Sustainability and Specialness

When asked how much money enough, early billionaire John D. Rockefeller is said to have replied, “Just a little bit more.”

Out of Balance At the end of 2022, I did a series of blogs called Against the Grain. In it, I stated that many of the challenges we face today seem to stem from the ways that we have put ourselves out of balance with the natural world. We appear to have forgotten that we are also organic. In our world, “All things affect all things.”

While there are significant challenges to synching our lives up with a more natural flow of things, there are also tremendous rewards.

Food, Glorious Food! I’m going to use food as an example. I am currently working on an eating plan for myself that relies as much as possible on local protein sources, fruits and vegetables that are grown in each season we are in, in the area in which I live.

This is not some woo-woo “food stylish” ladidah. It’s very specifically important.

I was listening to the TED Radio Hour the other day. In it, an eco-entrepreneur named Alasdair Harris was describing a conservation effort off the coast of Madagascar. This area is known for its particularly delectable (and expensive) octopi. In a radical move, they sectioned off the very best fishing area for the octopi and left it unharvested for a significant period.

If one were thinking only in terms of money, that would seem like a really dumb idea! However, when they reopened the area, the octopi were larger and more abundant than they had ever been. By fishing less, the octopi were able to recover and become more abundant.

BiggerBetterMore Makes Less Think about what that means about seafood in general. Shrimp is currently the most popular seafood consumed in the US. The shrimp season in Maryland runs from May to July. This means that if you are eating shrimp in Maryland in any of the other nine months, it came from somewhere else. Likewise, our beloved Maryland Blue Crab are only in season from April to November. That means your wonderful New Year's crab balls and crab cakes probably came from either Louisiana or Indonesia. They are not Blue Crabs. The chef likely drowned them in Old Bay or J.O. seasoning so that you wouldn’t notice the lack of actual crab taste.

Well so what?!?!? I love shrimp and crabs. I want them, they are available to me, and I’m having at it! Besides! I’m supporting the fishing industry!

You, friend, are part of the problem.

If any of you either keep Kosher or simply don’t like shellfish, don’t get too smug too fast. We do the exact same thing with other foods like fruits and vegetables, bison, and even non-local beef. As it turns out, the phenomenon with the Madagascar octopi extends to all things raised or grown on/in this planet. Just because we can get this or that thing we love whenever we want it, doesn’t mean it’s good for any of us in the long term. Overburdening Louisiana’s seafood harvests continues to put the entire ecosystem out of balance.

Lest you imagine that’s Louisiana’s problem, I’ll remind you that air, water, crops, water tables, insect worlds and so forth are not the least bit impressed by our city, state, or national boundaries. All things really do affect all things. In the name of commerce, we have overharvested nearly everything we grow or raise. It is all fiercely out of balance, and so are we.

A Chocolate Story Beyond economics, our ability to attain instant and nearly instant gratification has a cost as well. Sustainable food practices bring foods back to being special at times. Let me demonstrate with chocolate.

Like many people in this country, I grew up on waxy, cheap American chocolate. I’m not casting aspersions about the wax; It's a historic fact. American Chocolate bars as we know them today were originallycreated as military survival food by Hershey’s during World War I. The bars had to be able to survive overseas shipping, which at that time, as very, very slow. By World War II, they needed to be edible in both the frigid cold of the European front and the tropical weather on the Japanese front. In order to do all of that, Hershey’s significantly dropped the percentage of both cocoa and milk solids. European chocolate has to have at least 30% cocoa in order to be labeled “chocolate.” Here in the US, only 10% is required. American chocolatiers typically add a whole bunch of sugar in hopes that we won’t notice it isn't very flavorful.

I’m Ruined I certainly didn’t notice as a kid, thinking of any opportunity to eat chocolate as a blissful moment dropped down from heaven. I didn’t know any better.

Until a certain foreign exchange student in my high school from France got a batch of fresher-than-I-had-ever-tasted-before Belgian chocolate in a care package. The exchange student thought it was disgusting. “Zis iz so stale! Zee taste iz lahke zee vomeet of a dog.“ So she gave it to us.

Holy Mother of Pearl!!! That stuff crossed my eyes and dotted my tee’s!!! Not only had I never tasted chocolate that good… I had never tasted

that good! I was spoiled for life. It was very, very special.

But Not… That chocolate remained downright mythic for me for many years.

Until I learned how to make ganache and truffles. Worse, I learned that they are frighteningly easy to make. If you use even decent enough chocolate, (which is much easier to both find and afford now,) ganache, (or its more solid form, truffles,) taste that good. It is fabulous stuff.

But guess what it isn’t any longer? Special. I can make it at 3am if I really feel like it. It is no longer magic.

Sustainability Creates Specialness If we can have whatever we want, whenever we want it, the “it” loses its magic. It doesn’t matter if it’s chocolate, or seafood, or even, (as we learned during COVID,) one-on-one time with people we love. “How can I miss you, if you never go away” is a common joke, but it’s not really that funny anymore, is it?

We reach for more things, shinier things, more this, that, or the other things, in search of the kind of satisfaction we had when something was still magical. “More” will never be enough. The BiggerBETTER M O R E … is a disappointing lie.

However, by cooperating with the natural cycles around us and inside of us, without instant access, specialness can grow back into our lives like octopi in Madagascar. “All things in a circle.”

What things have become mundane in your life? Think about ways you can shift your consumption, (or time allotments,) to be more in synch with natural availability and natural cycles. Let’s let go of this rampage we’ve been on to “subdue the Earth” and recognize instead that we are part of all things. We can live in collaboration, being mindful of how our choices affect everyone and everything else.

In the process, we just might find a whole lot more specialness in our lives.


If you are wondering where that magic feeling went in your life, (or even if you just want my ganache recipe,) contact Tiffany today. I bet there is magic to be reclaimed in your life too.