Here we are in January. December is done except for the cleanup. School and work schedules return to normal as the hoopla of the holiday season recedes.
It’s time to think about the year to come — to make some resolutions and set some goals. I know they may never come to pass, but it’s good to try. As the saying goes, “If you aim at nothing, you generally hit it.”
These are a few things on my mind for the year ahead.
Sustainability of the planet has to be more of an everyday thing. Single handedly changing the course of global warming is beyond my reach, but every effort counts. Any small change I can make will be helpful.
Buying plastic single serving coffee pods in boxes of 100 has to end. I’ve become attached to a fresh brewed cup-on-demand, but there must be a better way. I’ve started looking into other technologies without much luck. Why isn’t there a single cup coffee brewer that uses a compostable paper filter like my old friend, Mr. Coffee?
The American recycling system is in crisis. China and other far-east countries have stopped or dramatically cut back the amount of recycling material they buy. Without a customer for our castoffs, the stuff in our blue bins goes right to the landfill, just via a more expensive route. Municipalities that used to get paid for their recycling now have to pay to have it hauled away. It’s not only an environmental crisis, but a financial one too.
I don’t know what I can do about this, but I’m keeping an eye on it. I suspect that some unpopular legislation (like the plastic shopping bags ban) is required to rejigger the economics of recycling. Incentives are needed to both encourage recycling and create markets for the resulting products. All you have to do is look at the pile of post-Christmas cardboard and packing material in my basement to know that the problem is getting worse as internet shopping increases.
Plant-based foods are a hot topic these days, touted as a way to cut down on the environmental impact and health concerns of red meat. Companies are in a race to develop new products. The juicy, pink, beefy tasting hamburger patty that will brown as it cooks is the holy grail of this effort. (There are some ongoing lawsuits raised by the beef industry to deny these patties the name burger.) The downside is it’s all highly processed.
Food authority Michael Pollan advised in his book, Food Rules, “Eat (real) food, not too much, mostly plants.” He meant food that is as close to its natural state as possible and hasn’t been processed and modified beyond recognition. Eat modestly. And, cut back on meat. I’m a meat eater, although I’m not eating as much as I used to. I’d rather eat a smaller portion or skip a meat meal than get into highly-engineered meat substitutes. Our diverse food-supply system offers lots of delicious, natural non-meat options. These days, I have a juicy charred hamburger once in a while, instead of once a week.
Sustainability is a trend among food growers and producers. At this point, it’s mostly seen at the high end of the market. We enjoy low-cost, high-quality food that is produced with industrial methods and economies of scale. Unfortunately, the environment doesn’t come first is this system.
Putting the planet’s health first is more expensive. Organic and sustainable farming methods take more labor and may lead to lower yields. It’s the cost that comes with higher quality and less impact on the soil and air. This works well at the high end, wines and farmers market produce for instance, but doesn’t always translate to commodity crops. This year, I want to be more conscious of how my food is grown and who is growing it.
The news isn’t all dire. The golden age of restaurant dining continues. There’s plenty of quality options at almost every price-point and food-style out there.
There are places in America where independant, locally owned restaurants are few and far between. Chain restaurants are the dominant option for dining out. Luckily, that’s not the case for us.
I don’t have anything against chain restaurants, they’ve brought a lot of innovation and efficiency to the food biz. But I do have a bias toward locally-owned independent restaurants. I want to keep supporting the entrepreneurs who put their heart and soul into one-of-a-kind restaurants. They create a more personal and unique dining experience. These establishments are where you can find both cutting-edge ideas and an individual touch.
I’ll be keeping my eye out for new restaurants, cuisine styles, and flavors. You never know what will come up next. Who could have foreseen food trucks, street food, and Thai-style rolled ice cream? But here they are, and big hits too.
I’ll also be sure to stick with some of my favorites. The restaurant business is tough. Operators depend on regular customers to keep coming back and spreading the word. Let’s resolve to keep our area a haven for creative, independent, restaurants by supporting them every chance we get.
Frank Whitman can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.