roasted vegetable salad

I wonder how many pesticides I have eaten in my life.

When I was a kid, I never heard about organic produce. We went to the store and bought lettuce (mostly iceberg) or apples (those mushy disappointments known as reds) or potatoes (always russet). There wasn’t a special section in the produce aisle, even a small one, for produce grown without chemicals dumped on them.

I just thought it was cool when the hoses turned on and the waxy cucumbers beaded up with water.

Now I wonder what was in that wax.

Why is it we have to pay more for vegetables with no pesticides? When did it become the norm to eat fruit from Chile, out of season, because we want grapes all year long? How did growing vegetables become such a big business?

I don’t know.

I do know that this is a complicated question with no clear answers.

Danny and I feel lucky. We live on a rural island with about 15 working micro-farms, run by people we like and want to support. During the spring, summer, and fall, we buy almost all of our produce from the farm stands and put our money in the coffee can left there. These vegetables are not certified organic — most small farms don’t have the money to go through the certification process — but they are organic. They’re grown the way vegetables and fruit were grown in our grandmothers’ era — in the carefully prepared soil, without pesticides.

However, in many parts of this country, fresh vegetables aren’t that easily available. When I lived in New York, I bought produce at the corner bodega most days. None of my grapefruits or cherries was organic. Whole Foods didn’t exist in Manhattan then. On Wednesdays, my last year there, I started going to the Union Square Greenmarket for fava beans and strawberries. Everything tasted fresh and alive.

My wallet wasn’t that happy, however.

Fact is, before Lu came along, most of the time Danny and I bought conventional produce at the store. We just couldn’t afford for all our bananas and mangoes, zucchini and basil to be organic. It’s too darned expensive, we thought.

Then Lu came along. Suddenly, the idea of putting something infested with pesticides into her body seemed wrong. Who cared about the cost? We made sacrifices in other areas of the store instead. The first bite of food she ever ate was puree from an organic sweet potato.

Before Lu, we only ate produce in season. Then life turned on its head, and everything grew more complex by 10, and we have a hungry girl who adores blueberries. Do we make her wait to eat them until July when she has no concept of seasons? Most of the time, she eats what she calls “cold berries,” the frozen organic ones that come in 5-pound bags from Costco. Sometimes, however, around this time of year, we splurge and buy her a pint of fresh ones from Mexico. Recently, we’ve been reading that produce from Mexico might be better than some locally grown produce. At least it’s organic.

Of course, there are plenty of people in this country for whom this conversation isn’t really that important. They don’t have much money and they don’t have access to organic produce. They just want to feed their kids.

Why should it be that only people with money in this country can afford potatoes grown in soil that has not been leeched in chemicals?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, since Carrie Vitt’s cookbook, Deliciously Organic arrived in the mail. (The publisher sent us a review copy last month.) Carrie is one of the most gracious, healthy people I’ve had the pleasure to meet in this blogging community. She and her daughter and I baked a cake together in real time this fall. However, it turns out she wasn’t always this healthy:

“I began having daily migraines. I was 25. As migraines often are, they were both baffling and debilitating….The migraines increased to five or more a week. I often had to lie down in a quiet dark room, which was almost impossible with toddlers to care for. I was taking several medications to manage the pain just to get through the day.”

What did Carrie do? How did she break this vicious cycle? She started eating only organic foods.

You’ll have to read her book to see why this worked for her. All I know is she’s thriving now.

Her cookbook is lovely, filled with healthful dishes made with fresh ingredients. Our friend Helen took the photographs, and they are as distinctive as her photographs always are. It’s a good book for a beginning cook, as many of the dishes are fairly simple in preparation. As has happened to me, once Carrie started taking something out of her diet (gluten for me, conventional produce for her), she started playing with other more natural ingredients: different oils and alternative sweeteners. Her excitement about this all is palpable.

You could make everything in Deliciously Organic without buying any organic produce.

However, I have noticed this. Carrots grown by farmers we know, in season, without any pesticides? They taste infinitely, vividly better than the ones grown in large quantities with pesticides. That might be reason enough to buy organic, if you can afford it.

What do you think? How do you decide what to buy organic? Or not? Do you notice a difference in taste? Or your health? Do you eat in restaurants that do not use organic produce? We think it’s a good conversation and we’d love to hear what you think.

ROASTED VEGETABLE AND BROWN RICE SALAD

This hearty salad, inspired by a recipe for roasted vegetables and orzo in Carrie’s book, hardly requires a recipe. I’ve written one for you, in case you’ve never made anything like this before. But mostly, here’s what you do:

Roast vegetables (the ones in season taste best)
Cook up some brown rice (or quinoa or millet)
Toss them together and add yummy ingredients that are in the refrigerator
Make a vinaigrette with some kind of vinegar or other acid and another oil

Eat.

Thinking of this as a template, rather than a strict recipe, will inspire you to make it again and again. If you want it to be a main dish, you could add roasted tofu or chicken to it. If you decide to do this during the summer, you could roast tomatoes and eggplants, zucchini and squash. Try roasting the vegetables in coconut oil or walnut oil. You could use sherry vinegar or lime riesling oil for the vinaigrette. Throw in some sunflower seeds or toasted walnuts.

Really, you can’t go wrong. This is a satisfying salad that takes little time and feeds you with healthy foods, pretty inexpensively. Even if you are using organic vegetables.

4 large carrots, cut into four pieces
1 fennel bulb, sliced thick
8 pieces asparagus, woody stems removed
8 pieces lacinato kale, stems removed and torn into pieces
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

2 cups cooked brown rice (I like the method Nicole uses here)

1 ball fresh mozzarella
½ cup kalamata olives, sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch kosher salt and cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preparing to roast the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 375°. Pull out a baking sheet.

Roasting the vegetables. Put the carrots, fennel, and asparagus onto the baking sheet. Toss them with the oil and salt and pepper. Roll them around on the baking sheet until they are coated with the oil. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and roast the vegetables until they are browned on the bottom and softened, about 20 minutes. Throw in the kale pieces and toss the vegetables on the sheet again. Roast until the kale is a bit wilted, about 3 minutes.

Preparing the salad. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven and pile them on a cutting board. Chop them, roughly, until they are relatively bite sized. Toss them with the brown rice, the mozzarella, and the kalamata olives.

Making the vinaigrette. Grab a small jar with a lid. Pour in the lemon juice, mustard, and salt and pepper. Shake the jar. Add the oil. Shake the jar. Taste the vinaigrette and adjust the ingredients if necessary. Pour over the salad immediately. Toss.

Serve.

Feeds 4.

[print_link]

84 comments on “roasted vegetable salad

  1. Gemma

    This sounds like a lovely combination of flavours. My usual roasted vegetable salad is squash roasted with olive oil and sumac, beetroot, a combination of quinoa, basmati rice and wild rice, salad onions, fresh herbs and feta. I could happily eat salads like these for lunch every day.

  2. Amanda

    My husband was never a veggie fan. Didn’t like apples much either. Because of my health, I started going organic. He started eating apples. Biggest surprise? Watching him grab a raw carrot out of the fridge and munching it for a snack.

    Of course, I’ve read about “research” where the scientists prove that organic foods don’t taste any better than chemically drenched foods.

    Yeah. Right.

    It gets a bit tough sometimes, the organic markets near where I live are close to 40km’s away, in either direction. And one of them decided it would rather be open on Friday’s instead of the usual Sunday. How, in a family where both spouses work, is that a healthy business choice? And yes, in store organic comes at a much higher price, and there is much less available. It’s a challenge. That is why I have a book on veggie gardening on order. I’m going to start my own patch.

    It’s just a matter of keeping naughty kittens and puppies out. :)

  3. Jillian

    I live by myself and am strongly committed to buying local, in-season produce. So, the ideal for me is local + organic, but local always wins over organic when I can’t find both together.
    But I’m wrestling with this more now lately that I am helping my sister develop recipes to feed my 8 month old niece. We want to introduce her to all kinds of flavours and textures, but should I make her wait until June to taste a strawberry? Should she wait until she travels south to taste an avocado or an orange? I want her to be an adventurous eater, but I also want her to be socially conscious and to respect the environment.

  4. Kat

    I eat organic, when we can afford it. But, honestly, when you’re going to the food shelf to feed your children, you stop caring if it’s organic and just care that your baby has food in her belly. We are just, just on the edge of extreme poverty. My partner and I are both working, now, and are climbing out way out of a mountain of debt. Organics are not a luxury we can afford much.

    However, in the summer we go to the farmer’s markets, here in town, and when we do have the extra money (usually around the holidays) we make that splurge. The taste alone is worth it. I am a foodie in a working-class life.

    1. Liz

      My boyfriend and I are in a very similar situation right now. He works a 9–6 job at a Brooklyn customer service agency (hard to get a job when you have a history degree and don’t want to be a teacher). I am an independent filmmaker, and while I love what I do, work is inconsistent at best. I do work as an office manager to make ends meet, but I don’t make as much money as he does. After we pay the rent on our one bedroom apartment, plus utilities and internet, credit card payments (we quit charging over a year ago…now just paying them off completely–almost there!) and subway passes, we have $200-$300 left for food. I should also mention that we are both 25, so we go out at least two nights per week, but it’s usually somewhere inexpensive (any museum with a suggested admission, free concerts in Prospect Park, bars that won’t break the bank, minor league baseball games, dinner with friends, etc). We plan to get married in the next two years, and start having a family a year or so after that, so we are taking advantage of this time, just us two. Anyway, back to the food.

      When we realized that our food budget was relatively limited compared to what we both grew up with, and that our necessary expenses take priority, we decided to make some changes in the way we eat. I found out that I was gluten-intolerant in 2008, and so that we wouldn’t have to buy two separate sets of groceries, he changed his diet in summer 2010. Also, we are vegetarian at least four days per week (good for our bodies, our wallets, and our environment). Our dogs, two white miniature schnauzers named Stella and Blanche, eat homemade dog food because it is more economical for us (we keep some meat in the freezer for them, and add it to their meals as necessary). We don’t shop all in one place because we’ve noticed that pricing and quality are not mutually exclusive. Over the course of a week, we can hit up to nine or ten different businesses.

      –We go to the green market for (conventional) produce, as we cannot afford the organic variety. We get a great price (usually less than $15) for more produce than either of us could possibly eat in a week.
      –We buy frozen peas and chopped spinach (also conventional), eggs, and spices at a standard supermarket that is the bane of my existence.
      –We go to Trader Joe’s exclusively for olive oil and gluten-free pasta.
      –Union Market, a specialty store exclusive to Brooklyn (until the NoHo location opens later this year), is for organic cheese, free-range chicken and beef, and Texan specialties from my childhood (D.L. Jardine’s, etc).
      –Sahadi’s, a famous Mediterranean wholesale market, is where we get all of our canned beans, olives, pickled items (pickled turnips OMG), nuts, and bulk grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, whole grain oats). The prices are insanely low.
      Next door is a family-owned Lebanese food store called Damascus. Between their unbelievable kalamata olive hummus, dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), pickled cabbage, and their made-to-order chicken shwarma and falafel (which they serve me without the pita), I could go there everyday.
      –We go to a store in Chinatown for all of our fresh seafood. With mussels at $2 for two pounds, and shrimp at $2 a pound, how can we pass it up? Also, their fish is always very fresh. This is also conventionally raised, but the quality is there. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a ten minute walk from the original Babycakes Bakery, which is, of course, allergy-friendly. What can I say? Sometimes a girl just needs a toasted piece of cornbread with raspberry preserves and clotted cream.
      –Farmers markets are prevalent in New York City, with the Union Square Farmers Market (which Shauna mentions above) as king. There are also two within walking distance of our apartment, but their days and times don’t fit our work schedules. When we do go, it’s a treat and a luxury…there’s nothing like eating an organic tomato with olive oil and a little salt while sitting in the park.
      –We also purchased a half-share of a CSA (with a drop-off within a five minute walk from our apartment), and are very excited to see how this will work for us.

      As for wine, we proudly support a local business called Smith & Vine that has excellent prices and selection. They even have organic wine on the “$12 and Under” table! They also own a wine bar called The Jake Walk, which will serve cheese fondue with raw vegetables only just for me! And their cheese shop, Stinky Bklyn, is what all cheese and charcuterie stores should aspire to be: a place with great quality, better prices, and free coffee days! We support small businesses beyond these as well, and we have noticed that they have saved us money. Between weekly specials and random discounts just for us, we have about $50 more in our pockets each month.

      It’s a lot of shopping, but we eat well and reasonably. No, we are not even close to fully organic, but we hope to be one day in the not too distant future. Today, however, we are just happy for the food on our plates and the friends who share it with us.

  5. J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog)

    I eat and buy organic when it’s available and affordable. But living in upstate NY, we have a limited grow season and even more limited organic selection, at least locally. If regular produce looks better than organic that is pricier, I go with regular. Organic doesn’t necessarily mean pesticide-free, so basically, I don’t obsess over it. In fact, around 80–90% of my produce is non-organic, and I’m fine with that. :)

  6. Michelle

    This is an increadibly important conversation. I feel that money talks. So if I get on my soap box about little farms going under, I want to have done everything within my means to have helped in their endeavor to produce healthy food. I try to buy organic when possible or offered. I currently live in an area where you can walk into a grocery store and not see a single organic item. SCARY. Thankfully Costco offers organic produce and I reach for that.
    In Bellingham, our home town, there are numerous restaurants that source local food. I can’t get enough. The quality of their product is noticeably different. It all comes to quality over quantity.

  7. Ina Gawne

    We do our best to eat local, and organic. One problem we face here on the West Coast is finding a restaurant that serves farm raised, antibiotic/hormone free meat. Seems to be an impossibility — they only serve the industrialized meat — something we refuse to eat. When you switch to organic, farm raised, the difference in taste is unbelievable, and there is just no going back. Why does man always have to interfere with everything? Naturally grown fruit and vegetables are just that — natural and the same goes for meat. We might sound obsessive about the quality of meat we eat.…but then when you get sick after eating the industrialized stuff, for us it comes down to health..and of course, great taste which will win over every time!

  8. sonya

    Amen! Balancing local, organic (whether certified or not) and cost in terms of buying vegetables and fruit is tricky, at best. Joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) is a really great way to deal with all those aspects! It’s generally much more affordable than buying produce elsewhere, plus it supports small, local, family-run farms. If a share is too big for your household, it’s very easy to split one with a friend or neighbor. There are CSAs all over the country — consult Local Harvest for a directory of CSAs nation-wide. http://www.localharvest.org

  9. Kate

    I always say I’d rather pay $5 for pesticide-free, nourishing, wholesome, deliciously-fresh tasting food — in season — than end up paying $50 a week, or day, on pills or medication because I am decrepit at age 50. Well, I shorten it when I tell my 8 year old brother that. He is learning to eat seasonally, which I think is incredibly important. Organic frozen produce is a great option as well. We have raspberry bushes so we can freeze our own “local” berries during their harvest. I’ll probably do the same with butternut squash so I can enjoy it in salads this summer.

  10. Jess

    Thank you for this recipe! Yours was the first site I found and fell in love with when I was diagnosed with Celiac 4 years ago and I still visit every day. Recipes like this are the ones that I can cook again and again since they are accessible enough for a person with limited time and novice cooking skills, but are delicious, healthy and creative. I do have fun with your more elaborate recipes and discovering what can be created in the kitchen, but I’m very much looking forward to your new book!

    I try to shop off the “dirty dozen” list for oganic food and hope to try to grow veggies this summer. Last year’s first attempt didn’t work so well! There is a definite difference in taste, though.

  11. Erika

    We are struggling with this somewhat too. I have three kids and well they love bananas and apples– granny smith, and C loves blueberries… We have lots of great stuff here in SC, but we have definite seasons, and bananas are not ever local.… So I try and go local as much as possible… I am switching to more seasonal cooking these days, but there are some things I just buy anyways for them when they look good– recently strawberries from FL have smelled amazing and been so sweet–any I have given in… And I do try to can and freeze in the summer/fall mostly!!!! My canned organic local SC tomatoes are down to one more jar–so I did good with that this year…I am trying to buy pastured beef, chicken and eggs… Its pricey, but worth it. Looking into buying beef by the half cow? I tend to spend money more on Local great pastured meats, butter, eggs.… and not as much focused always on organic produce in all areas– money if a big issue for us. As we have gone gluten free and more focused on quality too, well I am spending a lot of money on foods these days…

  12. Chihiro

    The local conventional vs. nonlocal organic question is so much more with the additional question of energy. And as much as I love Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that isn’t a lifestyle most of us could sustain, plus I don’t like eating only potatoes from November til April.
    Head spins. Love the salad though.

  13. cathy

    Oh, good, let’s have a conversation about organic vs. non-organic.

    First, you answered your own question, “When did it become the norm to eat fruit from Chile, out of season, because we want grapes all year long?” Lucy wants blueberries when she wants blueberries, so you give her blueberries even if they’re not in season. It becomes normal practice because desires take precedence over what we think is the right thing to do.

    Second, if you do a little research you will find the answers to why organic farming costs more, and you’ll also find that farming “in our grandmother’s day” was fraught with pretty horrifying risk. An entire season’s worth of back-breaking work could be eaten up in a day or two by a swarm of grasshoppers. Mexican Bean Beetles could decimate fields upon fields of green beans within a week. Weevils, nematodes, caterpillars, plant fungi and diesases—you name it—all very real and very, very destructive threats. DDT was considered a godsend back in 1939 because it could keep a lot of farms from going under completely due to circumstances beyond their control.

    You can’t just leave it up to Mother Nature to protect crops from bugs and worms and disease. Farmers have to replace use of chemicals with other methods, many of which cost more money and are more time-consuming than spraying with chemicals. That’s why organic food costs more.

    As for organic fruits and vegetables tasting better, this is not necessarily true as anyone who eats organic will tell you if pressed. Flavor has more to do with the variety of apple or carrot and the soil in which it was grown than the method used to keep it free of bugs and disease. There is plenty of delicious non-organice produce out there. (And the wax on cucumbers is food-grade and is only there to keep the cuke from drying out. It isn’t a pesticide.)

    One last thing regarding flavor: some varieties of vegetables, like certain potatoes, have been bred to keep longer, usually at the expense of flavor. This has nothing to do with them being organic or not.

  14. Wendy

    We have made this salad but with different veggies. More of a ratatouille minus the eggplant. We used quinoa as well.Very tasty. Will be trying the roasted carrots this week!
    We eat a lot of veggies, but not organic as the price is prohibitive. We just wash and scrub and peel. Yes, there is a taste difference, but I have no where else to sacrifice, being on a gf and salt free diet. I make just about everything from scratch, even snack mixes. We do buy some cereals to help with that. And we have started a garden for this year, so we will see how it goes. Mabye we will save some money, maybe the heat of the Texas sun will drive us to drink as we watch our garden fail. But hey, we are trying it out anyway.

  15. Jorie

    I am a college student, organic just doesn’t work for me. Plus as much as we all rag on pesticides (rightly so, I know), they have helped tremendously in decreasing other problems with food, specifically food shortages because of ruined crops. There is a reason we use them. I would love to go all organic and all local, but if I have to choose between getting gluten free bread (very expensive) and organic fruit, the fruit is going to be with pesticide.

    1. shauna

      Thanks, Jorie. I think this is a really important point. I’ve talked with many folks in the food world who grow apoplectic at the mention that everyone should be eating organic. And they are organic farmers, some of them. The way our culture and food system is set up, it’s not feasible to feed everyone this way. At the moment. Maybe that will change.

    2. Chelsea

      Hi Jorie! I too am a college student. Have you ever thought of participating in a CSA? Even if you cannot afford a box by yourself…consider splitting the cost with a friend (or two)…then at least you could be getting *some* organic/pesticide free/local produce. The one I’m in is about $20 a week for a big box, and with two other friends…well it gets even cheaper.

      …also, maybe if you ever have down time (I know, a foreign concept to us, haha) maybe try baking your own gluten free bread! Cheaper, and a lot more rewarding.

      Think about…and I understand your dilemma! Happy studying. :)

  16. Nina

    I live in London on a low income, and I get my certified organic fruit, vegetables, and eggs from a farm company based in Devon on the south coast of England. They deliver a box once a week, filled with whatever’s fresh and available. In the winter they do have to import some of the produce, but they never use air freighting and almost all of it comes from farmers they know personally, mostly in Europe. Everything tastes fantastic — I even love leeks now! It’s much cheaper than buying organic in the supermarket, but probably still not within the reach of the poorest people (the cheapest place to buy fruit and veg here is the street market). A few years ago, when food prices started to rise steeply and every trip to Wholefoods (they took over a small British chain) was more expensive than the last, we started buying our rice, beans, etc in bulk directly from a wholesale company. It means we can afford to eat organic brown rice every day, and plenty of organic nuts, beans, quinoa, millet, and dried fruit. Some of it’s Fairtrade too. We would have had to change the way we eat (for the worse) without this solution, and we really didn’t want to do that — to ourselves or the farmers and planet! We hardly have to go to a shop at all and we’re eating well for probably less money than my cousin spends on processed supermarket nastiness. I know people think it’s extravagant t eat organic on our income, but they don’t realise how much we save by buying wholesale — plus we don’t smoke, drink, or have a car, which means we can afford to eat healthily!

  17. SK

    I find this kind of post extremely discouraging.
    Organic food isn’t expensive, it reflects the true cost of food. “Conventional”, non-organic food is cheap. As for romanticizing your grandmother’s era, take a look at the percent of income spent on food over time:
    http://www.ilfb2.org/fff06/51.pdf
    In 1930, 24.2% of income was spent on food. Now, it’s only 9.5%. Before you started buying organic, how much of your income did you spend on food?

    1. shauna

      Actually, we know that we are very much the anomaly. We spend the bulk of our budget on food. It’s what we do but it’s also what we believe. And as you can see from what I wrote, we buy most of our produce from the local farm stands and farmers’ markets, not only because they taste so good but also because we want to support our farmers. However, there’s a reason I wrote this in March. This is a hard time of the year — nothing for produce. Also, we believe firmly that good food is probably more important than anything else besides having a roof over our heads. (I think you can see that in the website.) However, we can’t force others to make that choice. We can encourage and cajole, but if others want to spend their money on new cars and fancy phones and eat tv dinners, that is their choice too. Also, if you read some of the comments here, you’ll see that some people are truly struggling. Organic food seems beyond their reach.

    2. JC

      It is about priorities. We spend at least 25% of our income on food, and we bring in about $2700/month, family of four.

      You are what you eat. We make sacrifices elsewhere. We don’t have TV, we don’t buy new clothes, we don’t buy plastic toys for the kids, don’t go to movies or eat out at restaurants. We play outside, go to Goodwill, my husband walks to work so that we only need one car.

      The local farm (family-run, not certified but organic) sends out an email every Monday (year-round) with the list of produce, eggs, and meat available for pickup on Friday. I plan my meals around that and put my order in. About 25–30% of my food costs go there. Then I stop by the health food store to buy organic bulk foods. Sometimes the prices of the bulk foods are more expensive than at the local grocer, but I put my $$ into a locally-owned business. About 30% of food cost goes there. The remaining food is bought at the local Kroger, organic, whole foods whenever possible.

      I wish that people didn’t have to choose between processed cheap food and organic whole food. I wish that we didn’t have an increasing diabetes and obesity epidemic that is burdening the health care system. I wish that people didn’t have to work two or three jobs to afford food, clothing, and shelter. I wish that people didn’t put a fancy stereo system on a credit card, and then eat off the dollar menu to save money. I wish that GMO mono-cropping wasn’t subsidized. I wish that the local river wasn’t so polluted with fertilizers and pesticides that the health department has to put up No Swimming signs in the summer.

    3. Tiferet

      So…you’re okay with the ‘true cost of food’ being more than most people can pay?

      And don’t even start with the fancy cellphone nonsense; yes, poor people frequently have nicer phones than middle-class people, but this is often because they don’t have computers, and if you think a computer/tablet/smartphone is a luxury in 2011, when was the last time you tried to get a job, take a class, or just figure out when and where to catch the bus without one?

      (I don’t know about Seattle but in SF the printed bus schedules are suggestions at best and the little clocky things in the bus shelters don’t help you plan anything because you can’t see them until you’ve chosen to take one bus over the other and you’re sunk if you’ve chosen the one that is about to make you late for work. And if you have the kind of jobs that working poor people have, being late for work can get you fired–there is no flex time, no working from home.)

      The truth is that corporations have created this situation. Organic food should be cheaper than it is, because it should be produced at large farms, not small boutique farms. Overly processed sludge should be expensive, because it actually is much more expensive to produce in terms of the energy necessary to convert raw food into things like high fructose corn syrup and hydrolysed vegetable protein and what not. The only reason that it is cheap is because companies like Archer Daniels Midland bribe our lawmakers to give them kickbacks and to give kickbacks to farmers to over-grow crops like corn, much of which is not eaten by people or animals until it has been turned into various arcane and unpronounceable substances, and to overuse pesticides and antibiotics.

      The worst thing we’ve ever done in this country is when we decided that since corporations needed to be legal persons to protect investors financially (which is understandable; going out of business shouldn’t ruin a whole family) they should also get the legal rights afforded to real persons, like the ability to participate in political campaigns.

      1. Tiferet

        er, I meant not JUST small boutique farms. There’s nothing wrong with small boutique farms, but that shouldn’t be the only place safe food is coming from.

      2. shauna

        I think it’s pretty clear from the piece that I’m not okay with the true cost of food being more than most people can pay. However, for a lot of people, including the people who have left comments here, that’s a reality at the moment.

  18. Annika

    I second Jillian. Local conventional before imported organic. True, that is often easier said then done. I have always understood organic more than just the concept of growing vegetables without pesticides. It also entails sustainability and how “organic” is your food when it travelled all the way from Chile?

    A very good read about the choices we decide to make comes from Marion Nestlé’s book “What to Eat” in which she checks each section of the supermarket — produce, meat, dairy and the like — to figure out which choice is best. And why we should avoid fish, e.g.
    That wax on the conventional apples or oranges, she states, is rather harmless for the human body as the molecules are too big to remain in the human body.

    I have made a variation of that salad many times in summer with the vegetables you mention and feta cheese, olives and lots of herbs like mint and parsley.

  19. tea_austen

    I feel very conflicted by these conversations, as important as I think they are. I grew up in the early days of the organic movement in the US, raised only on organic food (if the fruit my brother and I wanted at the store wasn’t organic, we didn’t get it, end of story). My mom was a single mother, raising two kids on a very restricted budget, but this is what mattered to her. We didn’t go on vacations, we didn’t see many movies. Cable didn’t exist back then, but if it had we wouldn’t have had it. She put what little resources she had towards organic and health foods for her kids. That was her priority.

    Fast forward to today, when Americans spend less on food than at any time in our history, and we say we can’t afford organics. We have new expenditures now—cell phone bills, cable, internet—that we didn’t have back then. Is that where our extra grocery money went? Is it simply a matter of priorities?

    At the same time, I wince when I pay nearly a dollar an apple at the farmers’ market (organic, local). I buy organic because I believe in it and want to support it—I know it will go away if we don’t—but it’s where my extra income goes. I also know that many conventional crops and farms are subsidized by the government. They aren’t actually that cheap, we make them that cheap. We’ve got a messed up farm political situation. As a country, we have screwed up priorities.

    But think of the chemicals—not just on your food, but in the soil, leeching into the groundwater, the streams. I have friends who grew up in the farmland of central California and talk about swimming in the drainage water on hot summer days. They wouldn’t do that anymore, it’s too toxic. I have other friends who keep their kids inside on days when their farming neighbors spray pesticides on their crops. We don’t even need to talk about farmworkers growing ill, having babies with birth defects.

    We’ve got a screwed up system.

    So I do what I can. I allocate a ridiculous portion of my small salary to organic produce. Does it hurt? Yep. Do I believe it’s the best thing to do? Absolutely.

  20. MoniCue

    The perfect little body of a baby really gives perspective, doesn’t it? That was our epiphany 10 years ago. After the purity of breastmilk, I couldn’t feed her dirty food. So, even tho we were on a *tiny* income, we cut out other perks and spent the money on quality food and the time on cooking at home. To keep the expenses in check a bit, I do use the “dirty dozen” list and don’t buy solely organic. We also have purchased CSA farm shares since our sweetie was a toddler (again, while on a tiny income), and I now work on a CSA farm during the growing season and get my wages in food. This is fabulous! I can, dry and freeze the excess.…all this from a to-the-bone city girl who remains amazed by her own evolution. (And over the past 10 years, I have to say I see MANY more organic options in the stores, even our small-town conventional grocers.)

  21. Rachel

    The comments here are all truly real. For many years I couldn’t afford the organic lifestyle, and I would pick and choose at the store. In more recent years, with two steady moderate incomes, a reasonable mortgage, and a stable life, my husband and I can afford to go organic and local as much as is feasible. We do the CSA 6 months of the year and really stock up from that–the shares are too much to eat in a week despite our insatiable appetite for greens & veggies. So we have taken to canning, jamming, pickling, and freezing. Then through the winter we try to avoid purchasing out of season veggies & fruits that we were able to store up from the summer. That which we crave & cannot store, we buy organic from the local stores. I have chosen local over organic on many occasions too, it’s always a toss up. I know that this is a luxury that we have right now, we have no children yet and have the time and energy to devote to this type of lifestyle. But, we do save an enormous amount of money over the winter & summer months due to our CSA investment. It’s a matter of time & energy to process all the CSA provides to make it worthwhile.
    Eating in season & local (organic or not) is better for your body in that the veggies and fruits have more of their nutrients left the less they travel to get to your plate. I like to try to abide by that and go as organic, both for my body’s sake, but also for the sake of the earth we live on.

    An interesting read for anyone looking for more info on the seasonal eating & organic v. pesticide debates — Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal Vegetable Miracle“
    It’s worth a read, poses some very thought provoking concepts and ideas, and makes suggestions on how a family can make the switch to a more sustainable future through food.

  22. Tamiko

    We struggle with these conversations, too. Local? organic? seasonal? We go to the organic produce section of our supermarket, hoping that some of it will be local. (Most of it is from California, and we try not to buy anything farther than that.) Now that our farmers market is coming back on a weekly (instead of a monthly) basis, we’ll be visiting it frequently, too. A few times we’ll break out of those patterns, like when kindergartener C really wants some pineapple or cantelope out of season. And toddler M loves bananas; since her palate is still quite limited, it’s important to get her some nutrition, some fresh fruit, that way. And I was craving avocados this week.

    I agree with Tea, though, that part of the issue for us is priorities; we spend a great deal on organic and local and seasonal produce, wherever and whenever we can. We don’t go to the movies, we borrow most of our books from the library, we don’t have cable TV, and though both of us work full-time, we don’t have someone to help clean the house (and part of me even cringes as I type this last part).

    I will say that paying attention to organic, though, has also taught me a lot about local and seasonal food. These are tough, intensely personal decisions; it’s not always a dance we can dance successfully.

  23. Meghan

    I never thought too much about the kind of food my parent’s bought until I got married and moved out of the house. Suddenly, I was in charge of what I was putting into my family’s body and I realized so many of the things we were eating had ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, and I certainly couldn’t identify. Now, during the Farmer’s Market season, I only buy food from local farmers and if I’m at the store I find out who the meat is grown by, how the cow’s are fed, etc. If I pick up a package mix and I can’t identify everything in the ingredients list, I put it back. I’ve also done the same for our Labradoodle, who I think deserves to eat food with whole products like chicken breast and cranberries, versus meat by-product.

    Thanks for being an inspiration!

  24. justcooknyc

    I know this is a complicated issue, although I agree with the very simple idea that it’s wrong that only people with a lot of money can afford to eat pesticide-free. That’s a huge problem in this country. But I have to say there is something so awesome about the farms on your island. I love that idea — they’re not certified organic because that costs money, but they just are organic. Imagine if the whole world could be like that. Imagine if we didn’t have to play by the rules of the governement to do the right thing. Imagine if we could just trust people to be good. Let’s face it, the government doesn’t care about us. They care about money and power. They care about getting relected. So when a rule or regulation is put into place, it’s probably because someone with power and money lobbied for it. I just want fewer chemicals in my body.

  25. Christine

    We try to eat and buy organic, when it’s affordable or when we have extra money. I know the importance of eating organic. While we’re really frugal, it’s hard to afford organic all the time. I’ll admit it, our main priority right now is education for us, so we can hopefully find better jobs in the future. For now, the only organic products we consume are milk and fruits. Eggs, vegetables and meat, not yet, hopefully in near future. In the meantime, we don’t eat out, and we feed our children the best ingredients our money can get.

  26. Tiferet

    I’m impulsive, and I like fruit. Sometimes it really seems like a huge imposition to have to get to a sink so I can wash it first. Sometimes I really just want to eat fruit out of the bag on the bus. This is happening less often now that I’m on a gluten-free diet, and I’m sure you can guess why a person with untreated celiac disease would be so desperate to eat berries that she’d eat a whole container of them during a 15 minute bus ride–the body needs vitamins!

    I am not necessarily all that careful about buying produce that I know I will wash.

    But I only buy organic strawberries and raspberries. This is partly because non-organic strawberries are often tasteless, but it’s mostly because of the day I got strawberries for cheap because I was broke and they tasted okay, but they gave me a migraine because I ate a few on the way home, stopping when I noticed a slight chemical smell. And then when I washed them the water turned grey and even after I washed them, they still had that smell, and I had to throw the rest of them out. I wasn’t even sure if I should put them in the compost. Whatever they had on them probably isn’t something you’d want in compost, you know?

  27. Marigold

    This is an extremely complex issue. Poster Cathy made some good points. Here in no particular order are some of my thoughts.

    There are health risks with ingesting pesticides, how much is often hard to determine because we are exposed to so many toxins in our environment from many sources. Pesticides are clearly implicated in Parkinson’s disease; not from ingestion on food but through exposure to field workers or nearby residents during application. But what about the extra land that is required to farm organically?

    Then, there’s the environmental aspect of organic vs conventional, local vs regional vs global. The concept of “food miles” is often used as a criterion for making food choices based on carbon footprint but it is far too simplistic. A more accurate model is “lifecycle assessment” where all of the factors that go into getting food from seed to plate are used to determine the environmental impact of a food, including soil fertility, irrigation needs, etc etc. Lettuce trucked to my market in Oregon from Mexico may actually be more carbon neutral than lettuce trucked to the farmer’s market.

    Then there are economic issues; justice issues; food security issues; hunger issues. All important, all difficult to solve.

    Buying local, eating organic, seem intuitively right and satisfying.But digging down, so to speak, it’s not that clear cut. I love the farmer’s market in our community for the social aspect, the music, strolling along the river on a sunny day. However, I rarely buy produce there. Why? Because why in heavens name should I pay $2.50 for a bunch of organic radishes when I can get conventional radishes at the supermarket for 50 cents a bunch? Sorry, but they don’t taste that much better. That one bunch of radishes convinced me to find a community garden plot and start growing my own. Working in my garden is way way cheaper than therapy and I love to do physical work after a day spent at my desk. But yet, I have to drive my car to the plot whenever I need to bring my wheelbarrow or my larger tools like shovels and hoes, because they would get stolen if I left them at the garden. What are the trade-offs involved there? I selectively buy conventional when it seems the best choice, organic when it seems the best choice, local/regional etc etc. It’s hard to know the effect of these choices.

    Many of us come across as being a bit self-righteous (me, especially) about our food choices. I only eat organic, or in season, or local, or all three. But what happens when we come up against letting go of something we love in the name of our principles? What about coffee? What about tea? What about rice? What about quinoa, and dried beans, and all of the other things that we love and would never give up but cannot be grown in our northern climate?

    One more thought: I am uneasy with eating too far up the food chain in terms of what food costs both from an economic standpoint but also because, to me, it is unfair to eat high end food when millions all over the world, and many in my own town, are undernourished or even starving. (Because this post is not being made under my real name, I can brag that I contribute money to my local food bank and when I retire, soon, I will also contribute my time.) Being naturally frugal, I gravitate towards keeping costs down, and am uncomfortable with purchasing something expensive when another product is available that costs less but may not have the cachet. So I stick with the $1.99 Trader Joe’s rice pasta, which tastes just fine to me, rather than the Tinkiyada $4 pasta, let alone the $7 imported Italian pasta I see in Whole Foods. The saved money goes towards other things that are important to me, including helping others eat.

    Oops, I wrote a novel, sorry.

    1. shauna

      I like the novel. It’s clear how much passion is in this topic for everyone here. (Just wanted to let you know that the rumor on the street is that the Trader Joe’s pasta is actually Tinkyada. I’m convinced it’s true. We buy that too.)

  28. Miss Kris

    We spend a good portion of our income on food, too. During growing season at the farmer’s market, I will buy produce that is not certified organic but is grown using organic practices. I will only buy organic produce from the grocery store. I really have a hard time buying fruit and veggies from the grocer because they don’t taste nearly as good as the goods from the farmer’s market.

    I will only buy, cook and eat meat that is local and raised humanely and pretty much only buy it directly from the farmers at the market. We eat meat about twice a week. This year, I was able to join two CSAs — one with Tiny’s for produce and a second egg CSA with Dog Mountain. I am so excited!

    The one thing we slack on regards to quality of food is eating out. We eat out about once a week and go to the most convenient and kid-friendly restaurants on Capitol Hill.

  29. Jennifer

    What a touchy subject you’ve brought forth. I commend you on taking a stance. I have a background in horticultural science and this is always a hot topic no matter who is part of the discussion. I just wanted to add a few of my thoughts to the conversation.

    I have to agree with Cathy on her argument that organic does not always mean better. But I personally agree with the stance that local is better, whether or not it is deemed organic by the government. Farming is an extremely hard industry and organic can make it even more impossible without the right cultivars of plants. While there is substantial growth in breeding programs, there is the other side of that coin– media instigated rejection of anything labeled genetically modified. These plants that are bred for a particular trait can be misconstrued as horrible mutants and so the pesticides prevail. There are good and bad examples of any of these types of farming, and there is no one right answer. (Done with my soap box!)

    Thank you for another lovely recipe and some good quality brain stimulation!

  30. Ellen W

    I live in Montana, a climate not well suited for growing a wide range of produce. Our farmers’ market is only 4 months of the year. So aside from that small window and what I can grow in my smallish garden, I buy the bulk of my produce at the grocery store and Costco. Frankly, sometimes the organic produce at our grocery store is rather sad looking. I would like to buy more organic and local food, but it isn’t always available and I am on a budget. I am now spending more money on basics like flour and pasta that are gf which is fine; our family is eating less commercial, processed food which I think is good as well.

    This year I am going to try to freeze more veggies and maybe even learn to can. Some days with my picky eater family, I am thankful when they eat their vegetables even if they are not organic/local.

  31. MollyT

    I garden without pesticides or man-made fertilizers and I’m pretty much a year-’round gardener, except for fresh salad greens during the darkest coldest weeks of the year. When it comes to shopping, however, it depends on what I’m buying. Strawberries, organic. Oranges, don’t care. In general, if I’m not going to eat the outside of it, I don’t go out of my way to buy organic. Part of this is that with the new USDA organic certification, the word “organic” has been rendered meaningless. All kinds of pesticides are permitted, and the record-keeping favors agri-biz over the small market farmer with a number of different crops. Add to this the question about who is overseeing the farms in Mexico and China to ensure that they are following USDA guidelines. So I buy local when I have to, grow my own when I can, and buy organic more out of concern for the fieldworkers who are exposed to heavy doses of toxins, than for my family, for whom the exposure is very minimal.

    1. shauna

      That’s an absolutely beautiful point, Molly. We haven’t talked about that in this conversation yet. Buying organic for the fieldworkers. Inspiring.

  32. Kati

    A few months ago I started buying organic yogurt. Because our small grocery store doesn’t stock many organic choices, I bought a yogurt manufactured by a leading company last week. I was amazed at how different it tasted. It was almost sickeningly sweet and artificial. Not at all the taste I remembered. Needless to say, next time I’ll go without yogurt. Prior to this experience I wouldn’t have guessed organic foods would taste any different. Now I wonder what I have been missing out on.

  33. Laurie

    I have two autoimmune diseases (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and celiac) and switching to whole organic foods (even before the celiac diagnosis) made a world of difference in how I felt. And I wasn’t eating junky before. I truly believe that some people are simply far more sensitive to pesticides and toxins in the environment.

    We’re lucky enough that I’m able to be home with the kids and have the time to participate in CSAs and farmers markets (ours is on Thursdays from 1–5!) as well as having the money to buy organic and pasture raised food.

    I do have my “lines in the sand” though:
    All beef must be pastured and organic AND not fed soy, corn, or wheat (and is raised by my sister and brother in law).
    All chicken must be pastured and organic and not been fed soy or corn.
    Fish is always wild caught.
    All dairy must be goat or raw and organic.

    I buy the dirty dozen organic or don’t buy it at all, but with things like oranges and bananas I’m not as picky. I also can and freeze so we have things year round.

    Given that my son (age 6) and I are both celiac and our “rules” we spend a lot of money on groceries. While we eat out infrequently, when we do we eat at expensive places that use real foods, local foods and at the least antibiotic and hormone free meats. I realized recently that we spend more on food in a month than many people spend on their mortgages or rent — our food budget is actual almost as much as our mortgage! And I feel guilty about that, but I’m not willing to change what I feed my kids either.

    While I realize that some people can truly not afford to buy organic foods, I also think that many people who claim not to be able to just have different priorities. After all on top of spending 24% on food, our grandparents saved money for a rainy day, put 20% down on houses and had only one wage earner. (And yes, I’m completely aware of wage inflation, housing price inflation/size etc.!) But I do have to say that I have heard working spouses of my husbands colleagues say that they cannot afford organic and I find that very difficult to believe considering they are bringing in double what my family is!

  34. Sondi

    I am a holistic nutrition student and the issue of organic vs non-organic arises for me all the time. I buy as much organic as I can on my limited student budget; I believe that organic agriculture is better for the health of people and for the health of the planet. However, before I was a student I worked in the nonprofit sector and struggle with how I can help people with low incomes be as healthy as possible. There is definitely an element of elitism with nutrition and I fear that healthy food will remain limited to those who have lots of disposable income.

    I live a simple life. But the fact remains that organic costs way more than conventional, no matter how you prioritize.

  35. Shelby

    This topic has been tough one. I teach preschool special ed — and over the last ten years what I have seen in my students has just convinced me further to keep what is going in as pure as possible. My son and I both feel and function better on a gluten & dairy free diet. Celiacs — no, intolerant — oh yeah! It’s also just the two of us. Don’t have to tell you what a single mom with a teacher’s salary has in terms of budget, but food is a priority. Still I have the same internal debate as I stand in the store & weigh out local vs organic, and the cost. I thought hard about a CSA last year & think this year I am going to go for a half share and see what happens. On top of those concerns is the one similar to leading a GF lifestyle — how to get others, like family, to respect your food preferences?! We’ve been fortunate enough to live with my parents for the last 8 months as I saved up to buy a home. It’s been a gift, so who am I to bring my food issues into the house? Still, watching my son, they have adjusted some of their shopping and eating habits. It’s hard to create and sustain change when it goes against deeply set patterns and is an inconvenience and expense. Changing farming and govenment programs feels like a bigger version of the same battle.

  36. Mrs. Q

    The salad looks *amazing* by the way!! Taking notes and starring it!

    I love that you brought food politics into the discussion, especially pesticide use. When one of the commenters above mentioned having to choose between organic produce and gf bread, my heart broke. It’s not just a little pesticide here and there — it adds up. Per Chef Ann Cooper, “Americans, including children, consume roughly five pounds of pesticide per year.”

    Makes me want to puke. And it’s not just obvious fruit and veggies (like apples and lettuce) but even potatoes are liberally doused with the stuff. What is our country doing to us?

  37. Sarah

    My soap box and passion is food and health. For me they are one in the same. I am a single mom, no child support, work 2 jobs and I get some (very little)food assistance from the state. My number one priority for where my money is spent is “real food”. I will pay for a weeks worth of food before anything else. I can’t afford all organic, but I make my choices. My 6 year old and I are both G-free and 90% of our diet is purchased in the produce section, so that can get rather pricey, but I feel I don’t have a choice. Its either sacrifice and be healthy or die of some disease. We don’t have cable, or internet. We borrow movies from the library on occasion. We enjoy the outdoors, or spend time in the kitchen.
    All that to say, is that some organic is do-able. People don’t like to sacrifice. They like convenience. Were a bunch of Ostriches lol. I may not be able to buy all organic, but I do buy local and some organic as much as I can. Its all about choices. And don’t even get me started on GMO’s!!! ;-)

  38. lauren

    sometimes it seems like the organic/local food/slow food movement has an air of privilege to it. Like someone stated before some just need food-period. I mean look at where most Whole Food markets are located, most are in well to do neighborhoods.
    The whole way the food structure is set up in our country is perplexing-lots of subsidies to farms that grow monocrops, but how about to those farmers who are more diversified? Its really ashame that food has to become a class issue-but somehow the big cooperations have huge voice politically (organic standards now are even more watered down than previously)- a voice that is really concerned about the bottom line-and that is what can they do to please their shareholders.

  39. Linda

    I’ve been worried about genetically altered food. It sort of makes sense on paper but who knows what the long term effects are? I’ve read that farmers have to buy the genetically altered seeds to grow wheat in the States. I thought I’d never have to eat it but then I read that if you have ever taken Vitamin C, the source of it comes from Mexico, and it will have been made from a genetically altered source. I’ve taken it. I was just wondering about fruit and vegetables that come from Mexico.

  40. Phyllis

    I am lucky because I work for a small independent grocery chain in N. California. We have a large produce department with an organics buyer who is really good at his job. Quite often, he prices the organics more cheaply than the conventional buyer does! I am always comparison checking to see which is priced better.
    I agree with the shopper who goes for local versus always organic, though. Trucking long distances adds pollution to all of our lives, not to mention what we do with our politics and support of the oil despots. I also pack a lunch every day and keep it simple — organic brown rice, veggies, tamari, plain organic yogurt and fruit. It’s really cheap to eat this way. It’s easy, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel thinking about what to make or buy for lunch, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. We are more creative for dinner but still try to eat only grass-fed beef, naturally raised chicken and mostly organic dairy. I don’t buy unsustainable fish choices, quit eating shrimp and any other farmed fish and in general, try to do the right thing, as far as I can interpret it. Planning ahead is key for me — I shop with a flexible menu, cook a few things in volume for the week and generally speaking, it works and isn’t horrifically expensive.

  41. Caryn

    Oh what a good conversation you’ve got going on here!
    We are also working with one very modest income and spending the bulk of our budget on food — probably 85+% organic, and most of it local and seasonal. Just like other posters, we are also dealing with a variety of health issues (hashimoto’s, celiac, chronic inflammation, and autoimmune issues). In our quest for wellness, it’s extremely important to our family to fill up our bodies with the best possible fuel and give them every opportunity to heal and flourish. We also really value the opportunity to teach our young sons where the food on their plates comes from and how to grow it. Volunteering on a farm and working with a CSA program has been a great opportunity to shape our boys’ images of food production as well as train their palates to appreciate the freshness and flavors of local produce. It may seem like a daunting task to feed a family organic, local, and seasonal fare, but I would say the benefits of making the time/effort/money sacrifice to do so are well worth it.

    I would second Rachel’s recommendation to pick up Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal Vegetable Miracle” — a very interesting read!

  42. Grace

    This recipe sounds gorgeous. For me organic is about respect — respect for our bodies, for the animals and produce, and respect for our environment. And definitely when I had my little girl Zoe, the thought of chemicals and pesticides going into her little body felt like a
    much more immediate and direct issue. Of course you can’t always get or afford organic but here in the UK there are wonderful box schemes (love Riverford) and the supermarkets sell organic at very competitive prices.
    (Hi by the way! — I LOVE your blog)

  43. kitchenvoyage

    Actually I live in Brighton in one of the most organic cities of whole UK, since then i start to eat more and more organic and buying everything i can to local farmer (delivery included). For me the veggies look more authentic flavour, that doesnt mean better, but for me the big diferrence is in the pork lamb and chicken i can relly taste the hapinness of the animals. Another organic produc that enjoy a lot is the wines, without sulfites i not suffer anymore for acid in my stomach. Yep the problem is the money, i calculated very well and my shop in waitrose supermarket is 25 pounds cheaper than buying organic to the local farmer.

    http://kitchenvoyage.blogspot.com/ Download Spring British Food Calendar

  44. Christine

    I buy organic produce when I can, and when the price difference is not extreme. From spring to fall I try to buy mostly local; but I love my avocados and citrus, and we don’t grow too many of those things in the Northeast. Generally I try to buy seasonal and will pick local over organic and conventional produce when given a choice. For a number of years we belonged to our CSA, but that still leaves us without from November through May.

  45. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle

    I think everyone would agree that if given the option and affordability, we would all prefer our produce (heck, all of our food) to be organic, free range, free of antibiotics and anything else that would altar the chemical balance of what we consume.

    However, when I think of the logistics, isn’t that virtually impossible, given the number of people farmers in the country are expected to produce food for? One comment cited examples of what can happen in any given year if there is a plague of insects that decimate untold acreage of products we expect on our table.

    It seems simplistic but sometimes that works best for me. And for me it’s simple. I do what I can, when I can. The economics are real but that’s true of anything. I was able to afford more organic produce as a single mom raising two girls because I chose to make the majority of our foods from scratch. My girls lamented that we never had snacks in the house but what they meant was packaged cookies, chips and more and thankfully they now appreciate the value not just of what they ate…but in that practice that they also learned how to cook.

    I can appreciate that some people have sensitivities that require they eliminate toxins from their system and I am not taking that lightly but sometimes, in the furor over healthy have to’s I can’t help but think of my father. Almost 90 years old I doubt he has ever considered local, organic or any other issue with his food choices and beef is his major food group. He smokes a pack of cigarettes a week (yes…you read that right) and he has always enjoyed an alcoholic beverage on a regular basis. Yet the man has never had a surgery or been hospitalized once. He still drives and has an active lifestyle…including a girlfriend for crying out loud.

    So, sometimes I think of him and wonder at the capacity of our bodies to live despite all that we do that is supposedly wrong to them. And I admit…that’s brings me some comfort and back to my original thought. I do what I can.That’s all I can do.

  46. {darlene}

    I am reading your blog today for the first time and I just had to comment. I did a google search for gluten free dairy free recipes, and weaved my way to your site.
    I will be back. for sure.

    I wanted to take the time to tell you that you are a fantastic writer, and your blog has encouraged me today to stick out the fight for my body and my health. I am so new to all of this, and have much to learn. I am thankful that you are sharing your journey.

    -{darlene}
    fieldstonehilldesign.com

  47. April

    What a wonderful salad! Like art to the eyes!

    I live in a very rural community in which the only produce grown locally consists of corn and soy beans — almost none of which is intended for human consumption. Produce is scarce in our stores, and I’ll be honest that I’d rather eat Mexican produce than none at all! :) That said, one of my criteria in the next place my family lives is the availability of healthy food for my family. It is awful not to be able to feed my family the way that seems best.

  48. Chelle

    Shauna,
    you shuld visit growalabama.com, our local co-op. Jerry, who runs it, sends out great emails about organic produce, eating locally, and why it is hard to find local produce these days. I think you and he would really enjoy talking to each other.
    Chelle

  49. Julie

    I live in Nashville, and we are lucky to be surrounded by a number of excellent local farmers and community shares. I buy everything I can organic at the store, and anything that I can afford to buy organic and local I get at the farmer’s market. I have found that eating GF means that most of what I buy is organic anyways (as its only available at Whole Foods), so buying organic doesn’t end up being all that much extra. My family and I used to do vegetable community shares, but we got too much of one thing over and over again. Despite being a creative cook, too much went to waste. We still get our meats and milk from a local farm program, and it tastes SO MUCH better. and the eggs… even when money is tight, I pay $4/dozen for the local organic eggs. I worry about the chemicals in my body and the carbon footprint.

  50. Julia

    Hey there — I’m a new follower, and my household is newly gluten-free, due to my boyfriend’s recently discovered intolerance.

    Anyway, to answer your questions about organic food & health —

    I just turned 30, and I have eaten mostly organic food for my entire life. That means I grew up eating organic food, and until the later 90s, finding organic food — especially produce and (tasty) packaged foods — was very difficult. and the pickings were limited. I grew up mostly vegetarian, though there was very little, very expensive, and only frozen meat available. My family was fortunate enough to be able to afford and organic diet, and I remember our grocery bills at the tiny local health food store for just a few brown bags of organic food usually exceeded $100. We also belonged to a food co-op and bought many things in bulk. My mother taught 3-day courses at home and would write off much of the bulk-purchased food for business-related tax purposes. Still, I’m sure she spent at least $500 a month feeding a family of 4.

    It’s cheaper now, but even with Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods, coupon-cutting and buying bulk during sales, I spend $300 a month to feed my boyfriend and I an organic diet. Actually, it’s probably more now that I buy so much gluten-free stuff, though I hope to make more things from scratch and reduce my dependency on GF packaged goods.

    Again, I am lucky to be able to afford organic food, but in my case I don’t have much of a choice. I found out the hard way that I become very ill if I eat much conventional food, especially certain highly-sprayed fruits & veggies and dairy. My family traveled a great deal and I spent weeks to months abroad, mostly in Europe or Australia. Without fail, I would get sick after about 10 days away from home, and often I would end up contracting some nasty infection as a result my immuno-suppressed state. Eventually we discovered — sometime in my early teens — that I was very sensitive to pesticides. Even now, I will have mild flu-like symptoms from say an extra-large latte or spinach salad at a restaurant. So I completely believe that a switch from conventional foods would cure someone of migraines.

    My younger brother doesn’t have the same sensitivity as I do, so I’m not sure that my problem is due to lack of exposure to pesticides.

    Organic food tastes so much better — produce especially — and you can see it usually. The produce is more vividly coloured, declaring its higher nutrient content. Certain items make the organic difference particularly obvious — tomatoes come to mind, as you mentioned. I’ve never had an anemic, mealy tomato that was organic, but that seems to be the norm for conventional tomatoes. And I never understood why Red Delicious apples are so ubiquitous!

    I prefer to buy local — and I don’t eat 100% organic, maybe 80–90% — but many items I will ONLY eat if organic, no matter how far away they were grown. I do try to pay attention to certification and origin, however, since I’ve learned that sometimes ‘organic’ is a meaningless if not completely deceiving label. Goji berries are a good example — they all come from China, which has no organic certification or practices, and in fact goji berries have been routinely tested and found to routinely, if not always, have high pesticide levels.

    I don’t eat out often, and when I do, I try to eat at places that use at least some organic food. I’m lucky to find that here in central North Carolina. Still, I probably eat out less than handful of times a year. I can usually make better food at home!

  51. Louisa

    To me, local will always be more important than organic. Now, my viewpoint is different than a lot of people’s– I grew up and now live again in a mostly rural area of Pennsylvania. It’s one small city surrounded by farms and small towns, and the landscape is breathtaking– because this is what farming is supposed to look like. It’s a mixed bag of animals and a patchwork quilt of different crops when seen from the mountains above, not an endless sea of monocrops. There are ten farmers’ markets in my county alone, and many farms also have on-farm stores and stands. There’s a hundred year old dairy that sells milk in glass bottles– if you bring them back, your milk is cheaper than if you bought it at the grocery store. You can watch them bottle the stuff through a window in the back of the store, and then you can step out of the store and say hello to the cows. They’re right there. Pigs live down the street from me in my suburban neighborhood, wallowing in the mud and snoozing in the sun like pigs should.

    I’m also friends with farmers, having sold baked goods at some of the markets. I know people who run CSAs, people who raise meat goats, even a guy with a trout fishery. I know Amish families. I like them all, and I want them to stay in business. I want them to keep their land! Once that land slips out of a farm family’s hands, especially in a growing area like mine, it’s gone forever– turned into tract mansions. I’m lucky to live in an area that supports local agriculture, with all the successful markets and local restaurants serving local products every day. But I want it to stay that way, and that’s why I value local the most. Health is about so much more than the physical, and I know that if my hometown turned into another suburban wasteland, I’d be harmed.

  52. Kharina

    Hi Shauna, really interesting post this.

    I’ve been part of a vegbox scheme here in the UK for approximately 6 years now, and for the first time I have been forced to cancel as I’m struggling to find work to feed my habit of organic veg. Being unemployed and constantly broke forced me to make some lifestyle choices I didn’t think I’d ever make.

    Before, whilst I was earning very good money, I would indulge in organic veg everyday in every meal, even my 8 lovely guinea pigs were lucky to munch on organic kale and carrots. Now I will buy “normal” vegetables from the supermarket, or the farmers market which pops up on Sundays. The veg from the market are locally grown, but not all are organic.

    My husband reckons the whole organic movement is a money earning scheme. He is right in some ways as there are a lot of rogue companies jumping on the organic bandwagon. He doesn’t understand the benefits of eating organic and will laugh at me when I mention pesticides. Luckily, I am the cook in the house so the prep is thorough.

    I think, unfortunately, as the debate had been made here in the UK, that organic food is a class thing. Unless you live smack in the middle of farming country and have such foods readily available or have a good income, it is extremly difficult to maintain an organic diet.

  53. Terri

    We have been eating organic for about 25 years now. Way before the word organic was regulated. We shopped at a little co-op in San Diego and our friends and family thought we were crazy.

    We have raised four kids on organic foods. Four smart, healthy, food loving kids. Yes, its more expensive now, but the health benifits down the road will more than make up for $2.49 a head lettuce. We saved our money in other areas (one car, no cable) becasue our kids health was the most important thing. No regrets.

  54. Carla Silva

    Before becoming a mother, I never put much thought into how the food I bought and prepared was grown. After having my boys, I became extremely aware of the ingredient list on every package and for the past 9 years made a true effort to be as natural as our surroundings — and wallet — allow us to be. I live in a small town in Portugal where, luckily, we grow most of our produce — pesticide free! It is such a wonderful feeling to go to my backyard, pick an orange from the tree and just eat it! Watching my boys climb our tangerine and persimmon trees and eat like monkeys makes me so happy! Love it! I, too, do not understand how the food grown without additives is the most expensive. I completely agree with Terri — cut back on what doesn’t really matter (which is what we do) and invest in your health and, especially, your children’s health. Although, I do understand that for many families around the world, that’s just not realistic. What is our world comingo to?

  55. Melissa

    “we have a hungry girl who adores blueberries. Do we make her wait to eat them until July when she has no concept of seasons? ”

    My impression is that many western societies have forgotten how to say no. It’s our desire for everything, right now, because we can, that has helped fuel large scale farm operations that use pesticides both at home and abroad. We’re a market that demands immediate satisfaction and no one has said ‘no’ to us. Until enough individuals say no to the broader marketplace, the true cost of food will not be reflected in supermarkets.

    I’m 40, and I remember supermarkets from the 1970’s before so much produce was flown in from overseas in the off-season. People survived and ate well. I didn’t get to eat fresh strawberries in the winter, and that was okay — I looked forward to the summer month when I would have them. I’d eat jam for a strawberry fix.

    People are conditioned to what they perceive as normal. Maybe once we change ‘normal’ back to a situation where food choices better reflect seasonality, it won’t be as difficult to say no.

  56. Leigha

    Wow, I really love your blog post. I just happened upon your blog from google. I had extreme migraines when I was eating gluten and refined sugar. I stopped eating them and then started back up a little when I was pregnant with our son. I am still eating little bits.…but desperately need to stop. Reading this post has been most helpful. Thank you for reminding me why I shouldn’t eat like I have been. Will be following your blog! Also, once our son came along we just couldn’t feed him anything but organic.

  57. Lisa

    I’m a college student and I try to eat as much organic food as possible. Where I live(in Germany) a lot of regular supermarkets have a growing amount of organic products so it’s not so difficult to buy organic although the meat and vegetable range is sometimes a bit restricted. In Germany we have two different kinds of organic food, the EU label for food that conforms with the EU rules for organic food and private labels that have stricter regulations. The normal supermarkets usually have the EU label which is what I usually buy and can afford(the shops with the other labels are also further away).
    For me health is not the main reason(although a reason) but to treat the environment and especially the animals that we eat responsibly. My boyfriend lives on an organic farm with beef production and there I also heard how conventional meat is produced and this doesn’t sound tasty…

  58. kathyh

    I have been blessed to live in Oregon where we can grow our own vegy’s & fruits so easily.
    I did not realize this until I was in my thirties when a columnist for FoodDay (The Oregonian, Jan Dominguez Ruiz?) wrote a column on preserving our bountiful berry harvests. Raspberries, strawberries, marionberries, blueberries, ad infinitum.
    The column was about her military son serving aboard a carrier. His shipmates lusted after the jam she would send in his care packages.
    Up until that point in time, I did not realize the rest of the world could not have loganberry jam or blackberry jam or raspberry jelly whenever they wanted. They had to make do with the orange marmalade stuff from the supermarket or grape jelly( what’s in there anyway?).

    I was under the impression that everyone made their own jam. Because it’s incredibly simple to make. Her column made an impact on me. Whenever I am sending care packages/christmas gifts, I always include my homemade jam/jelly or my neighbors luscious Marionberry Syrup that is so perfect for waffles.
    Organic does not have to be expensive.

  59. Michelle

    I grew up in a family that picked a ton of blueberries every summer and froze them. Our favorite snack all winter was a cup of frozen blueberries. I’ve continued this with my own son, and we always have a huge tub of frozen blueberries in the freezer to snack on all winter long.

  60. {darlene}

    saying hello again to say:
    I am eating this delicious salad right now.
    THANK YOU for helping me to make this gluten free/dairy free {I left out the cheese :( and popped in a few walnuts} journey fun and delicious.

    your post also inspired me to go MUCH more organic at my recent shopping… and it did not cost me much more at all. It was really about choices. Some things {like tomatoes} WERE much more expensive… so I just got a few and am holding out for the harvest of my first garden.

    thanks again. so glad I found your blog.
    -{darlene}
    fieldstonehilldesign.com

  61. Cat E.

    It’s almost impossible to get locally grown vegetables in the fall/winter here in Anchorage. There are companies that have a local/organic veggie box you can order, but from what I understand, in winter it’s mostly tubers. So, unfortunately, many people buy the fruits and veggies grown internationally, or order their food boxes from Seattle (increasing the carbon footprint of their food by adding fuel cost to it). Needless to say, it’s much easier to eat local organics in the short summer, where, with 24 hours of daylight on the solstice, there is an abundance of deliciousness at a lower cost.

  62. Melinda

    My daughter, a toddler, also loves blueberries and calls the ones in the 5 lb frozen bag from Costco “cold” blueberries. (Fresh ones have somehow gotten the name “dry” blueberries.) Someday we’ll have to explain to her that fresh is the natural state of these things.

  63. Morgan

    I term myself a “flexitarian” now, because I tend to gravitate towards vegetarian food but don’t eliminate meat entirely. I agree, it’s so easy to cook tofu incorrectly, and that is why some people don’t like it. The main reasons I’m not a vegetarian is because I love meat too much and it’s difficult here to go organic, gluten-free and vegetarian all at the same time.

    I don’t generally taste a difference between organic and non-organic foods, except in thin-skinned fruits like strawberries. However, I try to eat organic largely because I don’t trust Genetically Modified foods. I will eat non-organic foods, but I try to buy organic alternatives if possible. I worry more about grains than anything else, but I also but largely organic dairy products. I’d rather not intake rBST in my milk.

  64. Kate

    I wish I could say that every time I went to the store I thought about organic vs. non-organic produce & groceries, but the truth is … I don’t have a choice. Just getting fresh fruits & vegetables into my diet is financially difficult enough without wondering about where they were grown, or how they were grown, or whether or not they’re organic. I wish that I had the luxury of worrying about these problems, but I don’t have that choice.

  65. Liz

    I wanted to go organic back in grad school (2002–2004), when the movement was just starting to pick up steam in Wisconsin, where I lived at the time. I was in a small college town in the middle of farmlands, and there was a lovely, earthy little co-op that sold organic and conventional produce side by side, and always noted where it had been grown. I couldn’t afford the organic produce, but I bought my conventional produce and dairy at the co-op, and everything else at grocery chains. When I got my first “real” job, I was living a mile or so from a co-op in Milwaukee, and thought about it and decided to take the plunge, go organic and as local as possible for all my produce and dairy, regardless of cost. For a single person, it was easy to afford, as long as I was sensible about it–i.e. eating seasonally or of sale items to keep costs down. When I moved to Oregon, I decided to take the complete plunge and go organic and natural for everything, and shop at the local upscale organic grocery chain–I tried the co-op, but it leans heavily vegetarian and vegan, and I am neither. Oregon has a lovely long farmers market season, and the markets are at least 50% organic, and I shop there as much as I can (ouch to the wallet for someone who works in education!), and love it.
    There is much debate over the ability to eat locally (there is not enough farmland around population centers for everyone to logically do so) and how much fossil fuel is saved by x, y or z eating plan. What is absolutely known is that organic growing is better for the land–no questions there. In addition, reducing our meat consumption directly correlates to less fossil fuel usage. I can get behind both of those things, if for only those reasons. If I go meatless, I turn anemic quickly, so I can’t eschew it completely. I find that organic vegetables–especially carrots, so I was happy to see you’ve noticed that too! :) –DO taste better, and by better I mean stronger, more earthy, richer, everything. Their colors are brighter and darker all at the same time, which means they grew better in relation to the sun and soil. I like seeing my food look like food.

    YUM! Now I want my garden to hurry up and grow!

  66. Amy

    We just made this tonight, even without the kale (I just added more asparagus) and the mozzerella (dairy allergy), it was DELICIOUS! :D

  67. Abby

    This was written a long time ago, but I’m just now finding it. I just want to say, Thank You for writing about this topic. It really is so important.