One of my ambitions for the year we're in is to reduce my carbon and ecological footprints – the goals about non-consumption of certain goods and of buying regional produce and staples are the practical formulations of this.
I walked this road before- when I turned strictly vegetarian a couple years back I was only short of cash, but not of conviction, to buy my own flour mill. I had just recently gotten rid of my Catholic faith and in a way I guess I longed for something to replace it. But then, having learned my lessons I tried not to evangelize, and still claim not to. Of course that isn't possible. Being vegan - especially _becoming_ vegan - still is a feat so grand that not to boast about it is not for us mortals. Also, as with every categoric fundamentalism that makes you dress certain ways and not others, it is the strong conviction that you are right and that because of that you are doing good - images of Hell being replaced by hellish images from factory farms, "This is what happens, if you don't repent!", the parallels are as absurd as they are obvious. And then the claims that dogs fed vegan diets live to biblical age, that the world would be safe if all ate like you, I mean, come on, this is at points tough not to ridicule. But especially since I had just doffed, after a long struggle and a bachelor's in philosophy, what I now call my belief in metaphysics, I thought I wouldn't fall into this trap.
There are good reasons for strict vegetarianism though, empirical reasons, even though they don't convince me in all aspects. Wool from animals that are protected from mulesing, for example. And I am still not sure if the carbon footprint of a leather shoe is better or worse than that of a a petrochemical one.
And then there's the problem of my usual hypocrisy, because when I am drunk or when I feel sad because it's Christmas and below freezing and I'm cold and it's dark and no potatoes, I suddenly find myself, against all convictions, buying a three foot christmas tree to have a little more green in my room. When drunk, I have entered fast food chain franchises that I wouldn't even enter to use their facilities when sober. I have a feeling that the crap I buy on average cancels out all the ambitious experiments and regional products that happen in my kitchen.
Still, I have a special warm and fuzzy place in my vitriolic, cold heart for people who care about ecology, permaculture and - in short - where food comes from, because I am convinced that this is right. I don't see everybody else as being wrong though, and maybe that's hypocritical in it's own right.
In 2012 I worked for a short time for a local farmer, helping out at the market every Friday and Saturday, and that was as exhausting as it was satisfying. It was one of those jobs where you have to wash your hands for half an hour afterwards because the dirt just won't come off. The pay was ridiculous, especially considering the strain, but I was allowed at the end of the day to take any produce I wanted. Basically the salary was okay-ish, because I didn't need to buy groceries anymore. But the farmer I worked for was of course a conventional farmer, things like organic production seemed faggy to him, as did my veganism, although he respectfully did without jokes of that sort for most of the time. He was a hard worker, you saw that, and felt it, who had taken over his father's farm just outside of Vienna. I can't remember the numbers, but they had a field big enough to produce everything that you can produce regionally and saisonally. And he didn't sell anything else at his market. There was nothing bought in for consumer appeal, there was, in a very romantic sense, only what he had seen himself (or one of his workers, I assume).
Just on the opposite side from his market stand there was another, much more fancy and hip, from the biggest local organic produce distributor for consumers. It was funny to see how the young and hip that could afford the rent in the renovated flats around the prestigious market area all went to that place, while one could tell that the people who bought from "us" had done so for generations, many were known to my boss and his father, who still helped out with strong hands and discordous remarks. I once asked whether they would consider switching to organic, given that it was an emerging market and such, they replied in incredulity that the organic fad was a scam and that they would use far less pesticides than most organic farms, because, as you must know, "organic" doesn't mean "no pesticides", it just means "not more pesticides than can be detected". I like to think that they were indeed using only a little pesticide. But then again, given the salary I earned, I wouldn't have been able to eat anything else anyways.
At the moment I am trying to find out more about community supported agriculture and permacultures, to find out how a) to get the fuck out of here eventually, and b) how to consume more consciously in an urban setting. I didn't get too far yet, but one thing I try is to buy only basic products and make the rest myself. I do buy vegetables and fruit and legumes, I buy flour and oil and sugar, all of the stuff most people I interact with buy as well. But that's kinda it. Not categorically, for example yesterday I spent far too much money on far too much scrap chocolate. I regret a lot of things, but not this. I digress - as usual. I try, for example, not to buy bread but to bake it myself. Since bread isn't that much of a staple for me (fuck, how can one slice of bread have 100 kcal?!) I don't mind going a couple of days without, and having baked a lot of bread in the past this couldn't really become a challenge for this year. So I decided to go another step, and start my own sour dough. Which thrives now, and enables me to bake bread from nothing but flour that I buy in: I don't need any additional baking agents, just flour, spices/salt, water and my pet sour dough. I still need a name for him. I'm open for suggestions.
Making sour dough is easy, you put rye flour and water in a container and let it rot. Done. Make sure to stir once a day, to enjoy the smell of bacteria in your kitchen, and when the bacteria give up and the sour dough doesn't smell like a dead rat anymore, you're good to go to PUT IT IN YOUR FOOD. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?! So you mix the sour dough with flour, water and salt, keep some to make the next generation of sour dough, and then make the bread as usual. It takes a lot more time to rise, like four hours instead of one, but the result is amazing.
Another thing I tried to make yesterday is oat milk. I had considered making my own milk for some time but lacked certain items necessary: most importantly a blender or mixer. But yesterday I found a food mill at my local thrift store and had to buy it. And then I had to try it out, obviously. I took a cup of oats - might have been too much - cooked them in about 2 qt of water with a bit of salt - might have been too little - and then strained the cooked oats through the food mill. That was annoying, but okay to do. After that I took my new nut milk bag for a spin. I had read that while oat milk is the easiest to cook the part where you strain it through the milk bag is kinda gross because of all the gluten or something.
Let me tell you, I now know how they create that fake semen in bukkake videos. Imagine your hands completely covered in _that_ while standing over the kitchen sink and pushing hard a bag that emits even more of the sticky, slimy stuff that you are then supposed to let cool and PUT IN YOUR COFFEE. This isn't normal and it can not be healthy. Thankfully this concentrated gunk is then mixed with the more watery liquid and results in a milky fluid that is, at least visually, reminiscent of that 12-26 guy on 4chan. If you don't know it, don't search for it. You might not like what you find.
It does taste nice though. But I had to add more sugar and heat it up again so that the stuff mixed correctly. Having had this experience, I think I'm really looking forward to trying almond milk. Can't be that bad, Mr. Garibaldi.
If you're interested, I'll write more about my kitchen experiments and more about where I get my veggies from. If you're not, I probably still am going to do that, but keep it more brief.