So, I have been looking forward to the carnivorous column. While eating too much meat is not advisable (in the words of food guru Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”), I must say that I truly do enjoy the food group of meat. Initially, I was hoping to go on trips to the Co-Op and/or Martindale’s to find delicious meats I could have without cooking, such as prosciutto or sausage. However, as a result of catching the wrong bus back to Swarthmore (travellers beware: the 118 is different than the 109), these plans had to be postponed.
The Trader Joe’s in Media, a place I ended up after my accidental adventure on the 118, had no local meat (though a very delicious free sample of macaroni), which was quite unfortunate. I was complaining about this to the kind friend who picked me up from my stranded location, only to find that she regularly cooks with local organic meat. Therefore, the carnivorous column will now be devoted to how to eat local organic meat without spending too much money, from the perspective of someone who lives off campus.
My friend Ashley Vogel ’13 buys meat approximately once every two weeks, usually from Martindale’s. This week, she bought a pound of ground beef for $6.49 a pound. Vogel also brings meat with her back from local farms from her home in New Jersey, since she has a car and it is easy to transport because the meat is frozen. Vogel added that during the late spring through the fall, when the farmer’s market is open, there are more local meats available that are easily accessible from Swarthmore.
Vogel has specific kinds of meat she tends to buy. “I generally purchase ground beef and ground turkey because they are quick and easy to cook,” Vogel said. “Sausage, again, is easy to prepare, and delicious and it freezes pretty well.” Because Vogel lives off campus, and, as a Swattie, inevitably has a dearth of free time, she tends to get frozen meat because it will go bad less quickly. “The main criteria for food is that it stays good for a while … if you have a lot of homework, and don’t have time to cook, you want something that will stay good for a while,” she said. “When I do cook [meat], I eat it four times in a row … money and meat are precious resources.”
Vogel almost exclusively purchases local and organic meat. Her reasons are both ethical and based on taste.“The main thing for me is that the animals are treated humanely,” she said. She also believes that when you prepare things in such a way that the taste of the food does not get masked by other strong flavors, the difference in quality becomes much more readily apparent between local food and non-local food. “It definitely tastes better … depending on the type of meat you can really tell the difference.”
In the upcoming week, Vogel plans on cooking her “current favorite recipe’: Keema Beef Curry, a recipe from Food and Wine magazine. “It’s a dish with… Indian inspired flavors, it’s extremely simple to prepare… it stores really well, so you can keep it in the fridge for a few days, it only gets better as time goes on.” Vogel has cooked the dish multiple times before, and made it for her parents when she returned home for break.
Vogel said that living off campus and cooking her own food is more affordable than living on campus, although she expressed a wish that the college offered students the option to live on campus without being on the meal plan. “The social aspect of living on campus is something I miss, but cooking is something I really enjoy and … it is is very hard for me to eat at Sharples because … eating local and organic meat is important … and those things just are not available, [and so] to me, living on campus is not really an option.”
For those who do live on campus and want to eat meat, planning meals in groups can be quite helpful. Most of Vogel’s meals serve four people, meaning that one can purchase a pound of meat for less than two dollars a person total. While certainly not practical to do frequently on a meal plan, I think it is a nice idea to think about trying to occasionally cook a local organic meal. Contrary to popular belief, as Vogel shows, it can be done cheaply and with relative ease.
Next time I don’t take the wrong bus, I look forward to trying to cook myself a meal. I may try Vogel’s curry recipe, or perhaps I will simply rely on the flavor of the food to carry me through, with only some light seasoning with fresh (and local) ingredients. As well as having some prosciutto and sausage, of course.
Up Next: Paces.
Amelia is a first-year. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.