Friday, February 9, 2007

Cutting the Cheese


It's been over twenty years since two jobs collided to push me off Meat-Eater Mountain. Working for a veterinarian during the week and a restaurant on the weekends, one day would bring a dachschund in surgery and the next a ham on the slicer. Perhaps it could have gone the other way, and I might have developed a craving for dachshund, but at it happened neither sounded too appetizing after awhile.

I was also reading a lot about the environment, including the classic Diet for a Small Planet, in which Francis Moore Lappe pointed out that with the enormous amount of resources required to produce a pound of beef you could grow a hill of beans. I was also concerned about animal welfare, and as I learned about factory farming I realized that I cared more about cows than I cared for beef.
By Lent of my senior year in high school, I was ready to give up red meat for good. I gave up poultry about six-months later.

I've never been an evangelical vegetarian. I am too lazy for fanaticism. My goal is to keep a balance in my life between our nutritional needs, my idealism, and convenience. Fish still appear on the Fuller menu occassionally, with efforts to be mindful of what's local and low-impact. To avoid factory-farmed eggs, we have three little hens who give us a dozen fresh eggs a week and eat bugs from the garden.

Some part of me thinks that if I were really walking the walk, I'd go vegan. 100%. I mean, I can see the merits: it's likely that dairy cows do even more environmental harm that beef cattle, and factory farming is factory farming. but... no grilled cheese??? No gorgonzola salad? Will I still be able to appreciate Wallace & Gromit?

It's kind of a drag that the more I focused I become on growing our own food and avoiding agribusiness, the harder it is to ignore the damn source. I'd like to find a local organinic dairy in Santa Barbara, but failing that, I may have to cut the cheese. Maybe not 100%, but maybe 80%. Or 60%. Depending on how the soy pizza works out.





Frances Moore Lappe's Small Planet Institute is worth a visit. And David Roberts recently shared his Vegetarizing Moment on Grist.

6 comments:

George said...

Your title is beneath you--makes me think I wandered into my blog. And of course I want to make a joke about cutting the cheese beneath you....

That's what being an omnivore does to you.

Queen Whackamole said...

I study from the master...

amy said...

Funny I just stumbled upon a Santa Barbara vegan restaurant list (http://www.vegsantabarbara.com/restaurants/) which warns that the soy cheese at Dish Cafe isn't really vegan. I don't know, soy cheese just doesn't sound appealing. Sorry.

There are a lot of artisan cheese makers in the US and in Europe. Many of them lovingly raise their own animals. Cowgirl Creamery buys their milk from the Straus Family Dairy which is that farm with the methane digester that powers their dairy. There's hope and good people in the cheese business. Don't give up on them.

Queen Whackamole said...

Thanks for pointing out VegSantaBarbara! I've added a link.
One of the issues that comes up for me with the artisan cheeses is food miles. There are definitely delicious and environmentally responsible cheeses to be had, but they have to be shipped so far to get to SB. Is there anyone doing anything locally? I've seen some micro-dairies in NorCal (usually goats)... there must be something down here...

amy said...

I understand your concern about food miles. But with cheese or wine, I think it is a bit different. It isn't coming to our stores in bulk to save you money. It is a true product of region and terroir. I'm not talking about your plain grocery store brand cheddar cheese.

The issue for local cheese is the climate. There are some cheese makers in Paso Robles, but to get good cheese the animals have to be able to eat quality food. So produciton is generally limited to when they can eat the natural greens from the hillsides (region and terroir). That is a short period here in California.

Queen Whackamole said...

I don't have any problem with traveling artisan cheese nibbled as a delicacy. The quantities in that case are pretty minor--it's not a major part of our diet. Some times food miles are 100% worth the drive.
I guess I'm thinking more about the plain grocery store cheddar cheese, the stuff that ends up in quesadillas, pizza, etc. Just the basic stuff.