Ketchup, beef, the future of civilization

“It’s ketchup.”

Chef Chris Kempf handed me a spoonful of sauce. It wasn’t ketchup as I know it. Ketchup is bright red, like a Mustang convertible. Ketchup is sweet, a sort of bright colored syrup to put on hot dogs. Ketchup comes in containers labeled “57 Varieties.” The stuff Chris gave me was complex, mildly spicy, with unmistakable vegetable flavors.

So now the mad scientists up at Green Springs Inn, which is probably close to Transylvania, are making their own ketchup, along with salsa, ranch dressing (all their salad dressings, actually), Bloody Mary mix, chocolate sauce and heaven knows what else. Not only that, they are baking their own bread, milling wood to build cabins and, rumor has it, raising chickens.

(Truthful note: Our chickens are either egg-laying pets or some sort of living art installation. They are definitely not menu items. Yet.)

All this make-it-yourself activity raises a question: Can we save the world, one condiment at a time?

Hey, it’s a big world with something like seven billion people on it. Agribusiness and multinational food processors are feeding many of them. But we are seeing signs that this model may have its limits. What happened to winter, for example?

But maybe we can do things differently. Take beef. It turns out that livestock, concentrated in huge numbers on feed lots and factory farms, produce a whole lot of methane and contribute significantly to planetary warming.

Just east of us on Highway 66, the Box R Ranch has gone over to a grass-fed cattle operation. (See http://www.boxrranch.com/beef.) Their animals graze on pastures that have never been treated with herbicides and fertilizers. Because these animals are never overcrowded, they do not require antibiotics. The distance from the Rowlett/Randall family farm to our tables at Green Springs Inn is pretty short, even considering the detour to a meat packer in the valley, so we are not burning up a lot of fossil fuel moving them around.

We have not conducted rigorous energy studies of neighborhood grass-fed beef or house-made ketchup. We believe that such foods are part of a more sustainable food supply. But we know for certain that Box R Beef and Chris Kempf’s ketchup taste better than stuff that comes wrapped in plastic from huge industrial operations.

Join the experiment. Put some of our artisanal ketchup on a Box R burger. Enjoy. Then watch the weather forecast. Maybe we will get some snow.