Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Year in Local

Semi-maudlin, quasi-spiritual Thanksgiving piece, check; holiday gift guide, check; the last step towards legitimacy, the year-end review. I am so there. Myself and my family found it easier than ever to eat local in 2008 because we had more sources than ever to buy local food.

Needless to say, we ate more local food than ever. We narrowed our biggest gap in local eating, the lack of local food when we ate out. We went out much less, mostly because we had too much in-house to eat. In addition, we found local at favorite restaurants like Mado, Vie and Lula's [ed. Lula's, that's a new one!].

We also narrowed our gap in our exceptions and make-do's. We stored better, so we had more local food in the winter. We worked harder (namely my wife), so we had things like canned tomatoes. We had more of the basics like garlic and onions, and we had less need to go to the "don't make yourself nuts rule" by eating things like out of season berries. Finally, what we really liked about this year was the various lectures and talks we attended (or gave). Local did not just taste good this year.

A happy year in local. Let's roll the tape.

January - We get our food from a top secret drop, on the road in Michigan, and at the smallest superstore.

February - We told you what was in season in this short cold month, but we told you about something even grander. On Grand, acting partially as the new bodega for her barrio, but also as a destination for all, Cassie Green and her then, not quite husband, opened a market focusing on local foods, Green Grocer. Over the course of the year, Cassie supplied us with early crops from Windy City Harvest, speciality local products like Papa Lena's beet chips, and my wife's addiction, Trader's Point Creamery Orchard Trio yogurt. If nothing else happened in local in 2008, we have the story of Cassie. Or not. Another woman made local available in the darkest month's Robin "Winter" Schmier. Here's a report from one of her markets in February.

March - We come close to running out of food (but not potatoes). Perhaps one of the reasons the CTrib later shuts down its Perspective section? Will 848 be next? By the end of the month, new foods arrive.

April - Ramps, the weed for the kook kidz (what about the rest of us). Bravo to us. So, I finally get the meal of my local dreams.

May - A wonderful relationship begins in the comments. Farmer's markets roll-out; nothing ever compares to the one in Madison. Soup-box/soap box program begins at Hull House on local food issues. I rant.

June - I rant for an audience (audio here). Markets are all over the place and Cassie is fully stocked. We are eating asparagus constantly. Mado! MikeG begins putting locavores to film. I rant.

July - The difference between freshly dug and new potatoes. I'm bitter (CTrib does story on locavores without me). Such a deal, free cheesecake and a fantastic group of local experts speaking each week at Eli's Cheesecake Factory. I believe this was the night we ate best the whole year.

August - Michael Morowitz's wife has twins in the middle of trying to start a new online eat local mag: the Local Beet. The month is otherwise dedicated to tomatoes.

September - Melissa and I lay out some tips for getting the rest of the harvest set.

October - Use your head, following the advice in this Sky Full of Bacon production. Mado launched their farm dinners, now my favorite way to eat there. Most farmer's markets wrap up this month.

November - Is there anything else besides Family Farmed Expo? I find time to provide 18 tips towards eating local. The Beet adds the Sustainable Cook and the Backyard Farmer.

December - Winter markets working out very well. How smart is this need for local food?

Coming soon: Mado goes New Year's Eve family style; Paul Virant takes on an Iron Chef; more Sky Full of Bacon podcasts on local food; Green City goes winter.

Happy New Year.

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