Join Me as a Local Family Now
A scene once from an Oak Park Farmer’s Market
I wish I can pin-point the exact date my family became a Local Family. I know from being a participant in Jen Maiser’s inaugural Eat Local Challenge that it was some time in the summer of 2005. About that first eat local challenge, I could probably dig around and find the links for this, but I know around then I was saying something like, “don’t ask me about the challenges of eating local in the summer, ask me later.” And we met the challenge of being a Local Family that summer, and we kept on going. We ate local in the Fall, not that hard. We kept doing it in the Winter, a bit harder. Ask me later, I kept on saying. In other words, I could not tell you if I could meet the challenge of eating locally until I met the challenge of eating locally. Now, about seven years later, I can safely say that it is no challenge. We eat local. Now is the time for you all to become local family’s too. Now as in this week or this month.
Like I say, I could not tell you if I could do it until I did it. I mean, I could tell you how I was eating local when it was summer. I went to a very fine farmer’s market in my community. The market had local fruits, local vegetables, local eggs, even local meat for my food needs. I could not tell you what I would do once the market closed. I could not tell you what I would do when it snowed and the ground turned hard. I knew I could put away food. I did not know, however, what it would be like putting away food for the winter. I did not know how much we would need. I did not know how much of it would last. I did not know what I would find if we used up all our put away food. I cannot say we did it exactly right that first year, nor can I say we did it too wrong either. We’ve learned a lot about how to eat local all the time. Not just how to put away for dark times, but how to source local food year round. What I’m getting at, is you just cannot say you are going to eat local.
You need to start. You do not need to finish once you start, but you need to start and you need to think past the start. Think about eating local food this week. Next week. Think about eating local food when the farmer’s markets are complete, and think about eating local food when there are not many farmer’s markets. I’m telling you to start now.
Now is a good time to start for a few reasons. Most importantly, it only makes sense to start when you can readily find local foods. If you had not put away food, and you wanted to start eating local in January, you probably would have had an odd diet of apples and potatoes. This year, with climate change, the start of April brings enough to our markets to get you going as a locavore. The other main reason I want you to start eating local now is to get you attune to the pleasures of seasonal eating. Our markets may hardly contain the Spring Bounty of Alice Waters, but we have stuff. The earliest nettles and Spring greens help cleanse the body from winters heavy foods. Gorge on the real taste of asparagus because it you cannot have that in a few months. You will soon taste the best strawberries you ever had, and about when they are gone, there will be sweet and tart cherries, the other berries. Midwest orchards will eventually supply you with juicy peaches and nectarines. Each in their time will taste best because you will be tasting it as nature intended.
I convinced my family to be a Local Family because I love-loved my Oak Park Farmer’s Market. I loved shopping there weekly. I loved finding all the products not found in the supermarkets. The many colors of tomatoes, the names of apples I never knew. I loved talking with the Nichols, Farmer Vicki, Dennis and Emily Wettstein. I wanted to buy all my food from them. Buy my food from them, the farmer’s market, was how we decided to eat local. Eating local, of course, required more than what I could find at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market. We managed to do that. We also managed to find all sorts of other reasons to eat local. I always offer up this paraphrase of Upton Sinclair when talking about eating local. I say, we came for the stomach, and ended up realizing in our heads, all the reasons to eat local. Find your own reasons to eat local, although if you need some help, there is this list.
Later in the week, I will cover some of the basics on how to be a local family. For now, the best thing you could do is don’t make yourself nuts trying to eat local. This Local Family has never believed in 100 mile or 200 mile or any hundred mile limits. We don’t think we cannot eat it, if we can not source it. Hey, I just took a sip of coffee. I wrapped up my lunch today with a small piece of dark chocolate (what I’ve taken to calling anti-oxidants). We dressed our local beans last night with Greek olive oil. We don’t advocate for purity. We do advocate for two principles. First, if we can get it locally, then we get it locally. Second, we prefer the local. So, the former means when faced at Caputo’s with apple choices, we get the Michigan apples; the latter means that although we’ll eat plenty of oranges and bananas we try to eat even more apples and pears. It also means that even thought the world is filled with wonderful products, we mostly stick with the wonderful products close at hand. That’s how we keep to being a Local Family. Figure out how you want to be a local family. Now is the time to do it.