An Effective Locavore Takes Short Cuts
The Local Pantry is Not All What You Think
“Make some food.” Ok, that’s what I heard in my head. The Condiment Queen, a/k/a the Cookbook Addict, surely said it much nicer. The point, you may be happy with the bagels you bought for dinner but I need something healthier. There was lentils in the orders too. She was dropped off at her afternoon job. I had the kitchen. And a pantry. Get to work I was told.
I have never advocated extreme adherence to a locavore diet, or let me put it better, being a locavore does not mean needing to limit one’s food to a very small range of “food miles.” Why 100 miles? What about salt? Cooking without olive oil? Getting up without coffee. The reasons for eating local do not include deprivation or ridiculousness. More importantly, a well-stocked pantry is the solution to keeping a happy Local Family. She said ready, set, and I was gone an hour or so later with five dishes. Here’s two main dishes I concocted. I relied on a few helpers a long the way.
Helper number one, my daughter, Sophie. We agreed that I would take out Molly if she hunted down onions, found lentils in the basement storage room, and cleared the stove. Helper number two, my winter Tomato Mountain CSA box. I said the other day that I planned on saving the jarred tomatoes for the summer. I mis-spoke. For the lentils, it was an onion and a few carrots, sweated, a dried local pepper crushed between my fingers, a half-quart jar of black lentils, a quart of whole roasted tomatoes, and then about another quart of water. I took it to a boil and then turned to a simmer. When it got a bit crusty, I added more water. When presenting my results later, she said, “that’s not soup, that’s stew.” OK, it was lentil stew.
So, the lentils were not local, but the rest of the dish was. Here’s one where I took the opposite approach, with another helper. You will notice, good or bad, that I do not write recipes. I do that because I believe that a narrative recap may better teach, but mostly because I never use recipes. You should not either. Cooking should be simple, intuitive, fast and easy. That’s the easiest way to eat local. Have some good friends in your pantry. Some of my best friends are these cans of Thai curries. First, of all, if the labels are to be believed, and I think they are, they pass the Michael Pollan rule. Second of all, they all taste great. Third, shop around and you can usually find a can for less than a buck and one can covers a couple of dishes. Finally, well, they’ve done all the work.
Remember that cabbage? Here’s how I finally dealt with it. I trimmed off the layer now black, from waiting so long. I shredded the rest. Sliced an onion and more carrots (we have lotsa local carrots, a subject for another post soon). I got those started in a neutral oil. Then, I added 1/2 can of red curry paste. Cooked that a minute or so in the oil. Added the cabbage and some tofu. Dropped the fish sauce bottle over the pan about five times, the agave syrup bottle one time. Often, next, I’d pour in the can of coconut milk, but here I decided for a more “dry” or “jungle” curry flavor. So just water to cover. Cooked on medium heat until the cabbage was soft, about twenty minutes. Spicy.
We can all be local families with a bit of effort. Subscribe to a CSA. Go to winter markets. Put away food. Getting it on the table from there should be the easiest part. What’s in your pantry should help.