For many years, I have been conscious about what foods I buy and where I buy them. I have been trying to incorporate more organic foods into my diet, and eat as much vegetarian food as possible. However, this exercise encouraged me to pay closer attention to what I buy and why. Many of my food choices are made from habit. I buy broccoli more often than any other green vegetable because I have never learned how to use kale or collard greens. I purchase certain brands of food because I remember my mother liked those brands. Other items I buy only because they are on sale, and the price is attractive to me.
Ethnicity plays a small role in what I buy. My mother is Chinese, and this makes it relatively easy for me to know what to buy at the Asian grocer when I go there. My father is English, and this gives me a different perspective on food products including beverages like tea. The way I eat is also influenced by culture, although I have few restrictions on my meals. Sometimes I eat only once a day; but on other days I might eat five times per day.
For the purpose of this exercise, I decided to go one day totally vegan. This was not as difficult as I thought it would be because of all the choices available at the supermarket. I made a tasty black bean soup with spices that I already had in the kitchen. This made me realize that I take for granted a familiarity with seasonings; whereas other people might be afraid to experiment in this way. Avoiding cheese and other dairy products was not difficult, and I did not miss eating meat. I realized, though, that for someone who does not have a lot of time to cook, it would be quite difficult to avoid processed foods. Income must play a large role in what foods we purchase, although there are many healthy items that are inexpensive. These include beans, rice, and fresh vegetables.
Part Two: Investigation and Analysis
To begin my geographic analysis, I looked at the coffee I drink. I had purchased a bag of whole beans from Whole Foods, and they were single estate from Nicaragua. I substituted my usual cream with some rice milk that was made in the United States. This was part of my plan to go vegan, to use substitutes for things that I did not want to do without. I used sugar that came from Malawi. I had mixed feelings about that. I am sure that this benefits the people in Malawi, but we grow sugar in places like Florida and Texas, which are much closer.
For lunch I had the black bean soup that I made. Many of the spices I already had in the house, but I was not sure where they came from. I think many are not grown in the United States. The black beans were from Mexico, and came in a can. I had garlic from Argentina and onions that came from the United States, though I am not sure of the state. I used a vegetarian soup stock for this meal as well. That came from the United States and was made with organic vegetables. The recipe called for some Mexican cheese crumbled on top, but I sprinkled chopped spring onions instead, as a vegan alternative. I bought a baguette to toast and have with my soup, before realizing I could not put any butter on it. I would have substituted margarine if I had any at the time. I approached being vegan as a creative endeavor to really stretch my cooking abilities. In mid-afternoon I had a cup of tea. I just put a little sugar in it, no milk. The tea came from Sri Lanka.
Dinner was more challenging. For a vegan meal, I wanted to avoid the easy option of doing pasta, so I purchased some tofu and made one of my favorite meals, mapo dofu, which is a Chinese dish I learned from my mother. It is normally made with chicken stock and ground pork, both of which I had to substitute. I used vegetable stock, and in place of the ground pork I took some dried mushrooms from the Asian store, rehydrated them…