Close To Home

17 09 2010

Being the only vegetarian in my family and group of friends, I often take some ribbing (not the BBQ kind). Heck, my best friends even bought me a shirt that said, in nice big letters: “VEGETARIAN: Indian word for “lousy hunter.”

But the fact of the matter is, most of us are lousy hunters. And gatherers. For decades we have all become customers of supermarkets and chain restaurants. We have no more connection to our food than we do the clothes we wear. Our food just magically shows up on shelves or plates. The plate of lasagna you just had at Olive Garden was no doubt prepared off-site, shipped in frozen, and then heated 10 minutes before it was served to you.

As if there were an Italian chef in the kitchen. Or you were tagging along with Elizabeth Gilbert on the first leg of her Eat Pray Love journey.

In other words, we live in an era of factory farms and factory kitchens.

But there is hope. The locavore movement is gaining steam. Initially started with the advent and growth of farmer’s markets, the latest trend is small butcher shops in which shoppers can get much closer to the meat they are buying. Meat hooks can be seen overhead. Butchers can be observed cutting and packing. And the places smells like…well, like there’s animal carcasses hanging around.

To be fair, we still engage in modest amounts of hunting and gathering. The backyard garden is a start. And some folks go fishing, or participate in seasonal hunts. But the fact remains, these little butcher shops are about the closest we will ever get to the animal whose flesh we grill for dinner.

Well, not me anyway. Maybe you.

As for me, I rather like this movement. I am not opposed to chain restaurants or supermarkets, but the idea of eating freshly prepared food that may very well have come from the area in which I stand is very appealing.

Unfortunately, unless you eat copious amounts of beef, there aren’t many things for an Amarillo boy to eat locally. Unless you like cotton and sorghum. But my neighbor is raising chickens and has eggs for sale. And if the weatherman cooperates, we can actually grow a few peaches around here.

At a more macro level, though, maybe this trend signifies a bigger change afoot. And that change stands in stark contrast to everything we as a culture have fought hard to achieve in the last century. Maybe we are returning to our roots. Maybe we are tired of the saccharine taste of food that has no real place to call home. Maybe we are just screaming for a little more simplicity and less complexity in our lives.

And maybe it’s time to cross back over to the other side of the street. Because it wasn’t so bad over there after all.

Dr “Attraversiamo, Baby!” Gerlich

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3 responses

17 09 2010
fallenangel39

I completely agree with you,and for that reason raise my own fruits and veggies.Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

17 09 2010
Rick Bolanos

Just a little side note, having worked in the restaurant business for years. There are still some restaurants out there that do most things the right way. I’ve worked in enough different places (Texas Roadhouse, Chili’s, Applebee’s, Olive Garden) to have seen the difference. So, when you talk about Olive Garden’s lasagna coming in frozen, you are dead wrong. It’s actually prepared on site and spends about 2.5 hrs in the oven, which is actually why they tend to run out towards the end of the night.

So while I realize this was not the point of your blog, I would hope that you would save those type of comments for the restaurants that deserve them (Applebee’s and Chili’s).

17 09 2010
gnumedialab

I am sorry to have upset you with this statement, but one of my associates worked at an Olive Garden in the not-too-distant past. Her report was that everything was frozen. She then went on to start her own from-scratch restaurant. OG’s method of food prep today may differ. All I know is what was shared with me.

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