Thursday, August 02, 2007

How To Eat Local


Did you sign up yesterday at the Green City Market for the Eat Local Challenge? This Eat Local lesson is for all those on the fence, but for all those who have dived in too. My message to you, don't eat local.

Nah, I'm kidding. I want you to take up the Eat Local Challenge. Reduce the huge amount of miles required to get food to your table. Partake in food grown by farmers you can meet. Reveal in freshness, forgot the noted heirloom tomatoes; can a cucumber really taste like that. Who knew you could enjoy okra. And yes I do like rutabagas (a wrongly maligned vegetable if there ever was one). The last two lessons covered picking your local, defining where your food could come from to be local. It could be your city, your state, 100 miles from where you lived, or your broad region. I'm sorry but, "from the USA", is a bit expansive even for me. Now, before figuring out what you can eat local, figure out what you can eat non-local.

You cannot eat exclusively from the Chicago area, even for a week. There is no local salt, no local pepper, no local chocolate, hell no local coffee. Many people attempting Eat Local Challenges just give up certain favorites, it's like Lent to them--"damn the headaches, no lattes for me this week." That's fine but, to me, somewhat unnecessary. To me, eating local is about making choices, replacing. Replacing corn so far from the stalk in tastes like ethanol with corn picked nearby; forsaking big-big California peaches for juicy Michigan Red Havens; not having asparagus anymore (unless it's from your freezer) and instead having Blue Lake green beans. Get your eggs from a farmer instead of a multinational entity. Try pastured pork instead of industrial pork. Drink beer brewed in your backyard. That's eating local.

Will eating local drive you nuts. In Plenty, the couple seeking to eat from only 100 miles commented about how obsessive they had to become. How they drove mile after mile in an effort to reduce their food miles. I'll cover in another lesson sources for eating local, but it is obvious that eating local takes work. The food may not be at your grocery, your meat may be frozen when you want to eat it. Moreover, there may be things local out there that you just cannot get too, like grains. Grains, whoa, even if you have a cache of local wheat, do you have time to bake your own bread? Some of your exceptions are just gonna be the practical.

Do you want to do all your cooking with lard or butter, more power to ya. I'd still like to use some olive oil. Should you only try the blossoming Midwest wine business. Perhaps, but you may not have a lot to drink. Use fresh herbs. My friend Farmer Vicki at Genesis Growers sells many. She also has an array of hot peppers. Your food will not be bland on local, do you need to forsake the rest of your spice cabinet. I don't. You may be the type that wants a nice piece of halibut. Me, I don't go there, preferring to buy only freshwater fish. Or I do. I have purchased the Whole Foods marinated shrimp skewers. I eat canned tuna, anchovies. I don't fret that every morsel that goes in my mouth does not come from the states around me.

You should not either. Don't be afraid to be non-local during your Eat Local Challenge. Just think about it. Make mindful choices. Realize the items that matter to you. Then, with the other stuff, go for it. Be like my kidz, never let a whittled away "baby" carrot touch your lips again.

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