Friday, December 12, 2008

Making Choices

Grocery shopping used to be so straight-forward. Go to the store, look for what you need, also buy some stuff you don't need, but want. Pay and go home. But, now that I am trying to train myself to put a priority on local foods, it has become a more complicated task. While it is true that I'm getting somewhat used to it and there are certainly items I know and can find fairly easily, there are plenty of occasions that I end up spending extra time and making different kinds of choices that I used to.

Thursday evening and Friday I shopped for some items for a birthday dinner for our friend, Jeff. I had decided to cook a fish, preferably salmon, but was open to other possibilities. To go with it, I planned to make a pumpkin risotto and some braised kale. At the grocery store (New Seasons) there were two dilemmas. First, the fish. New Seasons uses the Seafood Watch color coding system rating each one on sustainability and health oceans criteria. Since the salmon was from Alaska, I looked for what they had that had been caught in Oregon. But, the locally caught sole and cod were on yellow markers. So, I asked the helper behind the counter why they were yellow (less desirable in terms of being healthy for the ocean environment) and he explained that they were trawler-caught. So, I opted not to buy any fish there at that point since I still had time the next day to look elsewhere. In the end, I did end up getting wild caught-Alaskan salmon the next day since I didn't find anything that looked to be a better choice, but did buy it at a place that had it on sale.

So, having not bought the main entree, I moved to the produce section to look for lacinato kale. Here again I had to do a little research. The marker signs indicated that there was some Oregon-grown kale and some from California. But, in looking through what was there, I couldn't find the local version. After getting the produce helper over, we found that there was one bunch left of the lacinato kale that was from Oregon. All the rest of that type came from California. On the other hand, they did have a lot of curly kale that was local. The recipe called for two bunches of the lacinato variety. But, I made the choice to go with one of each type so that I could stick with kale grown in our area.

Of course, all these shopping decisions get more complicated since we now also have to pay a lot more attention to the cost of what we are buying since our family consists of one retired person and one person who makes a living (or used to make) selling real estate. So, shopping for food these days is just a bigger project than it used to be. But, since I am the one in the retired category, at least I usually have more time to spend asking questions and pondering choices at the market.

Meanwhile, this food was for an occasion - Jeff's birthday - after all. So, here are a few pictures of the birthday dinner. More on the risotto and kale later for my Dark Days Report.

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