Monday, July 21, 2008

Eat Local Orange Juice

Well, there are many locavores that can wake up each morning with a refreshing glass of orange juice from oranges grown within their local area or local foodshed. If your oranges are out of season, you can even use some stuff you put away in your freezer. OK, that aint us here in the Chicago area. Anyone around here abiding by a local diet, whether a 100 mile radius or my more expansive Big 10 Conference, will not find oranges. Here, local orange juice?

Last night I had the chance to speak to a small group of people on my favorite's of topics, eating local [ed., you would like the chance to talk about the media issues, but no one's giving you that platform, right?]. As I am wont to do in such talks, my first bit of advice to the crowd is the way to starting eating local is to not eat local. In other words, don't make yourselves nuts eating local. If you want a glass of orange juice to start the day. No sweat.

An audience member last night, though, instinctively hit on one of my favorite themes. If you cannot eat it local, eat it as-if local. She talked about making her own orange juice. How different the amount of juice one gets when squeezing her own oranges compared with opening a carton, but this juice, her juice satisfied her more, and as we both agreed, came with the lack of packaging one associates with local. We further agreed that juice oranges, even those found up North, tended to be more flavorful oranges than the standard supermarket oranges and surely more flavorful than the standard supermarket orange juice. Good points all around. Then, another audience member added another good juice point. We used to know juice glasses as tiny glasses. We drank a standard portion in three ounces. It made sense, the amount of juice obtained from DIY squeezing. That's what it was supposed to be. So, I say. Go ahead, drink juice. Make it as-if local by squeezing it yourself.

Another key message (I believe) about eating local (beyond don't make yourself nuts) is that local is an imprinteur, a roadmap. Way more than organic, I find the word local, well not so much the word but the sussying out via label reading and other research, leads to the type of food that matters to me. Firstly, it leads me to food made with respect for the things that matter to me such as humane animal husbandry and good environmental practices. Secondly, it leads me to food made with care, artisanalship, quality, things together that equals what matters most, deliciousness. The corollary of this message becomes then, if it cannot be local, look for products that have the traits of local. Take my morning coffee. I would not survive, period, if I looked for local coffee. I do survive, however, on coffee that is fair trade (or better) and organic. Roasted by local companies like Blue Max, all the better.

Tomorrow morning, have a nice, small, glass of orange juice, secure in your knowledge that you are a locavore.

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