Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tomato basil salad- food giants

Both tomatoes and basil are in season. Everything we cook these days has basil from the garden (grown in a pot by the front door.)

One large heirloom tomato cut into 1/2 inch cubes
One five inch sprig of basil chopped fine.
One tablespoon olive oil
One teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

Mix and serve with soft crusty bread like Ciabatta.
Except for the salt everything is available at most farmers market like the San Mateo and Belmont Farmers Market.

Safeway carries heirloom tomatoes for $6/- a pound, easily the weight of one large heirloom, versus $2 to $3/- a pound at the farmers market. They also carry non organic largely tasteless tomatoes for $2-$3/- a pound and tasteless organic vine tomatoes for almost $5/- a pound.

Why this anomaly during tomato season? The cost of fuel has affected the cost of food worldwide even in oil rich countries (the majority of who have abysmally poor populations who don't benefit from the national oil wealth- Nigeria the eight largest exporter has a 140M majority living on less than $2/- day.) The farmers market is able to transport locally. So why doesn't Safeway buy locally?

Part of the reason could be the national distribution infrastructure and related federal, state and local support bureaucracies for the food giants that Safeway is part of. Buying organic with the Safeway O brand does not support small family farms. Proctor and Gamble and Nestle, number one and two food giants, produce the O brand for Safeway. The new Anheuser-Busch InBev will be the third largest food company. The problem is that these brands are also responsible for the majority of polluted food organic customers are trying to stay away from! Giving massive profits via a tiny organic line only sustains their polluted food business- and maybe they will learn where the profits are. But the infrastructure and related subsidies have strong partners in the chemical, distribution, and outlet business that lobby to keep changes from happening.

Think of consumption infrastructure as a bridge... one end has dropped off with high gas prices. If we keep going with our present consumption patterns we fall of the edge. GM's business model and congressional perks for SUVs, and the resulting crash of american auto companies are a good case in point.

But there are alternate choices that should have been made and can be made and paths to pursue. The group that aggregates backyards in San Francisco and grows on permaculture with compost at 150 sq ft per family is an alternate. The farming harvesting and delivery is done with bicycles. Cuba is an alternative first from rising fuel prices after the end of the Soviet Union and now with the need to expand local production. Architects are also interested in vertical farms that feed the city from within the city. Local chain grocers should see the need to change their business model before they go the way of GM. $6/- a pound for tomatoes during tomato season is ridiculous.

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