Sunday, July 03, 2011

In which I fail and pass the "Eat Local" challenge

I thought about signing up for the Eat Local challenge last month. A 10 percent discount at Hollygrove Market and a signing bonus of a bag of salt from down around New Iberia was very tempting, but for those of us teaching summer classes at The People's University, by the lake, June is a month without a paycheck, so I couldn't swing the fee.

But thinking about the challenge got me paying attention to what I eat, and analyzing what I make versus what I buy prepared. I will never live a fully "eat local" life, and that's not a failure, it's a choice. I want coffee, I want champagne, I want brats from Wisconsin and salmon from the Northwest and I need to stock my shelf with pepper and other spices, so I make no apologies for that. And, as a general rule, most "do this, and only this" lifestyles end up with unintended consequences that undercut their well-meaning philosophies, so I don't gravitate toward manifestos.

But I do like buying from my friends and neighbors at the farmer's markets, at the grocery store, and in local eateries. After the storm, as we came back and started rebuilding our lives, I wanted to support the business people who invested in New Orleans and the surrounding area. I benefit, too, from the bounty of things we can harvest here, from the ground and from the waters. So I end up cooking with mostly local ingredients pretty much daily.

Last night I made a ratatouille, and as I chopped veggies I realized all but the tomato paste, bay leaves, salt and pepper and canned tomatoes came from the farmer's market and my own garden. On another burner was a pot of purple-hulled peas. I'd cured and smoked the bacon flavoring it. I'd picked a few okra from my garden and chopped them in. Tabasco's local. That leaves the onions (probably from Georgia), salt and pepper, and a little Sriracha (New York?)

That's a win, I think. Those peas were exquisite, in any case. Nothing beats freshly shelled peas.

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