Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Anyone heard of the term "locavore" ?

It basically means eating what is grown locally and (by default) in season.

I think one could say that the movement was pioneered by Alice Waters (Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA) who initiated the idea of restaurants serving foodstuff that was produced by local farmers. Her ideas gave new life to small growers in northern California, reintroduced the ideas of farmer's markets and brought the absolute freshest, healthiest foods to the table.

It's caught on at the most "local" level possible. Many people are realizing that most fresh produce has travelled farther than they ever go on a vacation just to reach their table. Do you realize what kind of a "carbon footprint" this creates? Think about what it does to small American farmers!

Ray and I recently read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver in which she chronicles her family's efforts to eat only items that came from within 100 miles of their home. On an extreme and basic level, this is probably more than most of us are up for. Especially me! It involves primarily shopping at farmer's markets and ferreting out local farmers who keep livestock, etc. In some geographies, this is probably more possible than others. On top of all that, one would need to learn preservation techniques such as canning, smoking, freezing, etc. to have a wide variety of nutrients through the lean winter months.

I'm not up for that. While I do enjoy the kitchen arts, I don't know that I want it to be my full time job. I HAVE, however, gotten in the habit of visiting the weekend farmer's market while Aidan is churning laps. Texas isn't all that bountiful, but I can sure incorporate a LOT of fresh local tomatoes, onions (many varieties!), potatoes, peas, beans, and beets into our diet. I found fresh lima beans at the farmer's market last weekend. Bridget LOVES lima beans, and until now, had only ever had them from a freezer. They were GOOD! I often get my eggs from a lady down the road who keeps chickens, and I am looking for local milk. We're getting the supplies to make our own soft cheeses. I even think I know of a neighbor who occasionally has freshly slaughtered beef to sell.

I know it sounds weird and tree-huggerish. But there is something that speaks to me about synchronizing with nature's rhythms and my local environment. The native Americans seemed to get along just fine without bananas (which come from South America). OK, so I'm not willing to give up proscuitto. Or olive oil. Or mayonaise. A whole host of things. But I CAN try to help the economy, enviornment, farmers, etc. by now and then stepping off the Convenience Foods Carousel and making more of an effort.

So far, it's been worth it. I roast, then puree tomatoes, garlic and onions from the farmers market and have the tastiest sauce that I use as dip, sauce, marinade, etc throughout the week. Ray recently recycled a ham hock into a pea soup and used something he found at a local market called CREAM PEAS. Never heard of 'em. I tell you, this pea soup tastes like it is FULL OF CREAM. Not a drop. Hooray for experimentation!

We are considering, considering, mind you, growing some of our own stuff. My idea was a small bed near our driveway. Ray's idea was the back acre. We'll see. My track record as a green thumb is pretty dismal. But I'd like to try to manage tomatoes, beans, lettuces, root veggies, more herbs than I currently grow, squash, and maybe even some cutting flowers. The beauty is hard to resist.

I like the idea, the idea, mind you, of getting more in touch (literally!) with my food, and helping my children to understand where their food actually comes from. So few people understand the origin and cycle of soft spring greens, the sweet summer fruits, the harder vegetables of fall, the roots of winter. There is something primal in me that longs for this, and wants to instill it in my children.

Meanwhile, I will continue to visit the farmer's market, ask the produce guy at the grocery store "what's local?", and even go knock on the door of the house down the road that has the terriffic garden and ask to buy their surplus.

Nature can't be wrong. I think it'll be worth it to listen to her music and dance her dance.


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