Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Box
Spring CSA Week 4

Farmer Vicki noted in her weekly e-mail that her spring greenhouse crops were not coming in so well. She sez:

"We have been having problems with one greenhouse in that the crops are not all getting ready at the same time. It is frustrating, but so far I have not figured out why. The only clue I have is that we did a poor job spreading the composted manure. In some places it is thick and others, thin. In this case, though I have been a poor diagnostician."

It's not the box came empty, but it brings up some of the weaknesses with CSAs. Essentially, it is a lot of the same: radishes (standard red and long, white icicle), lettuces, a bunch of turnips, larger than last week, and a couple of carrots. Yea, and some green onions. Farmer Vicki recommends using the greens from the radishes and the turnips to extend the stuff. Still, it is not enough to make a week's worth of eating. Another thing that makes it hard, the head of curly green lettuce provided this week wilts very quickly. There is some mescalin that will last longer.

OK, enough with the complaining. Last week we made pasta with our kale and chard, with goat cheese and ricotta salata, our kidz loved it. We also made good use of carrots, tiny turnips, and radishes with home-made aioli. I will say that the green onions are piling up. I have a recipe for braised green onions to try, but green onions are not a favorite of mine. Even if the boxes cannot support a whole week's worth of eating, each meal they support is highly delicious. (And oh so local!)

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.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Big Picture

I get annoyed easily; really, too easily. My wife tells me I should look at the big picture.

Jerusalem Cafe opened in Oak Park this year, in a space formerly of Panda Express. Surely an improvemment, especially as I have finally run out of patience with the mediocre Grape Leaves. I'm not sure now. At this place, there is a sign, and I paraphrase
Forgive the extended time it takes to get you your lunch. We cook everything fresh and from scratch

Immediately in eye view of this sign are 15 or so falafal sitting under a heat lamp. Also, within eyesight, a man working chicken chunks on the grill that will sit around under the guise of "shwarma".

Alas, I must look at the big picture.

Jerusalem Cafe
1030 Lake St.
Oak Park 60301
Eat Local In the Media

Artie Bucco prepares dinner last night on the Soprano's