Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shopping Local in Paris


I read this post about Shopping for Local In Paris with some interest.

I currently have this fantasy that everything is better in France.

It's a food culture. Not only is pizza sauce not a vegetable in French schools, but ketchup has been banned.

It's a conscious culture. France recently banned Genetically Modified food. Growth hormones that some jackasses in our political arena have declared "better for you" are forbidden.

I see myself walking to a daily market, picking through fresh, locally grown produce that I can be sure is organic. Haggling with a brittle vendeuse over price. (It would be so un-French not to.) And stopping en route home for a bouquet of fresh flowers and a loaf of bread, real French bread - croustillant - as French bread is supposed to be.

I have also relocated enough to realize that this idealization is rather fantastic.

Big agriculture casts it shadow everywhere. People are people the world over. That which we seek to escape in reverie often bites us on the butt in reality.

Phyllis Flick confirmed this. With one notable distinction.  Honestly disclosing the country of origin, even at outdoor markets, is required.
Outdoor markets in Paris are not farmers markets, which means that shopping at your weekly market doesn’t guarantee that your produce even comes from France. You’ll have to read the labels to know what’s local and what’s not. Fortunately, every product sold in France must be labelled according to its origin, so you’ll know if the apples you want are from the Loire Valley, Spain, or even China, if you take the time to look.

Why is this disclosure important?

First, nutritional value.

As Phyllis Flick points out, the nutritional value of foods quickly dissipates after vegetables have been picked. The farther afield the point of origin, the less nutritional value.

Secondly, environment. The longer the distance to market, the higher the cost to the environment.  Long-distance food transportation is believed to contribute as much as 10% to emission of greenhouse gas - a negative impact that will last for years.

Finally, honest disclosure. Nobody likes to be deceived about the source or growing methods of produce billed as fresh, natural, organic or local. But deception happens quite often.

I once purchased what were billed as "fresh, organic, local tomatoes" only to discover that the seller had purchased them at Costco.

That is so not cool.

Ah, so I don't have a sweet, little patisserie on the corner; I am friends with two very sweet pastry chefs and a chocolatiere. I don't get to walk to a market every day. I can drive to any number of markets around town on most days - Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

As for honest disclosure?

As a regular market goer, it helps to know the grower. But in a major metro area with many markets and many growers, this is not always possible.

Just as a rule of thumb: Paris or Austin, when you find out-of-season vegetables at your local farmer's market - whether it's broccoli in summer or tomatoes in winter -  there's a good chance they are not locally grown.












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