By Karen J. Coates / Photo by Jerry Redfern
Feb. 24, 2011
I’ve been thinking a lot about the journeys my dinners endure. The more I read, the more I learn, the more trouble I have shaking the numbers: an average plate of American food travels up to 2,500 miles between farm and table. That’s an astonishingly long haul that inextricably ties modern meals to fossil fuels. These grim realities are well documented in many places. But I don’t aim to get all academic on you—not right here, right now, anyway.
I’d rather take you to a little place called Muang Khua on the Nam Ou River in northern Laos. It’s a place where road meets water and people meet each other with innumerable items to tote, trade and transport along this long route, which extends from Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, through the Lao city of Udomxai, and all the way west toward the border with Thailand. Thai packaged goods head east on cramped, dusty buses; their Vietnamese counterparts go the opposite way. Chinese loot travels in every direction. READ MORE