Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Eat Local Challenge
May 2006

I'm in!

As I mentioned the other day, an Eat Local Challenge has been issued for May. Since I'm trying to eat local in January, February, March, April...June, July (well you get the idea), I had no problem with jumping aboard the May challenge. Of course, a May challenge is a lot harder generally than an August (or summer) challenge.

Jen, who is helping organize the challenge, has asked all participants to address the following questions. I have indented my responses.

1. What's your definition of local for this challenge?

The Locavores are using a 100-mile radius around their home to define local foods. [Jen] will be doing the same. You could define local as anything from within your county to within the state or the United States.

In an urban area like Chicago, 100 miles is too limiting. I've said before, that my eat local circle roughly covers the Big 10 conference. Essentially, I eat stuff from Northern Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. I think of downstate Illinois and Indiana as slightly less local because the climate is a bit different than up here. Still, I consider local, various providers of milk, eggs, cheese and meats from all around the Big 10 states.

2. What exemptions will you claim?

There are some things that are a part of your everyday life that will be impossible to source locally. Will you be drinking coffee during this month? What will you do about spices? In many areas, local grains are hard to find. What will you do if you can't find them?

That's a great question. There are many things off the bat that I know cannot be local, the way I want to eat, both from a economic perspective and a culinary perspective. Skip coffee. What about olive oil, wine, salt and freakin' pepper. But I have ideas here, see below. The other problem, as I have mentioned before, it costs a lot more to eat locally grown meat, chicken, etc. So, while I have a preference for such products, my budget does not allow full commitment.

3. What is your personal goal for the month?

You don't have to set your goal at eating every meal locally -- while that is the ideal, we want to be realistic here. You could set a goal of having each dinner with local products, having one family meal a week, or even hosting one weekend picnic with local foods during the month.

So, here's the important stuff. What does the May Challenge mean (to me). I have two main goals. First, it is to see how much I can "localize" things. How many exceptions can I reduce or eliminate. For instance, my wife and I talked about using honey and local syrup more instead of sugar. What else. Then, I want to carry the spirit and the effect of eating local to all my food buying. Like, I want to see how much packaging I can eliminate when shopping, say think about the way a local butcher wraps meat as compared to the supermarket.

During the month, I will post, as always, on my local buys, including the Farmer Vicki Spring CSA. I will also post resources for others seeking to eat local. The main thing, though, is focusing on the idea of localizing. Stay tuned to see how I do.

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