02 June 2008

love animals, hate sprawl

If you don't already know this about me, I'm about to let you in on something: I'm a sucker for animals. There really isn't an animal I don't like. Even the ugliest, most bizarre creatures are fascinating to me. And the thought of actually communing with animals, on say my own piece of property, is -- while a bit intimidating -- very exciting.

Well there's a community out in Nevada, outside of Reno, where people live on little patches of land (around 1 acre or more) with their animals. These aren't farms and this isn't really rural country. It's where suburban sprawl meets the good ol' days when it was commonplace to have livestock in the backyard. Even my dad grew up with chickens in the yard -- in Hackensack, New Jersey.

So these people out in Golden Valley, NV, have horses, goats, chickens... and, yes, even donkeys. But now that the landscape is leaning toward suburbanization, their agricultural lifestyles may be threatened.

Sadly, one of these happy agrarian households was recently broken up. Seems the neighbor couldn't take the braying of the donkey any longer. I can understand that. The guy couldn't sleep because the donkey would bray in the middle of the night. But didn't this guy realize he was moving next door to someone who had livestock in their yard? Wouldn't you do a little research on the culture of a neighborhood before moving in?

The case went to court and despite a reasonable defense and much community support, the judge sided with the complainant. The community, outraged and fearful this case would set a precedent, sought that a stipulation be added to new home contracts in their town. Now, anyone new to the neighborhood will be forewarned. But who reads the fine print? And sadly, this may not protect the citizens from future litigation.

Check out the full story, plus interactive features, here.

save the planet: eat pb&j

To balance out the previous post about meat products, here's an ode to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

There's no dairy in your butter,
no meat in your jelly;
Oh, PB&J,
get into my belly!

Alright, I'm no ee cummings or Samuel Taylor Coleridge. But I do have an appreciation for this vegan-friendly sandwich. The PB&J is a near-perfect embodiment of the sustainable meal (if you wash it down with a glass of organic non-GMO soy milk, that is). And who doesn't like PB&J? (ok, except those with nut allergies.) Everyone has their preference. Skippy or Jif with grape jelly on Wonder Bread with the crusts cut off? Well that's not for me, but that may be what we all remember eating as kids.

This is how I like mine. First off, I call it an AB&J. Almond butter takes the place of peanut butter, probably more for health reasons -- the fat in almonds is healthier than in peanuts -- though the toasty almond taste is quite delicious. Usually, strawberry preserves represent the "J," so I guess I should really call it an AB&P. Then it goes on some kind of healthy whole grain bread, right now I'm liking Healthy Hemp Bread from French Meadow Bakery. It's full of protein and yummy seeds and stuff, and it toasts really well.

To find out more about how PB&J can save the world, check out the PB&J Campaign. They're trying to spread the message that replacing meat-based meals with PB&J (or any vegetarian or vegan dish) significantly reduces your carbon footprint. And if you're feeling so inclined, take the PB&J pledge. It's a simple step you can take to leave the world a better place.

my own private omnivore's dilemma

It can be tough being an omnivore these days -- but it's not hopeless. Even before reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, I considered the impact of my culinary choices and thought of myself as a responsible eater. Buying from the farmer's market when I could, buying organic as much as possible, eating what I thought was meat from humanely treated animals (it's not always so easy to tell, sometimes you've got to take a leap of faith).

But since reading the book, I've made another change to my diet. I'm only eating grass-fed beef. If you don't plan on reading the book, trust me, grass-fed is not only healthier, it's easier on the animal (they really can't digest corn, which is what they're fed the bulk of their penned-up lives), and the environment -- especially if the beeves (yes, in farmer's parlance that's plural for beef) are pasture fed.

So this past Saturday my boyfriend and I went to a BBQ and brought our own hot dogs to accommodate for this new eating choice (see above). They were Applegate Farms Organic Grass-fed Hot Dogs (can't ya just picture pastures full of hot dogs grazing on grass?), and they were pretty damn tasty. We got them at our local Fairway supermarket. They may be available at your local grocer. You can also buy 'em on their site.

On to a different animal. The pig. I love pigs. They're so cute, and so tasty! (Sorry to the vegetarians reading this post. I think I felt a collective cringe and sigh from you.) I don't eat pork that often, but when I do, I'd prefer one that's had a relatively happy life. So we turn to Niman Ranch for their quality products. And they're pork bratwursts are even more delicious than the aforementioned hot dogs. A slight spicy bite from the ginger and spices, and like they say on their site, they're great on a roll with mustard.

You can get Niman Ranch products on their site, and sometimes on Amazon. You might be able to get them at your local Whole Foods or other supermarkets. And if you live in NYC, they're available at Fairway.