Archive for October 6th, 2008

Where to Shop, Cheese and Crackers and the Post-Apocalyptic Book Club

Sharon October 6th, 2008

Ok, various and sundry this morning.  The first issue is that it is Monday morning - where is your post-apocalyptic novel discussion?  I’m really sorry that we never did get to Caryl Johnston’s _After the Crash_ - unfortunately, the first copy I purchased was missing large chunks of the pages, and was unreadable, and I still have not received the replacement.  And, of course, we’re on to a new month.  I will fit it in somewhere, though, so don’t feel bad if you’ve read it. 

And, of course, in the chaos I forgot to tell everyone what were reading next.  This is October, our “Reader Choice” month, and you voted that we should read novels about societies that regress to indigenous/hunter gatherer levels.  So we’re doing that.  First up in George Stewart’s classic _Earth Abides_ and that will be followed by Ursula LeGuin’s _Always Coming Home_.  I think it will be a good month, and we’ll start up again next Monday.  Apologies for my failure to be more organized.

 Next, I was hoping I could draw upon my reader’s copious wisdom. I’m running an event at my synagogue, Congregation Agudat Achim in Niskayuna, NY, that I’m very excited about - we’re bringing Rabbi Everett Gendler, founder of the Environmental Jewish movement to our shul to discuss both Green Judaism and his work on non-violent resistance with Tibetan Refugees.  And this is part of an overall transition my synagogue is making towards environmental awareness - we’re offering local foods menus, working on a retrofit and making better use of the greenspace, and talking about solar panels.  It really pleases me to be able to be part of a small-scale, community level move towards a more aware and secure Jewish life.

 Why am I telling you this?  Well, if you are interested and live in the area, you might want to check it out the weekend of November 9th - and I’ll post more info about it a bit later.  But right now, I need some help.  Because I need to help find reasonably local cheese and crackers (yeah, ideally we’d make them, but it isn’t going to happen) that are also KOSHER.  I don’t know what cheeses made within 150-200 miles of New York are kosher (because we’re slacker conservative Jews and eat cheese without certification ;-) ) - that means Vermont, Massachusetts, the adjoining parts of Canada, Long Island, Eastern PA and Northern NJ.  We’re also looking for crackers, ideally made from local ingredients but we’ll settle if everything isn’t local, also kosher.  And I need to know what the heksher is on both cheese and crackers (a heksher, for those not in the know, is the little symbol on any processed food that indicates it has been made in a kosher way and facility - you’ve seen the little U with a circle around it and other variations before) - because some are not acceptable.  So I need to know the name of the brand, where to get it, and what the little symbol is (often they have a K, V or U on it, if you are trying to figure it out).

So if you have any brilliant suggestions (and even better, for ones that *TASTE GOOD*) I’d be very grateful if you’d post them in comments or email me at [email protected].  I swore to the committee that I could find us local, sustainably produced, kosher crackers and cheese, and I’d hate to go back and admit I couldn’t do it ;-) .  So I throw myself on your generosity.

Finally, I do want to reiterate something for new readers.  I’ve done several posts in the last few months about buying emergency stores at supermarkets, chain stores, warehouses etc… And I do want to just remind people that that information is out there for people who have no other choices, either because they haven’t prepared in advance or because they truly must buy the cheapest option.  I don’t want to sit in judgement of the poor, who need food of any kind.  But I do want to remind you of what my regular readers will remember has been a consistent message - that where you buy your food matters. 

But it is really important to remember that the money you invest in food represents a vote with your dollars for the kind of food system we’re going into this crisis with.  If you spend thousands of dollars at CostCo, you will be putting money into the industrial food system, reinforcing it, sustaining it, and not putting those dollars into the local farmers who you may rely on in the coming years. If enough people do this, they may not be there.

There are times and people for whom spending more isn’t a choice.  But if you aren’t one of them yet, it is important to remember that where you get your reserve is as important as having it.  Buying from local farmers, or even not-quite-so-local independent farmers, buying direct from producers or through coops and fair trade programs is essential.  If we don’t, we risk being less prepared going into this.

Even those struggling financially can sometimes find sustainably produced choices that are inexpensive - you can glean fields, gather fruit from trees that would otherwise land on the ground, dumpster dive, buy produce at the end of the day, make use of parts of plants and animals that others don’t know what to do with.  It is a challenge - but that challenge is not only worth it in a moral sense, it is essential to our future security.  So yes, build your stores.  But remember that how you build them matters - you can build local systems or you can destroy them with your dollars.  All of us sometimes make destructive economic choices.  But our responsibility is to reduce that impact, to do less harm, to minimize what we are doing, and to do as much good as we can with our dollars and our time.