The accidental locavore

July 6, 2010 · 2 comments

I’m not a rebel in any traditional sense of the word. Outside of a 1995 research trip to a Harley-Davidson store wherein I tried on a stereo-wired helmet, listened to Blue Oyster Cult, and then swore I’d someday don leather and ride into the sunset on the back of a Harley (should I erase that fantasy from my bucket list since I forbade my husband from owning a motorcycle?), I’m a pretty safe and predictable girl.

The exception to this rule occurs when something comes into vogue. Even in cases where I’ve previously attached myself to a trend, fashion, or social phenomenon, the moment it becomes “all the rage,” I turn my back like a spurned lover. It’s not so much the pressure to conform as the appearance that I’ve conformed to pressure. See how warped this is? I just don’t want to look like I care what people think, or need to be identified with a thing.

Which might be why, now that local food is becoming quite vogue, it’s getting hard for me to admit I’m eating locally without simultaneously rolling my eyes just a smidgeon.

Understand what I am saying: I love eating local. It tastes better, feeds your body better, serves the environment and local economy better. But I never want local food to seem elitist, or appear as something that people must jump off a proverbial ledge to conquer. It’s often quite accessible, and there are no hard-and-fast rules (no matter what some might have us think). In this country of ours, the range of living conditions, family dynamics and financial statuses is vast enough to warrant a loose translation of the local-eating realm. People would benefit from doing what they can, maybe challenging themselves a bit, learning a little and experimenting where possible.

Which is why, a couple of nights in the past week, we have been surprised when we sat down to our dinner and realized our meal consisted of almost 100% local foods. When we figured this out last night, Tim decided it was time to do a cost analysis (murmuring something about food miles and asking me detailed questions about how much I paid for this and that, figuring percentages of CSA boxes, etc.). Was eating a local meal a luxury?

We were happily surprised to discover that it just wasn’t that expensive. Granted — this was a meat-free meal, which necessarily makes it cheaper. Here’s what we (i.e., Tim) figured:

Vegetable skillet with eggs & creamy grits:

  • 1 Tbsp rendered bacon fat, plus 1 Tbsp purchased duck fat:  $0.25
  • 1/2 pound golden potatoes: $1.00
  • 1/2 red onion: $0.50
  • 2 small zucchini squash: $1.15
  • small bunch kale: $1.00
  • 4 eggs: $1.00
  • 1 cup milk: $0.34
  • 1/2 cup corn grits: $0.40

Grand Total: $5.62

To note: while our kids did eat some grits and potatoes, the meal was eaten mostly by me and Tim. So, that ends up being $2.81/person for a local meal.  Also, we had a couple incidentals that were not local: a few shakes of tabasco, and some ketchup.

We didn’t set out to cook the dinner of a locavore. But after making slow, accessible changes to how we source a lot of our food, it just happened. Between our CSA, my weekly trips to our farmer’s market, a local meat shop like Goose the Market, and my own small garden, we had ourselves a humble supper where most things traveled less than 100 miles to get to our table.

Not that it is always that easy, or something that will now regularly occur. But it was encouraging, to know that the handful of choices we’ve made since we moved here have unintentionally created an environment in our kitchen where this can happen.

I’m no Barbara Kingsolver — but it’s nice to know that after challenging ourselves a bit, and doing what we financially can, local food can happen.

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{ 2 comments }

Rosemary July 7, 2010 at 7:14 am

I have my own vegetable garden, my neighbor sells us eggs and beef, sometimes a chicken, and although I’d love to travel the 90 plus miles to Pittsburgh’s Strip District for great cheeses, olives and fish more often, for the most part we “eat local” and have for a long time. Sometimes we say, “What’s the big deal?” But I know not everyone lives close to a farmer or has enough land to grow their own. I cheer the effort, though.
Great post!

katy July 7, 2010 at 7:34 am

Rosemary — that sounds like a sweet setup. I would love to be able to ask my neighbor for a steer ; )

I also try to keep it in perspective. Before moving to the midwest, we weren’t able to get access to as much locally. The deep south has an early growing season, but the intense heat and drought made it difficult for small farmers to have big yields for the market — meaning things were either much more expensive (double what I pay now in Indiana) or in low-supply (I never could get there right at 8am when they opened). Also, there were only a couple of farms raising good livestock, so the prices were still very high, with few options for bulk buying.

I think of families living in places where the options are even fewer than that, and it seems like it would be very hard eating local. Growing the backyard garden would be one of the only options. So you’re right — just growing a garden is effort worth cheering.

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