfare and planetary health in addition to counting calories and grams of sugar.
When I really dig into the concept of diet, I want to eat food in good taste. Good taste is more than flavor, it incorporates how the food makes me feel. Is it nourishing to body, mind, and soul? For example, single-use plastic containers leave a bad taste in my mouth, and not because there is a residue of petroleum flavor. It is the long-term garbage problem that colors the taste of the iced tea that I am sipping through a plastic straw. That is why I have decided to challenge myself to select food and food sources that promote a thriving local community and improve the long-term health of the planet. This diet includes some surprising new rules and measures.
Rather than focusing on labels, I am going to have to stop reading, look up, and start talking to local growers and processors. I won’t need to source exotic food combinations like coconut water and raw cane sugar but search out food resources and providers in my neighborhood. I will need to pay attention to where and how food is grown and handled rather than paying a shipping and handling fee to Amazon and USPS. I will need to do more myself – spending time collecting, transporting, and processing raw food products. While this will mean more time dedicated to food each day, the results will be more than worth it. I will get exactly what I want at the peak of flavor while eliminating what I don’t want or need such as food coloring and preservatives.
And don’t forget the calories burned during food prep. Maybe I will just eat less or elimninate some foods from my diet altogether. Oreos™ may not be available locally, but I can bake up a tasty cookie using mostly local ingredients such as Bluebird flour and applesauce from this year’s fruit harvest and eliminate processed fat, sugar, and plastic packaging in the exchange.
Meat is good on this diet. With our local ranching community and healthy deer, elk, and hunter populations, eating local or wild meat is very supportive of our local economy and healthy for our ungulate populations. It is easy to forget that the Cortez Sale Barn is one of the few weekly livestock auctions remaining in Colorado. In the same vein, we have lots of local egg sources, but poultry meat is problematic because we lack a processing facility. This is something that has been the local food-processing infrastructure wish list for many years. And while we lack a medium or even small-sized dairy, there are several family-run “mini-dairy” operations in the area that are not hard to find if you take the time to look for them.
Even lard is good food on this diet.
With locally sourced pork and home processing, it can be a healthy fat, full of flavor and Vitamin D and ideal for cooking and baking if used sparingly. With all the gluten-free madness, this diet supports locally-grown and processed wheat and wheat products. Certainly not appropriate for those with celiac disease, but freshly milled flour from locally-grown hard winter wheat has some distinct advantages, including great taste and high protein content. Consider purchasing Bluebird or Red Rose flours for more than fry-bread binges. Cortez Milling also has whole wheat flour and wheat-germ products for sale. And like the Sale Barn, if we don’t support these local food infrastructure gems, they will go the way of the sage grouse. Extinct in our lifetime. As I have noted before, Cortez is one of the best places in the U.S. to be a locavore because we have a regular farmers’ market, flour mill, and livestock auction nearby. And don’t overlook the abundance of heritage fruit trees and amazing backyard gardens in the surrounding county. It is heartening to see the resurgence of the apple juice industry in the region for hard cider and other products.
So, consider looking beyond the number on the scale and adding some new measures to your dietary regime. Maybe we can overcome some of the economic doom and gloom forecasted for 2019 by supporting our local food infrastructure and becoming the biggest winner in health and community welfare.
Carolyn Dunmire gardens, cooks and writes in Cahone, Colo.