Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Weed Out Unwanted Catalogs

Do you flinch every time you see a Land's End or Pottery Barn catalog in your mailbox? Over eight million tons of trees are consumed each year in the production of paper catalogs. What's more, the production and disposal of direct mail consumes more energy than three million cars. If most of your catalogs go straight into the trash (or, hopefully, the recycling bin), you can help cut down on some of this waste by signing up with the Catalog Choice. A sponsored project of the Ecology Center, the Catalog Choice lets you select which catalogs you no longer wish to receive. The service then contacts the catalog providers on your behalf, requesting that your name be removed from their mailing lists. Within 10 weeks your load should be lighter.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

French Eating ... It's Not Such a Paradox

It's not just what one eats but how one acquires the ingredients. In America, most people file into a supermarket once a week to purchase everything they'll need for the next 5-8 days worth of meals. In France, where sensory pleasure trumps efficiency, grocery shopping is a different experience altogether. It is not uncommon to make several stops to gather what one needs for the day's meals: the frommager for a nicely-aged chevre, an epicerie for flavorful olives, and the poissonerie for the freshest fish. At a minimum one will visit the baker daily to purchase a just-baked baguette for the morning's tartine or to pick-up a pre-made sandwich during lunchtime.

Living in Paris these past weeks, my food-shopping routine has changed dramatically. Acquiring the items for a recent dinner required a visit to no fewer than five shops and took about an hour and a half. The line at the produce market was slow-moving since the owners pick out the produce for you, after asking questions such as "Will you be eating these pears tonight or tomorrow?" French purveyors don't sell you food, they help orchestrate your meal. The wine merchant wanted to know what cheese I was planning to serve before he would suggest the appropriate bottle of wine. So with each purchase there was a human exchange and considerably more consciousness as to what I dropped into my basket. The result: a meal worth savoring so that, with each bite, you derive a pleasure focused more on quality than quantity. Yes, it's true that the French indulge in full-fat dairy, simple carbs, and alcohol during most meals served after 12pm. But given that they tend to eat fresh rather than processed foods and limit their eating to modestly-sized sit-down meals, what they consume turns out to be a whole lot healthier than the Standard American Diet.