Eating From Around the Corner
By Molly Johnson
“My commitment to eating locally is probably driven by three things. The first is the taste of live food; the second is my relation to frugality; the third is my deep concern about the state of the planet.” Penned by Joan Dye Gussow, a nutritionist at Columbia University in New York, these words reflect exactly why I am becoming even more of a local food junkie on this trip. Over the course of our Food Unit, we stayed in two agricultural villages in Northeastern Thailand and learned from villagers, NGOs, hospitals, and even an herbal medicine man about the benefits of switching to organic agriculture. To be honest, I had never given too much thought to it. I knew organic avocados were usually about a dollar more at the grocery store near TCU’s campus, but that was the extent of my knowledge.
However, for these Thai families in farming communities, making the switch to organic is not simply some bourgeoisie attempt at jumping on the Go Green bandwagon. The chemicals previously used in their agriculture were showing up in their blood, causing skin rashes, and devastating the local soil. Going organic was not about paying a dollar more for an avocado, but it was about making a sustainable choice to benefit the family and the environment. The first few years of switching to organic agriculture can be more than a little discouraging as the soil works to adapt, but eventually crop yield can as much as double its original size. Organic agriculture may be caught up in legalities and hidden marketing tricks in the United States, but with a little research we can all start making informed decisions that are healthier for our bodies and for our planet.
From working at a farmer’s market back home in St. Louis, I learned the importance of local food. By supporting locally grown produce, the consumer provides an income to fellow community members, cuts down on the fuel and pollution used to transport food across the country or across the world, and takes pride in their neighborhood. Now when I return back to school in May, I plan on taking pride in my state, taking care of the environment, and buying that Texas-grown organic avocado on my first trip to the grocery store.
While I've been interested in Teach for America since high school, being here has also gotten me very excited about a new start-up called Food Corps that takes newly-minted college grads into elementary classrooms to help start gardens, teach nutrition lessons, and bring healthy alternatives into the cafeteria. It's SOOO awesome!
Also, while we're on the subject of food, this is the aisle at the grocery store solely for rice and oil.
I guess it's a true sign you're becoming a local when you recognize people as you're out and about! As Brenna, Taryn, Hadley, and I were eating eggrolls at Walking Street (the Saturday night market in Khon Kaen), Brens and I heard our names from the crowd and our siblings from our very first homestay came running towards us! Seeing Kim and Po Neem again made my heart BEAM and it was absolutely precious to get to share ice cream cones with them while attempting to catch up in Thai. Further proof my Thai language skills still need a LOT of work...
I am an emotional being and am not quite yet emotionally ready for my "goodbye Thailand" post, but I know it looms.... BAHHHH. Good talk. :)