It’s Time to Walk the Walk

Posted by on Feb 19, 2014 in Personal Update, Reflection | No Comments
It’s Time to Walk the Walk

“Why so quiet?” You wonder. No. I haven’t quit again. I’ve disappeared for the last week simply because I have been trying to organise the jumble of ideas flying through my head on what I should do with this blog. As you know from a previous post, I have a strong dislike for using one adjective to describe myself and my ethics (e.g. vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, etc, etc.). It’s also an excellent way to be the butt of every joke at the dinner table. And no matter how clever you are. No matter how thick you think your skin is…you are outnumbered, and you’re gonna lose. So…as I try to avoid the adjectives, I have a new idea. I’m going to eat my ethics. If you are a close friend of mine, you’ve heard many of my idealisms by now on health, the environment, what to eat and how to eat it. And guess what? I don’t always practice what I preach. In fact, I’m beginning to realise that most of the time I don’t practice what I preach. I seem to cherry pick my ethics a bit when it comes to what is most convenient in that moment. Although I do mostly try to do what I think is the right thing, like most people, during times of stress, convenience is much higher up on the priority list than ethics. It’s true. I can be an absolute hypocrite.

When it comes to ethical food, it covers much more than just animal products. So instead of focussing on one aspect of ethical eating, I am now going to try to include others as well, such as the distance my food travels to get to my table, waste, sustainability of the food source, and of course, animal welfare. This will be a painfully detailed account of how my family and I eat. I want to see how close to my ideals I can get. This is my opportunity to see what it means to walk the walk. Can I do it? Is it practical? Will it be more expensive to eat ethically? Inconvenient? Can it really make a difference? I hope to answer all of these questions at the end of this journey, which I’m hoping will last much longer than a week. So the plan from hereon-in is to hold myself accountable to the ethics that I preach.

The Shit I Say: We should try to eat local and organic products as much as possible. Animal products, including dairy, should not be eaten regularly. Meat should come from healthy animals. We should not eat red meat. I believe it is ok to eat fish on occasion, but it should be locally-sourced (if possible), line-caught, and not farmed. I don’t have a problem with eating chicken, as long as it is from a formerly happy chicken and organic. Organic eggs can be eaten too in small amounts from free-range chickens.

What I’ll Do: I will be getting down to the bottom of my cupboard, fridge, and deep freezer to have a detailed look at the things that I have purchased and collected over the past months. I am then going to force myself to use every bit of that food in some sort of recipe to avoid waste (unless it is past due, of course). All food, old, new, and wasted will be logged, including cost and their place of origin. I want to know what percentage of my food actually originates in the country I live in (Australia). In the event that the product does not originate here, I will try to find it locally or perhaps an alternative that is more “ethical” in terms of distance from origin to table. I want to know how much of my food is organic, GMO, and of course the amount of animal products we use as a family. I will reduce the amount of animal products used in my home and search for satisfying substitutes and find new ways to cook.

The Shit I Say: We should always recycle, and avoid packaging, particularly plastics, wherever possible. We should use a compost at home. Over-eating can be a form of waste. Non-biodegradable plastic bags should not be used. We should not buy water in plastic bottles.

What I’ll Do: Here I will be cutting back on waste, not only in terms of the food and packaging I throw away, but in terms of what I eat. After having a brief look at Peter Menzel’s book “What I Eat: Around The World in 80 Diets,” I have begun to realise that a lot of food waste isn’t just what we throw away, but eating too much is as well. Some diets in this book consisted of as little as 800 kilocalories per day (a Maasai herder), while others were over 5000 kcal per day. Of course how active we are, tall we are, our sex, metabolism, physiological state, health, culture, household income, and the type of food we have access to, are some of the many factors which determine how much we eat. How much we eat and what we eat is personal, and I’m in no way shape or form asking you to diet. I’m simply curious if you have ever considered over-eating to be a form of “waste” before now? I’m not going to count calories for you on this blog, but I will measure waste in terms of how much I spend on food and what I throw away. Changes I make will include recycling, composting, less packaging, less over-eating. I will use my reusable bags for grocery shopping and I will resist the urge to buy water in plastic bottles.

The Starting Points: 
Source to Table: I think I buy a lot of local produce and Australian food.

Quality: I buy a lot of fresh and organic food or fruit and veg that is locally grown without pesticides and not GMO.

Animal Products: I would likely cook meat (fish) in the house no more than once per month. Outside the home, we’d likely eat meat about 4 times per month. In the house, we’d go through about 6-8L of milk per week (due to my husband’s addiction to midnight snacks of cereal and milk).

Waste: I like to think I don’t waste much food, but we’ll see. I know I spend a lot on groceries. Our average food bill per month would be approximately $1300. Before we started composting and becoming more diligent with recycling, as a family of 4, we would throw away an average of 6 medium-sized bags of rubbish per week, and 1 large bag of recycling.

What To Expect: In addition to the day-to-day hurdles and discoveries, I will share with you any great food or recipes that I come across and their sources, as well as various articles, interviews, and a few rants, raves, and inappropriate jokes for your viewing pleasure.

A Bit About Me: I live in a rural area in the tropics of Far North Queensland, Australia. I am a mother to a 3 year old little boy and a 7 month old baby girl. I breastfeed, and I have a lactose-intolerant husband who is addicted to cereal and milk…Honey Wheats and Coco Pops to be specific. Fortunately he and his sugar tooth are onboard with this challenge. Before I was a devoted housewife and mother, I was a scientist. I have a PhD in Medical Entomology. “Medical Whaaa?” You say. I do research on insects that transmit diseases to humans such as dengue and malaria. Specifically, I work with mosquitoes. Specifically I am a nerd. Housewifery plus nerd equals doing something like this. I hope you enjoy this trip. I hope I enjoy it too 🙂

PLEASE NOTE: I’ll be looking for reasonable replacements for animal products, particularly when it comes to dairy. Know this: I will not be eating Tofu Bacon or textured vegetable protein because they are gross, and I doubt that they are healthy. I also will not be replacing butter on my toast or substituting soy milk on my cereal. I also reserve the right to eat at restaurants without harassing the staff and management with research questions (unless it is pre-arranged). Thank you.

Time to taste my words!

Tamara

Fear Not, my lord, we will not stand to prate;
talkers are no good doers: be assured
We come to use our hands and not our tongues.
-Shakespeare (1954), Richard III

My Pantry after 3 days of “Eating My Ethics”

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