Tuesday, March 13, 2007

How's That Local Eating Thing Going?

My email yesterday brought me some thoughts from the Eat Local Challenge blog. VI gives a report card of sorts on how the Eating Local thing is going at his house here at the end of winter. I decided I'd take stock as well, and found we are doing OK, but not as well as I thought we were.

Our last couple of trips to the grocery store I had to buy garlic and onions, spinach and kale. Two sweet potatoes each week. Once the bounty of Texas Ruby Red grapefruits sent each year by my parents ran out, Chuck has been buying Clementines (are they oranges or tangerines?), and he has been purchasing some nasty, hard pears since we ate up our supply of local apples. I bought a parsnip and a bunch of celery to make some vegetable stock. Bleu Cheese and Feta, and the plastic American he insists on eating found it's way into the cart as well. Stonyfield Farm yogurt and shredded cheese in bags, a loaf of nut and flax bread round out the purchases, along with some brown rice rice cakes and a half dozen organic avocados from the local natural food market.

I guess that's not too bad, although I am embarrassed about the cheese. Good local artisan cheese isn't a problem around here- I get marvelous sheep's milk Romano Peccorino from the same guy I buy my lamb and pork from. His cheddar and gouda are pretty good, as well, but somehow I can't bring myself to shred them up and put them in things. Hence the bags. Another local dairy, Keswick Creamery has a nice selection of cheese, but are a little more difficult to find.
I used to always make my own yogurt, but I used non fat dry milk to save money. No way that's stuff is local, or even organic or sustainably produced. I did purchase a half gallon of good local milk this week, from Trickling Springs Creamery, and I will have to decide which is more important to me- the fat-free aspect or the local aspect. I struggle with the Stonyfield Farms piece of this- they look good, I haven't heard anything bad about them, but they aren't local.

In my freezer I have a ton of fruit- peaches, cherries, black raspberries, strawberries. Last year when we were feeding 4 people, every Sunday morning Chuck made a huge fruit salad for breakfast, supplementing whatever fruit was in season here with tropicals and out-of-season grocery store fruit. When we started really watching where our food came from, I froze or canned a LOT of the summer fruits I love so that we could have the good stuff all year round. I didn't think about the fact that 2 of our four Sunday morning breakfasters wouldn't be with us this year. Now that we are only 2 people eating, we quickly discovered a fruit dichotomy. I love the summer fruits in my salads; berries, cherries, peaches, while he prefers melons, kiwi and the fall fruits- apples and pears. Sunday morning fruit salads became a point of mild contention, and sort of fell by the wayside.

However, I have another theory about the demise of the fruit breakfast salad. Eating locally is by necessity eating within season. More and more I find that I don't want to eat things that are not in season; in the summer I have to have a salad every day, but in December, salads are not appealing. January sees me making pots of soup that cook for days in the crock pot, August has us eating vats of gazpacho. I know that fruit will taste good, but it just isn't what my body wants right now.

Vegetables- I have winter and summer squash in the freezer- I have been using them to make our breakfast muffin. I still have quite a few tomatoes; frozen, canned and dried. I have a couple heads of escarole; I need to find a recipe other than soup with white beans and escarole. The frozen leeks are about gone, but I still have several cups of dried. I have a lot of frozen roasted Anaheim peppers- perhaps Chile rellenos for this Sunday's breakfast. Chard and turnip greens are lurking in the corners of the freezer, maybe some corn.

I have to fight my tendency to hoard food and get that freezer cleaned out. I'm not too worried about the fruit- as the new fruit comes in, I can make jam with whatever is still frozen. (Of course, then we have the problem of who will eat all that jam! Christmas presents for everyone next year, I guess!) Chuck made a tasty fruit milkshake the other day, and that's a possibility. But I've been eating a really tasty ice cream substitute lately; a serving size container of fruit or vanilla yogurt, a half cup or so of frozen or partially thawed fruit, a tablespoon of Sucanat or home made peach jam. Put all that into a bowl, stir it up and pop it into the freezer for an hour or two. Be sure and get it out before ice crystals form. The yogurt thickens enough that it can pass as ice cream, almost. If I forget about it and let it freeze solid, I just let it thaw a bit, stir and it's good to go. Does the nice creaminess come from the inulin in the Stonyfield Farms yogurt? Guess I will have to try making my own again.

I already have some changes I need to make in mind. Unless I stumble into a new one, we won't have a CSA, so I have planned out a less haphazard garden, using the Square Foot Gardening idea. I've already got my leeks started- they look like tiny green threads in the picture below. We do have a lot of local produce stands where I can get the regular vegetables, but they don't usually offer anything out of the norm.
I'll freeze less fruit, no matter how my hoarding gene nags me. But I will purchase lots more of the Gold Rush apples we bought this fall. A Golden Delicious cross, man, these were maybe the best apple I have ever eaten; I hear they store very well too. I live in an area thick with orchards, and fruit is easy to come by. Toigo, one of the larger local orchards carries a tremendous variety of apples and Asian pears, and does sell in the markets in DC and Maryland.
If I had to grade our effort, I guess I would give us a C+. We'll see what my grade is next year at this time.


Vanessa said...

I'm envious that you still have fruit. I didn't freeze enough fruit and now I'm wishing I had more.
Thanks for reminding me to make my own yogurt...it would be local too because the milk is. Now I'm craving fruit and yogurt...hmmm.

Willa said...

Too bad I can't share! The problem with making your own yogurt, is the planning ahead. There is still a part of me that craves instant gratification and doesn't want to think today about tomorrow's yogurt and fruit!