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Sending Out An SOS: Sustainable Organic Seasonal

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After years of moving towards this climax I am finally here. From now on everything cooked on Lazaro Cooks! will be sustainable, organic, and seasonal, without exception. Let’s get this one right out of the way: I know that for many of you reading this my SOS is cost prohibitive; for this fact I am truly sorry. Being the son of Cuban immigrants my upbringing was not easy; we struggled to get by. However, I am an adult now and in a much better position to make a positive change for my family. Although, can I really make a difference in this big world? Who the hell am I anyway? Am I powerless? Well, I can effect change every time I go to the market. Being in complete control of what I cook, serve, and suggest to my friends, guests, customers, colleagues, and loved ones is true power. Business is driven by supply and demand; if you demand better from your local food retailers they will supply it. Supporting organically produced food is respecting food and by extension respecting life.

Factory farming is vile, soulless, pitiless, unforgiving, and merciless. The practices in industrial farming houses for cattle, chicken, pigs, and various other foodstuffs are not acceptable. Yet, the food is cheap and everyone loves cheap, right?! Factory farming is all about growing things faster, fatter, cheaper, and bigger, but is it really cheaper? We are an obese nation and growing fatter by the hour. The strain this is putting on our health care system is unsustainable. Type 2 diabetes is running rampant amongst adults and children. People are infected daily with Escherichia coli, trichinosis, and salmonella, three diseases that are the calling cards of factory farming. The huge multinational conglomerates that operate and profit from factory farms do not give a shit about you or your family. They don’t care about their undocumented workers, and they certainly could care less about the livestock. What do these corporate animals care about, you may ask? Well, they care about two things, their boards and their bottom lines. Please do not take my word for it; do the research, look at the photos, watch the videos, and read the articles written by people much smarter than I. The facts you will find are irrefutable and life-changing.

When perusing our local markets we gaze upon case after case of beautifully butchered produce. It is easy to forget that every piece of meat, chicken, pork, or fish was once a living, breathing animal. It is incumbent upon us to take the time to research where our food comes from and how the animals were treated. Organic livestock are born and raised with respect and dignity. Grazing on pristine pastures, they roam free in the sunshine, with unrestricted access to clean food and water. Cattle are naturally herbivores, feeding on grass, forage, and herbs; that is how I want my beef to be bred. I have immense pity for cattle that are force fed corn, grain, cow remains, and chicken remains, whilst being kept confined, standing side by side, knee deep in their own manure. Which would you rather serve at your next dinner party?

Sustainability is the capacity to endure. When used in the context of our oceans and the fish that inhabit them, the term is on the verge of meaning no more. Over time the diversity of our fish populations has dwindled. The conditions of our oceans, lakes, rivers, and creeks have deteriorated to unacceptable levels. Habitat destruction, chemical pollution, and overfishing of certain species are at the forefront of why fish are disappearing. Humans have been fishing the ocean for thousands of years. Technology has allowed us to fish deeper and farther than ever before. Some methods are incredibly efficient, while others have us on the verge of disaster. Those of us who derive sustenance from the ocean must take responsibility and support only sustainable fish. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has an amazingly detailed website offering guides to seafood. On their site you will find comprehensive studies on what seafood to avoid, great alternatives, and much more educational information. Marx Foods is a reputable online seafood purveyor that will overnight fresh seafood to your door, such as sablefish, one of our most wonderfully sustainable fish.

The advent of modern refrigeration transportation has distorted the seasonal boundaries. Why should we use out-of-season ingredients from another hemisphere? No matter where you live in this country you have countless local farmers producing sustainable organic produce for sale. For every out-of-season item there is another at its peak. As cooks we should learn to broaden our produce horizons and use all varieties. It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder and that is precisely my feeling on seasonal foods. Reward chefs that make seasonal produce a staple of their menus. Become active by visiting working farms in your area. Aside from being a glorious day in the sun, visiting farms is a perfect way to educate children about where their foods come from. Local Harvest is a fantastic site to find any working farms in your area. When shopping for produce, there are two important questions you should always keep in the forefront of your mind. What is good? What is in season? Take advantage of your local growers’ hard work and enthusiasm; your dishes will be better for it.

In the end, I have decided to do what is right for my family and me. Everything in life happens according to your personal plan; there are no mistakes in the universe. I have always said that I would have children when I was the best possible version of myself. Luckily, I am still growing and evolving as a person and by the time the little ones come along I can bequeath my accrued knowledge. On a broader scale, my SOS, sustainable organic and seasonal, is a plea to make a difference today. Planet Earth is a shared environment. At some point the policy of passing the buck will be at an end. The check will eventually have to be paid. Our policy makers are bent on ensuring that future generations will have to deal with catastrophic environmental disasters. I am not. I have decided to do my part. Will you?  Ultimately, the only things we leave behind are our deeds and our name.

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  • I agree that we can’t control everything but yourself and the way you live your life. I wish manufacturers and retail would be less self-fish, giving back more to community, and offering better quality of food. Go organic isn’t cheap even though we want to. What we can do? we can just do whatever it takes to make our lives better

  • I SO agree with you about factory farming! Your points were impassioned and well put. I always think it’s so strange that many people don’t seem to have more respect for the creature that has given up its life so that they may have sustenance. Free roaming meat from small family farms may be more expensive, but humans aren’t meant to eat meat all the time, at every single meal. Great article!

  • Very inspirational! I have given up meat this year because of factory farming. Your piece here is sustaining me six months into my efforts. Thank you!

  • Your article reinforces and blends well with a documentary which many must have seen called Food Inc. I was quite moved by the in-depth discovery of what truly goes on in our food production.

    As I already mentioned in Lazaro’s blog…the SOS concept is one we consciously want to implement, however, realistically this does not always come easy nor gentle on one’s budget.

    Yes, we do have to make better choices. The important thing is that one at least starts with baby steps towards integrating better habits and promoting locally as much as possible.

    I applaud your efforts of sharing your views with us today. Thank you.

    Flavourful wishes,

  • Cook with Madin

    I saw a documentary about our livestock, how they are being treated, I did not even finish watching it. It’s just horrible. And that’s exactly what you wrote here about Factory farming.
    I know we cannot control everything, but I’m with you about doing our part.

    Great post Lazaro, I hope a lot of people will read this.

  • I can’t agree with you more. I have tried to be organic for years. The way that animals are raised is criminal and aside from the cruelty, it is killing us. Now that I know what I know about grass fed beef (did you know cows were not meant to eat corn and that it kills them… they get sick eating) and that it has more vitamins and omega 3’s and less bad cholesterol??? Did you know pasture raised chickens are better for you? I had a big garden for many years and knowing what I know about pests and how easy it is to get rid of them… do you know how much perfectly good food gets thrown away because it is misshapen or has a tiny imperfection? Wake up America… some of the best tomatoes I grew were not perfect… but they were delicious. Honestly, would you rather a bug walked over your lettuce or that it is drenched in chemicals??? Sorry about the rant… but love your post.

  • I relate completely to your sentiments and your philosophy. It pains me that my children don’t seem to realise that a steak once had a face or that they have never seen a live chicken scratching the ground for worms. I grew up watching cows graze, being chased by geese and trying to outsmart hens, hellbent on hiding their eggs from me. Things have hurtled ahead in the name of progress, so fast in my country, that sometimes I wonder if any of my past is real or if I have imagined it all. Cost is one issue but an even bigger one for me is availability. We have become far too urban to ever turn back the clock and there is no other way around it – just about every single thing we eat as a nation, is imported. I want to go back to the way things were and for me that means living in another country, something I am willing to do, to return to seasonal, organic and sustainable eating, to improved health of mind, body and soul.

  • Great article Lazaro; the more people spreading the word, the better.

    As long as we can afford it, we’ll be buying SOS because as Deana pointed out there are important health benefits in addition to the ethical and environmental advantages. As for the cost, meat, fish and poultry are very satiating and nutrient dense so a little goes a long way.

  • Barbara @ moveablefeasts

    A very timely article, Lazaro. I agree with you completely and while I try to buy all organic it is more expensive and a large portion of our population is not going to be able to afford it all or even most of the time.
    We are fortunate in Florida to have farms and farmers markets year for year round organic produce.
    SOS is a wonderful ideal to aim for and I am trying my hardest. We can all start with ourselves and with our families. I think change will come about steadily and slowly. You have shown us the way.

  • This is such a great article…I stopped eating meat all together at the age of 7 for just these reasons. I still eat seafood, but wild caught. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this with us:)