What will I do with the winter's root vegetables? How do I cook kohlrabi? Should I buy the mango from New Zealand? What coffee should I get? Organic, local, fair trade ...
These are some questions I have while striving to eat a responsible diet. Luckily, I have found some solutions. For example, I can buy fair trade coffee that is roasted in Wisconsin, and I can tend my own garden plot.
Living in Spain, though, has thoroughly complicated my supposedly thoughtful, responsible diet. My trips to the market, grocery store and restaurants are fraught with new questions. Gripping an avocado, I read the sticker. "Morocco." The same sticker adorns the pack of strawberries. The Spanish Mercadona is forcing me to adjust my food compass, to consider where I am in relation to my food.
When I see an avocado in Wisconsin, I quickly visualize a red flag superimposed on the greenish brown skin. The fruit may be fair trade and grown without pesticides, but it usually comes from California or Mexico. I rarely can justify buying an avocado because of the distance it must travel before hitting the supermarkets' shelves. The truck ride probably takes more than 24 hours, yet we still call them fresh and organic. There must be other healthy yet more responsible ways to spend money and fill my belly.
In Spain, I've had to rethink the red flag for avocados from Morocco. It is a different country, in a different continent, but might not be that far away. At first, I thought it would be absurd to eat fruits and vegetables from such a distant land. But pulling up a Google map, I found that a road trip from Zamora to Morocco would take about ten hours.
Buying avocados in Milwaukee makes me feel guilty. I can't justify supporting the packaging and transportation of the tropical fruit to the Midwest. This is the closest I've ever lived to an avocado growing region. Because of which, I may just reevaluate my red-flag stance against aguacates
If I am to eat avocados responsibly, I should also know when they are in season. According to this article
by the South African Avocado Growers Association Yearbook, the avocado season can begin "around the first week of December." Guacamole, here I come!
To show you the fruits' and vegetables' origins, I brought my camera to the grocery store. The glaring lights and shiny signs made the photography a real challenge. Once I had a satisfactory snap, I looked a little closer only to find the avocados' provenance was Chile, not Morocco.
Disappointed that this batch came from the southern hemisphere, I looked around for other foods from Morocco since I had just seen some the week prior. But my luck continued to worsen, when I was harshly told by a manager that photography is forbidden in the store. I pocketed my camera and dipped out. I don't know what the grocer had to hide. They certainly advertise the foods' place of origin loud and clear.
To conclude about the avocados: I won't buy one until Spain is written on the chalkboard.
Not only does this country have different agriculture, diet and culture, but it also has different economic and geographic relationships that dictate the availability of foods. These relationships and customs are new to me, and I am just beginning to consider them as I gently handle a pear to test its ripeness.
Photos: Allie Taylor and Google Maps