Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Local Eating

One of the things I'm doing today is catching up on things that were put aside while I worked a ton of extra hours. The concerts were amazing! So, here's one post I started around mid-August.

Barbara Kingsolver wrote a book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life which tells of her family's attempts to eat only food they've grown themselves on a farm they bought in Virginia. The locavore movement refers to eating locally grown food, but the definition of "locally grown food" seems to be up to the individual. If you scroll down the page, you come across the definition of "locavore" and the radius seems to be 50, 100, or 150 miles from where you live. I'd heard 100 miles was kind of the standard.

Paul had talked about eating meals centered around locally grown vegetables. We had an interesting conversation about eating only locally produced food. He said he didn't mean to eat only local foods, but rather to use local foods, specifically vegetables, as the center of the menu. I started thinking about the 100-mile thing and wondered what foods are available from within a 100-mile radius of here. I decided to research it, just because I'm a curious person.

So, I got a cardboard wheel from Amazon that shows what's local to the San Francisco Bay Area and when it's in season. It's called The Local Foods Wheel and it's by Maggie Gosselin, Sarah Klein, and Jessica Prentice. Their website: Local Foods Wheel. It's pretty amazing to see that I could, theoretically, get almost anything I want to eat from somewhere local to this area. Tropical fruits like bananas, pineapple, etc. are, as I expected, not on the wheel. There are some things I've never heard of, like burdock root and cardoons. Did you know there's a plant called jujube? And you thought it was just a candy.

I doubt I'll be eating exclusively locally produced food. It would be an interesting exercise to try it for a year, hitting every season, but I don't have the resources to do this. I'd need a car and the time to go to the farmer's markets, farms themselves, and other sources to purchase locally grown food. What I do now is to choose locally grown and produced food whenever possible. It helps that they post signs saying where your food comes from.

In my quest for the best ingredients, because the best ingredients make the best food, I also try to use organic whenever I can. I've noticed that organic is fresher and more flavorful. And local organic is often the best. It's more expensive, but my strategy is to eat more vegetarian meals and to cook from scratch. I don't spend my money or calories on junk food very often. Organic junk food is still junk food. But that's an issue for another post, another time, if I feel like ranting.

I've had some time to think about this whole idea and what I want to do is to use the wheel to help me plan meals that are in season. That can be tough. I subscribe to several food magazines and they send the October issue in late August, so the magazines hitting my mailbox now are full of fall braises and stews. But it's still summer, with late-summer food in the markets.

I'm thinking of storing magazines away by month and pulling them out when that season gets here, so I'm not tempted to cook food that's not yet in season. That's more expensive, as well as not as good because the ingredients aren't at their peak. It's not yet time for braised short ribs and root vegetables. Right now is the time to enjoy tomatoes, peaches, and corn, before they go out of season.