Monday, August 20, 2007

How to Eat Local

The Price You Will Pay

The Chicago Eat Local Challenge is almost here. I imagine a few more of you signed up this weekend at Green City. The melons and tomatoes and what not, I am sure, had you salivating. You'll be eating fresher. You'll be getting more varieties. You'll be doing your part for the environment. Have you stopped to think of the cost.

No, not the price of tomatoes. You can get cheaper heirloom tomatoes from Farmer Vicki's Genesis Growers or Nicholl's Farms than you can get at Whole Foods. Not the price of gas from running to some u-pick in Indiana. Not the cost of having to plan your meals in advance as you wait for your local meat to defrost. I mean the price you pay in water.

Local food is wet, really wet. The descriptor I've used a lot for local food, especially fruits and vegetables, is that it tastes alive. Not alive like the tiny worm that crawled out of one of my tomatoes last week; not alive as in so close to the farm I can practically smell the manure. I mean the food has a vitality, a spunk, that supermarket food does not. This summer, which has been the summer of the Greek salad, I really pinned down what made that alive-ness.

The cooking utensil I used the most of, of late, is the strainer. It started with salting the cucumbers, crisp them up. Soon, I needed to lay tomato slices across a strainer or else the salad would be in a pool. Now, I find that so many of my farm fresh veg throw off an enormous amount of water. Take my bell peppers, are these supposed throw off so much precipitation? Chile peppers? I do not, not, have enough colanders, strainers, salad spinners and other such devices to dry my food. I do not especially like wet food, makes dressings all watery and gets the rest of the plate soggy. It is a price I pay for having my food exceedingly fresh. Local.

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