Radically Organic

Yes, I know I've been slacking recently with the updates, but not with the action. Life, it seems, just gets too distracting to remember to actually document it.

Last month, I reluctantly watched the movie Food, Inc. and proceeded to be absolutely disgusted by the food industry. Be forewarned, once you see horror of such magnitude, it can never be unseen. After watching this movie, there's no going back to haphazardly eating just any food available. I had already been a staunch consumer of organic milk, and a frequenter of organic meats. This month, however, I decided to test practical implications of an all (ok, mostly) organic diet.

This is neither cheap, nor simple, but the increased price of organic groceries is all but cancelled out by eating out (and ordering in) dramatically less. Thus far this month I've spent about $500 at FreshDirect.com, and about $50 at the Union Square Farmer's Market (quite possibly the most amazing one I've ever seen). I would guestimate that at least 90% of what I've eaten this month has been certified organic, and that 90% of that I've made myself.

I'd have to say that, historically, I've found cooking to be such a chore. That is, though, only because I've known that paying a premium to have a restaurant to cook my food for me is always an option. Now that it's not (or not as much), I've discovered a real satisfaction in cooking my own meals using fresh, wholesome, and often local ingredients, some of which we've grown right in the window sills of my Brooklyn apartment, which is currently host to tomatoes, basil, dill, and chives. We even scored an incredibly scarce plot in one of the incredibly scarce NYC urban community gardens, and have grand designs on doing grand things in that 4'x4' piece of soil. Cucumbers? Bok choy? Green beans? We'll see this week.

I do, however, live in New York City, and eating out is just a way of life here. To date, I've managed to find few purely organic restaurants (lots of restaurants have organic this or that, but not entirely organic dishes).

I first tried Egg, a Williamsburg restaurant, last month, and I'd have to say it's absolutely worth the hour and a half wait and suffering the scene of walking through the heart of the known universe's Hipster stronghold. High-top sneakers, colorful oversized sunglasses, and stockings with intentional precision runs abound. To be honest, I can't be too sure exactly how organic the menu is at Egg. I remember reading something about it somewhere, but can't seem to find it online anywhere anymore. The food, which is as local as they can get (they even have their own farm) completely and profoundly rocked my world. Honestly, We got on the ridiculous wait list for breakfast, and one Eggs Rothko (see the menu), a "hashbrown ball," bacon AND (for the sake of experiencing such a thing) candied bacon, and three mimosas (each) later, I was about to slip into the food coma to make all other food comas look like cat naps. Egg was as closed to food bliss as I have ever been.

Gust Organics is, apparently, the first USDA certified organic bar. They are 100% organic, and even have a focus on sustainability. All of their water is UV-sanitized, filtered NYC tap. So far, I've tried their selection of uncommon empanadas (caramelized onions and mozzarella?), their "Risotto Buenas Aires," and their baked mozzarella and tomato appetizer. All were rather underwhelming. Perhaps they never heard of organic spices? A big let-down was their paltry offering of organic beers, which consisted totally of the three varieties brewed by Peak Organics, none of which I particularly care for (not that they aren't good beers, but they just aren't styles of beer--Pale Ale, Nut Brown, and Amber--that I care most for).

Counter is also all organic, though they don't claim any certification of such. Nonetheless, a quick look at their bar will show absolutely no brands of which you or I have ever heard, all labeled "organic." I must be honest, I didn't even know organic liquor existed before I went there. As an unapologetic, carnivorous-leaning omnivore, I was noticeably disappointed when I realized Counter was strictly vegetarian. Then, I tried their Farmhouse Panini a couple weekends ago, and became absolutely crackhead-hooked (I've been back twice for it already). Their "Chickpea Popcorn" was bland as bland can be, but having had deep-fried chickpeas at a few other places before and being equally unimpressed, I didn't expect much from them and would wager that fried chickpeas just suck in general. I find french fries to be rather black and white: either they're good or they're bad, and their "Pommes Frites" were good. However, the harissa mayo they came with was fully delicious. Most importantly, as an avid beer drinker, I was blown away by their selection of organic brews, and appreciated washing down my grub with an ever-perfect Samuel Smith Organic Lager.

I am now a full convert. I can't go back. The idea of eating not just fast food, but what we would normally consider to be good food while turning out to be just a prettier poison, makes me feel as dirty as a street hooker and a little sick. Even my 15-year old daughter, who has single-handedly kept the fast food french fry industry in business for years, is espousing organic eating and has become a huge fan of Jamie Oliver's show, Food Revolution. She even wants to start a movement in her school to get teens to demand more nutritious, wholesome, and responsible choices from school lunch, and maybe even refusing to accept things link this monstrosity as viable diet options.
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