Friday, July 25, 2008

Eating Local with Mighty Appetite

So, Mighty Appetite is a Washington Post food blog that I love to read -- and blog author Kim O'Donnell had a challenge this week to have her readers try to eat ten items produced within 100 miles. Since I love the whole concept but haven't nailed down the perfect execution of local eating yet, I thought I'd give it a whirl (before she up and moves to Seattle, sniff).

Here's what I ate in California (why yes, I am that kind of cheater):

Farmer's market local, organic strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, smothered in Straus Family Creamery whipped cream, and handfuls of plums from the yard - while in the South Bay. Hardship.

Homegrown-basil pesto on steamed zucchini, potato and egg salad (all organic and grown/collected/cooked on site at Preston Vineyards) - plus don't forget the Madam Preston I got to sip with lunch...sigh. Dedication to the cause.

When we got home from our trip, I was exhausted, so we made burgers from some Polyface ground beef I had in the freezer. And here's what we found in our CSA boxes last night: yellow plums and green beans (et 'em up for dinner) and beets (in the slow cooker right now). Peaches are ripening in a brown bag. Go, Zurschmeides! Hey, DC local eating holds its own!

Here's my overall dilemma tho: What do people do about things like crackers? I can make my own bread in my bread machine but what do you do about things like bagels or little whole wheat bunny crackers? That your kids love? I now try to do things like pop popcorn myself (in a brown bag in the microwave to avoid all the packaging). But there are some items we eat routinely that are neither local or sustainable, 'tho they may be organic and bought in bulk. Should we just be skipping that stuff altogether? It's all those whole grain carbs, for the most part.

Makes me muse about environmentalism in general. I tend to cut myself and others mucho slack because I think that even if I/we changed just 50% of our habits, that would be an amazing difference. I also think that I can only change so much at one time. That's what I love about reading other blogs and chatting up other people who are trying to simplify and clean their lives -- I end up making so many more and deeper changes than I would have on my own. Living vicariously through you all and getting wiser because of it.

So thanks, Kim at Mighty Appetite, for getting me to more closely look at my local consumption (because of your challenge, I thought much more about the sources of all my foods, not just the 10 I'd be tracking). I'd love to hear from others the areas in which you've easily found organic, local, less-processed foods. Just don't tell me to make my own crackers. I'm not quite there yet!

*Photo courtesy of sxc.


Molly up the street said...

Hi J! I have to make our own crackers but I use flour from god knows where. Do they grow rice, teff, sorghum, or tapioca around here? I think even Barbara Kingsolver had to go past 150 miles to buy her wheat flour in "Animal Vegetable Miracle".

Anyway, nice post!

Burbanmom said...

Even if they were made from a combination baby seals and methane gas, you would ALWAYS find Cheez-Its and Goldfish crackers in our cupboard.

It's a very small percentage of the food we eat, but it's food we all enjoy and it's easy to grab as a snack.

Locally in Virginia, I'm enjoying lots of local meat (Brookview Farms), Chesapeake fish (no bluecrabs, though!), green beans, tomatoes, corn, blackberries, watermelon and peaches. Yum-diddley-icious!

Green Me said...

If I remember correctly, in Animal Vegetable Miracle, she mentions an organic flour mill in Virgina, and there is a local baker in Boulder, that used to get their flour from Virgina. Now, I don't know that the wheat was grown there, but hey at least it was milled!

Also, you might look into some ancient grains that some one might grow locally. For example, some folks have figured out that the southern Colorado Rockies have the perfect climate and conditions for growing Quinoa, so even though I can't get local rice, I can get local Quinoa, which is more nutritious any way!

Maybe there are some other grains like oats or barely grown in your area? Perhaps you can't get even half your grains locally, but as you said, even small changes make a big difference. Plus, it is such a neat feeling to discover local food secrets!

organicneedle said...

I have the same dilemma. For the summer season in NYC I have been able to make huge strides in produce and even think I have learned a trick or two for winter, but grains and snacks are a huge challenge. For now I am trying to go with what I think are the best options. For example...I buy King Arthur's flour which uses all US grain sources and is worker owned. I try to go with Newman's stuff for the kids...which again seems to choose better ingredients if not the best and also seems to be not evil as a company. Like everything is a work in progress. I really like the idea of focusing on ten things at a time.

MamaBird said...

Um, rockin comments, folks! Thanks *so much* for weighing in on a Friday night.

Hey Molly, at least you're not up the creek...and I should have known that gluten free would mean making crackers. I will chat with you about how time consuming *that* endeavor is. We joke down in the community garden that certain plots resemble ride paddies. Maybe we could start a barter within the woods.

Burbanmom, as usual you have me howling with laughter. My DH is pretty sure that the giant sized cartons of Goldfish are an independent food group (and no, he doesn't b'lieve the transfat free health store faux Cheezits are edible). And I am guessing a million $ that you aren't getting those Goldfish in individual mylar bags. Rockin VA edibles. I'm drooling over the thought of the melon.

Green Me- Thanks for your musings, that is *exactly* what I need to explore next. The Preston Vineyard folks (my mom's cousins) turned over some of their vineyard acreage to plant/grow/thresh their own wheat with which to make bread this year...I can't replicate what their winery/farm's up to but am angling to go for an urban sustainable sourcing path.

Organic Needle - Thanks for the tip on King Arthur, I didn't know their background. I also do some Newman's but have been appalled at their ingredients (aka HFCS) on occasion, organic and nonprofit supporting tho they are.

Thrift Store Mama said...

It's definitely about doing as much as you can within reason. A little thing that I do: Our local, producer only farmer's market is on Thursdays. So, I make out my list on Thursday morning, get as much as I can from the farmer's market on Thursday afternoon and then finish up the list at the grocery store. When I did the grocery store first, I would buy less at the farmer's market. This way, I'm getting as much as I can from the farmer's market without too much extra thinking. I've also tried to be more planful about our meals so that I can order meat from the local meat club every 2 months and not have to get much (if any) from the grocery store. I also get a lot of inspiration here

Kate said...

Because we're lucky enough to live near a full service family farm, I actually can buy about 70-percent of my food localy-- including meats, though they are frozen, which sucks when you tend to forget you need to cook dinner until, um five minutes before it should be on the table. Community gardens are great too, we belong to one at aforementioned farm, though I'll admit, I've never actually brought home any of my broccoli..or green beans..or, ah, I'm not such a green thumb.

In any case, until someone in my neck of the woods can grow marshmallows and chocolate bars needed for s'mores, I'll always have go to the good ol' chain market. I mean, a girl's got her limits, you know??

Green Bean said...

In all honesty, I just don't have time to make our own crackers and bagels etc all the time. I do most of our bread in the bread machine with locally milled flour (no clue where it's grown). I found my flour through the Dark Days challenge. Have you popped over to the One Local Summer challenge to see what people are using in your region? I picked up some great tips in the winter challenge for local staples.

As to bagels, I buy ours from a local bakery. I figure I'm supporting a local business and there's no packaging. In a pinch, I buy them from the Whole Foods bakery section. They are also from a local bakery - though WF is clearly not a small business - and I still get to skip the packaging.

Here's a recipe for crackers that I've been meaning to try. Looks yummy.

Keetha said...

What a great challenge! I'll have to check that out!