Postcard: Yellowstone National Park 11/17/2020
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All of my thoughts on food changed in 1992.
More accurately: I did not have any thoughts on food until 1992.
That was the year I moved to Davis, CA for graduate school. I lived half a mile from the Davis Food Co-op, where members voted on boycotting companies, I could buy delicious vegetarian burritos, homemade mead, or ground roots in bulk for passing drug tests, and I learned about the "fresh, local, organic" movement pioneered by Alice Waters.
If the place is relatively clean, the service is decent, and the food and coffee are delicious, the rest doesn't matter. Decor, branding, Instagrammability, volume, calories: we don't care.
Most of the produce at the Co-op was grown locally in Yolo County and fit in the back of a pickup truck. It was available for sale a few hours after it was purchased from the farm.
Initially, I was tempted to write the whole thing off as a bunch of hippie bullshit, but the organic produce at the Co-op was the best I'd ever eaten. It was so good that when I went back to Ohio, tomatoes tasted like stale red water in an edible skin, apples like semi-sweetened beige pulp.
The recyclable paper sacks at the Co-op had a manifesto printed on them: The Case for Ugly Fruit. The idea was that nature almost never knocks out coffee table-pretty fruit. The best-tasting produce - and the best for you - was almost always misshaped, had a bulge or knot somewhere, or tended to be small. It's true.
I was tempted to write the whole thing off as a bunch of hippie bullshit, but the organic produce at the Co-op was the best I'd ever eaten.
That's how I ate for years. Those ideas became a part of me and how I look at food. My wife shares those ideas today. 90% of the produce we buy is organic, and we grow some of our own.
Meat, Eggs, Dairy
We try as much as possible to eat "pastured" meat, where the animals are treated humanely and only have one terrible day. Ethically, it's the right thing to do, but it also tastes a lot better and can be much cheaper.
We have relationships with pig farmers and usually buy half a hog at a time. We're members of a herdshare program for beef and raw milk. Gina raises chickens, which means we have our own supply of fresh eggs as well as the meat.
We love going to restaurants, but because Gina is such a good cook - and enjoys cooking - we don't go out more than five or six times a month.
We politely ask not to be served ice or single-use plastics.
If the place is relatively clean, the service is decent, and the food and coffee are good, the rest doesn't matter. Decor, branding, Instagrammability, noise level, calories: we don't care. If it's pretty inside, all the better - but it's not essential.
One more thing: we politely ask not to be served ice or single-use plastics.
I can't remember the last time we ate fast food, and we rarely eat in corporate chains. We've been to Frisch's a couple of times; I have fond memories of eating chili spaghetti with my grandmother at the Montgomery Road restaurant in Cincinnati. I'll go to Olive Garden occasionally. I'll stop by Tim Horton's happily or Starbucks if it's all there is, and Chipotle every once in a while. That's it.
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