Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Feast or famine

Every day, two or three massive lorries roll by on the Ventry-Ballyferriter road down there at the bottom of the hill. They are carrying empty plastic bottles to the Kerry Spring bottled water plant in Ballyferriter, at the end of the peninsula, where they exchange their cargo for filled bottles. These they carry back to God-knows-where, undoubtedly some distribution center closer to the population centers of Ireland. It is something to watch these huge trucks negotiate our narrow roads, pushing terrified tourist drivers into the hedges.

I'd be willing to bet a tidy sum that no one can tell Kerry Spring water from whatever water would be pumped up out of the ground anywhere else in Ireland. Certainly, it's the same water we get from our well. I remember when Consumer Reports did taste tests on bottled waters. Even the most expensive foreign brands did no better than New York City tap water. What a world it is where consumers in Tokyo drink water from France.

My wife brought home some yellow onions in a string bag from the Dingle supermarket yesterday, then noticed that they came from Chile. Now, if we were somehow providing a market for impoverished Chilean farmers to sell their produce, I would perhaps see a point to shipping onions thousands of miles to Europe, but something tells me that's not the case. And here's the killer: We started to put a bag of potatoes in our shopping trolley, and noticed that they came from Israel. Israeli potatoes in Ireland!

My friend the inestimable essayist Scott Russell Sanders wrote a lovely book called Staying Put, extolling the virtues of local life. Water, onions and potatoes should stay put. Maybe I should too.