We Challenge Ourselves to Eat Local Every Day

September 10, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Rob Gardner

Did you start the Green City Locavore Challenge this week?  A couple of years ago, Michael Morowitz bristled at the idea of enduring a short term challenge.  He felt that changing shopping and dietary habits was too difficult to take on in a cold turkey mode.  I agreed with Michael’s points, but I still found much to value in the idea of the Locavore Challenge.  For one thing, it does raise people’s awareness of eating local, and for another thing, a challenge can motivate people to act.  This heightened activity can (and should) lead to eating local every day.  After all, this Local Family continues to challenge ourselves to eat local every day.

Really, I’ve lost track over how long we have been a Local Family.  For a long time now, we have made every effort to eat our food from local sources.  We shop for a lot of our food at farmer’s markets, but we also find local food where we can find it.  For instance, we recently found local apples at Angelo Caputo’s and local milk at our neighborhood Polish deli.  We rely heavily on a freezer filled with cuts of meat from sides of cow, lamb and hog, and when we have less farmer’s markets, we rely on food stored in our attic.  We like to road trip for local food.  We believe it is more than doable to eat local in the Chicago.  We are always up for the Locavore Challenge.

Two years ago, when Michael and I debated locavore challenges, I also challenged myself to be a better locavore.  Did we have to use grocery store canned tomatoes?  Why did we not use Michigan sugar beet sugar.  Could our lipids of choice for cooking be more local lipids?  In most of these ways, we improved (or to some extent, things improved around us).  Costco now regularly carries that local sugar.  We have done the tomato canning thing a few times.  On the other hand, we tend to buy local lard a lot more than we use local lard.  We still do nearly all our cooking with olive oil.

Of late, the biggest challenge to our way of life has been the money it costs to eat local.  We skipped the CSA this year because of cost considerations.  I try not to spend a lot of money eating local, and I believe you do not have too either.  There are good tips for stretching your dollar at farmer’s markets.  Or eat less meat.  Believe me, it can be a challenge to eat local.

Not only do I know it can be a challenge, I can give you all sorts of good reasons not to eat local.  Talking about endure, what about enduring the taste of local celery or enduring the long conversations with farmer’s at the market (not necessarily a problem for me but a problem for my kids shopping with me).  To eat local means to cook.  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?  While I can make the case against local food, I more can just as easily make the case for local food.

I like food.  I find that there is no better way to ensure good food than by eating local food.  I also like the earth.  As Michael Pollan reminds, there is no better way to help the earth than through our food choices.  I find the best food choices come from making local food choices. I find great pleasure in shopping markets.  I relish the community that I participate in. 

Because of these reasons and more, we always challenge ourselves to eat local.