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All I Want for Christmas: This Year's Letter to Santa Claus

Dear Santa:

First, let me assure you that I’ve been very good this year. I haven’t eaten any fast food, except for that day last summer when I was driving around from one errand to another, didn’t have time to eat lunch, and got a Frosty at the Wendy’s drive-through (or is that spelled “drive-thru?”). And my eight-year-old daughters still haven’t eaten in a fast-food restaurant, unless you consider that isolated incident when they each got an emergency orange juice at the McDonald’s drive-thru to shake them out of their hypoglycemia-induced tantrums. (Their grandma, my mother, constantly threatens to break their fast-food-free streak. “Shari,” she says, “how can they live in this world and never eat fast food? Next time I see them, I’m taking them out for their first Happy Meal.” Santa, you don’t know how many times I've wanted to stick out my tongue at her, but I never did. See how good I’ve been?)

Five mornings a week, I pack nutritious lunches for the girls so they won’t overdose on overly processed, USDA-sanctioned chicken scraps – otherwise known as nuggets, strips, patties, tacos, drummies, and something called “popcorn chicken" – served in their school’s cafeteria. The only exceptions are when we wake up late and barely have time to eat breakfast, do homework, and make sure everyone has snow pants, boots, hats, gloves, coats, sneakers for P.E., socks for P.E., field-trip permission slips, reading folders, and healthy mid-morning snacks.

For Halloween, I took a stand against child labor by refusing to buy chocolate that wasn’t fair trade, though I ended up not buying any chocolate at all, because, as much as I truly wanted to, I couldn’t afford to give $4.25 Equal Exchange chocolate bars to every kid in the neighborhood. Instead, they got Blow Pops and Smarties.

I grew an organic garden. I shopped locally, organically, sustainably – and frequently. And, for the most part, I only patronized restaurants that hosted Simple Good and Tasty monthly dinners.

I signed every petition generated by Food Democracy Now, watched both Fresh and Food, Inc., and read every New York Times article written by Michael Pollan. I think it bears repeating: I've been very good this year.

So, in exchange for all this goodness, I respectfully request the items on the following list. Of course, I don’t expect everything I ask for in time for Christmas, so please feel free to take the next 11 or 12 months to fulfill these wishes (except for number seven -- I'll need that one right away). I’ll check in with you periodically to see how you’re doing.

1.   First, the story of Rudolph taught me that you don’t control the weather, but I would guess you are closely connected with the Big Guy or Gal who does. So could you please ask Him/Her for prime garden-growing conditions this spring and summer? Whatever is the right combination of sunshine and rain to grow a bumper crop of local fruits and vegetables – especially tomatoes – is tops on my list this year.

2.   I also realize you don’t control the federal government (corporate lobbyists do!), but I suspect you have some influence there, too. Please do what you can to institute a federal food policy that includes stricter food-safety legislation, more accurate labeling requirements, and subsidies for growing organic fruits and vegetables, so that they can be just as accessible and affordable as Diet Coke and Wonder Bread.

3.   As long as you’re in Washington, could you also help persuade President Obama to finally make Bill Marler chief of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service so we will no longer fear our food?

4.   In Minnesota, we elect a new governor next year. Could you make sure we get one who understands the connection between good food and good health, who isn’t afraid to challenge BigAg, and who likes to hang out with foodies, like us.

5.   We suburba-locavores need simple, good and tasty places to eat out here in the “western suburbs.” So could we pretty please get a Birchwood, Broder’s or Brasa-type restaurant in Wayzata, Plymouth, Orono, Deephaven and/or Excelsior? Not too pricey, not too fancy, or we won’t feel comfortable bringing the kids. But the right combination of ingredients will be a welcome oasis in this culinary wasteland we call WOO HOO! That’s short for "West Of Highway 100."

6.  I would also like a CSA share that includes plenty of asparagus, cucumbers, fennel, golden beets and tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes. Oh, and if you have a good salsa recipe, I'd like that, too.

7.  One more thing: I don’t know if you read what I wrote in a previous post about American Girl Dolls, but let’s just say I was a bit cranky that day and didn’t really know how much my daughters wanted them for Christmas. So if you could just bring one Kaya and one Elizabeth, we’ll sort out who gets which on Christmas morning.

Thanks for reading, Santa. The girls and I will be baking cookies for you; rest assured, all ingredients will be local, organic and/or Fair Trade. We’ll also leave some pesticide-free, Minnesota-grown carrots and Honeycrisps for the reindeer. And if you’re around in late August when the tomatoes are ripe, stop by and we’ll fix you a caprese salad.

All the best,

Shari Danielson
Simple Good and Tasty

Comments

We at Equal Exchange loved this post and appreciate the mention of our chocolate. We also thought you & your readers would be happy to know that for occassions like Halloween we also offer tiny, bite-sized organic Fair Trade chocolates. see http://shop.equalexchange.com/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=18613

Also, since you're aware of the child labor issue, you'll probably want to know about the nationwide campaign we do every year (in conjunction w/a great group of non-profits) called Reverse Trick-or-Treating. It enlists thousands of volunteer families in hundreds of communities to hand out about 250,000 informationl cards about child labor & Fair Trade - to each of which is attached one of our little chocolates. For more see: www.equalexchange.coop/minis

Thanks for the information, Rodney. And thanks for all you do to bring sustainable, responsible and delicious products into the marketplace. We'll be better prepared, now, for next year's Halloween; it would be nice to give your chocolate in more reasonable quantities. (grin)

I have to tell you a sad story, though: At this year's Halloween, during a pre-trick-or-treating gathering in our neighborhood , I told one of my neighbors, a so-called "educated" mother of four, about chocolate's connection to child-labor in West Africa. I told her about the children's long, hard hours; about their use of toxic pesticides without protective clothing or masks; about their frequent machete-related injuries, etc. And do you know what she said to me? She looked me in the eye and with a straight face said, "Well, what else do they have to do?" Thank goodness my husband was standing next to me and gave me a little nudge towards the door, where the kids were beginning to gather to go outside. Otherwise, I think I may have uttered some words I would not have wanted anyone under the age of 21 to hear.

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