Recently our excellent intern, Nick Pandolfi, came back from a lunch that almost miraculously transformed him into an organic proselytizer. Here he tells what happened:
I admit it: I’ve been a slow adopter of the organic/green movement compared to everyone else at the Food & Wine office. Even though I kept hearing about the benefits of buying organic produce I couldn't get past the cost: it’s just more expensive. The price of food has always factored into what I walk out with at the grocery store.
But thanks to last Monday’s Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) luncheon, I think I am a 100% organic convert. On top of the delicious all-vegetable, all-organic lunch prepared by chef John Stevenson (I had the best tasting parsnip puree and Swiss chard I’ve tasted in my life), there was an incredible panel of experts who went over the benefits of organic farming, including chef Peter Hoffman of Manhattan’s Savoy and the new Back Forty.
Besides some distressing facts (the most commonly consumed fruits and vegetables in the U.S. are ketchup and French fries), moderator Kathy Lawrence, founder of the sustainable food organization Just Food, mentioned something else that took me by surprise: Corn-based ethanol production in the United States, which is getting a huge amount of money in government subsidies, is an “environmental disaster.” I realize that my “green” knowledge is limited, but I certainly thought ethanol was a better alternative to the fuels the U.S. is currently using. I caught up with Kathy after the panel to learn more. As she put it, the corn used for ethanol production is a “heavy feeder.” In other words, all the fertilizer and pesticides that are used for growing the crops end up using fossil fuels, and the whole process ends up wasting more than is saved. Also, growing only corn on the same patch of land year after year depletes the soil’s natural nutrients and microorganisms that are so useful in reducing carbon in the atmosphere.
Her solution: First, use less fuel, but more importantly, get rid of the huge corn farms, and substitute them with organic vegetables ones. Not only will the environment be better off, but our food will also taste better and we’ll be healthier. I now realize it's worth the extra money, and it might not be that much extra for long, just as long as people catch on, and more and more land is used for organic farming.
Peter Hoffman had one final suggestion: Put a basket on your bike and ride it to the greenmarket. It will reduce your carbon footprint and you’ll save a few dollars on gas.