This is going to seem a bit off-topic for now but bear with me and I’m sure everything will mesh into a coherent whole eventually. In a few posts’ time. If I remember to write them.
I want to talk briefly about sustainability because it’s one of the motivations behind my “leave the car behind and live in the city” plans. Excuse the apparently irrelevant opening example.
I love San Pellegrino sparkling water. I know, every time I open a bottle of the stuff, that I’m essentially being suckered by slick marketing – chubby, friendly bottles with their sophisticated light blue labels. Neverthless, I have a fondness for the stuff for a couple of reasons.
Let’s face it, a bottle of Evian tastes the same as a bottle of Calistoga, which tastes the same as a bottle of Dasani, and for that matter the water out of the kitchen tap. Sparkling water is a slightly different beast however – individual methods of carbonation can lead to a markedly different texture and taste, and San Pellegrino is perfect – big, bold bubbles which burst on the tongue and leave a slightly salty aftertaste.
It’s also a matter of memory for me. San Pelle always takes me back to long, hung-over weekend lunches in Carluccio’s on Upper Street in Islington, chatting with my friend Max over a divine plate of fegato or a perfect lasagne and downing bottles of the stuff in order to ward off dehydration.
Even so, every time I open a bottle of San Pellegrino here in California I feel a pang of guilt. Because however well this particular company might carbonate their spring-water, it’s still water. Water which has been shipped 5,000 miles along with its heavy bottle, all the way to these shores. Shores where we have municipal water supplies and springs of our own.
And frankly, it’s a waste of resources.
So despite the memories and my fondness for the stuff there’ll be no more San Pellegrino for me in California. I am, in fact, drinking my last bottle as I write this. Think of it as a fond farewell.
Calistoga will make a suitable and far more local substitute.
Sparkling water is a specific example, but more generally I’m trying to increase the sustainability of my food purchases where possible. Already I try to buy fruit and veg from farmers’ markets, and I was very happy to see the canteen at work experiementing with a “local food” day where they cooked dishes whose ingredients had been sourced within a 150-mile radius of campus.
I’ll talk more in the future about shopping sustainably in San Francisco (particularly without a car to haul large grocery loads home with), but first I should probably make my entirely selfish exceptions-to-the rule clear.
America has some good breweries. I like Anchor Steam and Fat Tire (I’ve written about the subject before.) Nevertheless, you guys still have a lot to learn. And up against the genius of British brewers like Young’s, Fullers or Black Sheep and Belgians like Westmalle, Chimay or Huyghe the culture is sorely lacking. So I’ll still buy imported beer.
Yes, it’s heavy liquid in heavy bottles being shipped thousands of miles. But, tree-hugging hippy that I am, I’ll see a few field voles kick the bucket before you take away my favourite alcoholic brews. Everyone has their limits.
My love for cheese cannot be over-stated. From a childhood addiction to strong cheddar sandwiches through to my adulthood, eating things which make most people retch, I have always adored cheese. And again, whilst America is gaining some fine artisanal cheese-makers, you can’t compete with some of the European classics. Besides, the thought of years without Colston Bassett Stilton sounds like a prison sentence. Where I can get good, more local alternatives I will. But you’ll take away my imported cheese when you pry it off my cold, dead cheese-knife.
As for everything else – fruit and vegetables in particular, I’ll be buying as locally as possible. Peoples’ ideas on their favourite vendors and sources are more than welcome.