Kathleen Alcalá

The Clueless Eater

There Is No Free Meatball

March 3, 2013

Tags: Sustainability, beef, IKEA, furniture, local, food, organic, the clueless eater, high cholesterol

Meatballs and furniture? What were you thinking? It’s true, there is no evidence that horsemeat got into the meatballs in the United States, but only because there is a system in place. Queasy factor aside, horses are given high amounts of drugs that are not good for people. Most cattle are, too, unless raised organically.

How do you avoid horsemeat in your meatballs, or meatballs in your furniture? Buy locally raised meat. Of course it costs more, but you can visit your local farmers, see what the cattle eat, and be reassured that the animals are treated humanely. This is true for poultry as well.

In his column on February 26, Neil Peirce reminds us that a single quarter-pound of hamburger costs 6.7 pounds of grain, 600 gallons of water, 75 square feet of land, and 1,036 BTUs of other energy. If you buy locally, you can eliminate most of the transportation costs as well as the stay in a feedlot that concentrates waste and exposes the cattle to all sorts of exciting bacteria.

In a hungry world, beef is expensive, and in terms of food value, eggs, poultry and dairy are more efficient. City regulations are being modified in the Northwest to encourage small-scale farming and food production. Every magazine and newspaper seems to feature do-it-yourself chicken coops, vertical vegetable beds, and exotic gardening tools.

Local farmers markets start up again April, and winter-weary families will gratefully seek early vegetables. We still have three or four bags of frozen yellow tomatoes, and a few jars of our own saur kraut. But even I, the clueless eater, look forward to visiting the seed store to see what they've got for us this year.

I avoid beef because I have high cholesterol, but if you must eat it, be willing to pay the honest cost. Then enjoy it as a luxury for the wealthy. Locally made furniture isn’t such a bad idea, either – straight, no meatballs.
With Cowichan Elder Hyamiciate, Della (Rice) Sylvester at the The Living Breath of wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Indigenous Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposium


Selected Works

Creative nonfiction, memoir, environmental sustainability.
Combining memoir, historical records, and a blueprint for sustainability, The Deepest Roots shows us how an island population can mature into responsible food stewards and reminds us that innovation, adaptation, diversity, and common sense will help us make wise decisions about our future. And along the way, we learn how food is intertwined with our present but offers a path to a better understanding of the future.
Creative Nonfiction
Essays on Family and Writing

The Desert Remembers My Name makes an important contribution to discussions of ethnicity, identity, and the literature of place.”
Bloomsbury Review
"...a mesmerizing tale... the author explores the fascinating confusions and contradictions plaguing a culture precariously poised between tradition and modernization."
"She never forgot the power of storytelling as testimony."
The Utne Reader
"Kathleen Alcalá's Spirits of the Ordinary is an enthralling book..."
–Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Books

"This book entered my dreams."
–Alberto Rios
Short Fiction
"Thoroughly satisfying."
The New York Times Book Review

"By turns touching, entertaining, and surprising, and uniquely her own."
Publishers Weekly

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