The Case Against Local Food

September 21, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Rob Gardner

Any food system that advertises fresher, tastier and more delicious food while simultaneously saving the earth and rescuing communities is bound to provoke a backlash.  Smart people have tried to rip apart the locavore idea(lism).   David Tamarkin in this week’s Time Out Chicago is one of the latest to go after a movement he calls “completely ill-conceived.”  Editor in Chief, Michael Morowtitz does a nice job tackling Tamarkin’s arguments, and Michael Gebert cleans up any rhetorical scrapes left-over.   Given that, I feel it is my duty to put up a better argument against local food.

Take this telling anecdote from my wife who’s been helping out a bit in the Kitchen at Mado.  She asked Chef Rob Levitt why he had been on the phone so long.  “Farmer”, he said.  See anyone who spends more than a bit of time with farmers, whether at markets or whatnot, knows that farmers love to chat.  My children dislike farmer’s markets just for the fact that I spend too much time, seeming in their opinion, talking.  It’s not my fault I say, “the farmers.”  Since most local eaters find themselves so often at farmer’s markets, this chattiness issue can be a real problem.

Local eaters can try to skip the difficulty of farmer’s markets by finding shops like Cassie’s Green Grocer.  Not only is Cassie friendly, but local-skeptical web sites like Gaper’s Block find her downright charismatic. That’s a scary factor about local eating, no?  That charisma might lure the wayward shopper into buying more local salsa, cultivated mushrooms, and Bruno’s pastries than they need.  Is not it true that local food is too expensive to begin with; what happens in in the face of such charisma?  Straight to the poor house.

Expensive.  Local food is expensive.  No lie, a farmer, who I shall not name, offered a variety of red pepper at the market yesterday for $2 each.  Not even a big pepper.  $2!  Who buys $2 peppers?  I mean every week I look at the weekly inserts in the Chicago Tribune and I find local food that is accessible and affordable, but I am only looking at the inserts in the Oak Park edition.  I bolster my case by visiting the Angelo Caputo’s near me, with all sorts of local foods priced at under $1/lb, but do you have an Angelo Caputo’s near you.  Let’s just say local food is all about $2 peppers.

Want to know what else sucks about local eating?  Cooking.  There’s nothing that puts a damper in the spirit of local eating than the need to have to cook it.  Believe me, I know.  I started out in love with local food.  I kept on buying it.  It forced me not only to eat it, but have to cook it too.  I mean I am into local food, not raw food.  You mock this argument.  Have you ever tried to cook.  When you watch Emeril or Iron Chef or Nigella Lawson (if you watch that one for the cooking), you rarely see the peeling, seeding, stemming, washing, spinning and otherwise ‘ing that it takes to make food ready to eat.  And time, do you really think it’s all thirty minute meals?Localvores point to the the sensual pleasures of eating their food, but do they ever point out that it has to be cooked too?

I could go on.  People who subscribe to CSAs get things like collard greens and celery.  Who eats anything green these days, and if that’s bad enough, have you ever tried local celery?  It’s bad enough to find chickens that taste like chickens, eggs that taste like eggs, but what about celery that tastes like celery.  Were not some things meant to change. 

David Tamarkin tries to explain a bit of his argument (while saying nice things about this site!) on Time Out’s Blog.  He confesses that his anti-local comes after trying a localvore challenge last year.  David, myself and my family, we’ve been trying it for several years.  Want to know the arguments against local.  Ask me.  I got plenty more.


One Comment

  1. [...] of local eating in Chicago, but I am also eminently fair.  No one challenges more than me, no one makes a better case than me (in my honest [...]

RSS Feed for comments on this post