Monday, June 11, 2007

Going Local

Last summer, I bought a locally grown tomato from a local farmer and I didn't think anything about it. It was a tomato. I just handed over the money, took it and went on my way. Later that week, I sliced it open and took a sweet, juicy bite. It was a flavor I hadn't experienced in years. I couldn't believe the difference between that deep red tomato and the orange-y semi-ripe impostors I'd been purchasing at Safeway and Giant.

Despite the amazing taste, the memory of that flavor quickly faded. A few weeks later, my memory was jogged while I was visiting my family. I found myself eating home-grown tomatoes again and as I tasted the one I was slicing for sandwiches, I moaned out loud with pleasure. My Aunt was in the kitchen with me, putting cheese and cold cuts on a platter and I found myself relaying the story of my farmer's market tomato from a few weeks before. I told her how amazed I had been by the difference in flavor between these home-grown versions and the ones I'd found in the stores. "I had forgotten how great they can taste," I said.

To this, my Aunt replied, "I can't even stand those store-bought things. I won't buy a tomato after the season ends."

"Really?" I asked, incredulous. I could hardly believe that she could go 8 or more months without tasting a tomato, even if it was a watery, unripe version. For whatever reason, it didn't really occur to me that she was eating the way we were created to eat. I mulled over her statement for a few minutes. Then we sat down to lunch, and the whole conversation slid from my mind. I guess I had other, more pressing matters to think about. Whatever the reason, I wasn't concerned about my mediocre produce experiences. I continued to buy cucumbers and tomatoes and mangoes and lettuce all year long. And I barely paid attention to the taste they were missing.

Something changed this summer. The farmer's market opened the first weekend in May and I was there, looking for produce that hadn't even matured past the first stages of growth. And then I came across a book that taught me a few things about agriculture and eating locally. I started tripping over articles on Community Supported Agriculture and the 100 Mile Diet. I tasted Swiss Chard for the first time. And I realized that what I buy in the grocery store comes from miles and miles away, when I could be buying food that is grown, processed and assembled right in my back yard (or thereabouts).

So I've done some research and I've decided to participate in a bit of an experiment. I'm not going militant-local, and I'm not prepared to go as strictly local as the Kingsolver family did, either. But for the month of July, I'm going to commit to local eating. I'm working on my personal set of rules and I'll post them when I get closer to my start date. This month I've been experimenting with my options and looking into local products available at my grocery stores.

I'm already eating local produce, so that won't be a big change. And really, a month of local eating this time of year shouldn't be difficult at all. Now if I were planning to eat locally all year long, that would take a lot more planning: freezing, drying, canning, raising my own livestock. I don't have all the equipment and space necessary for a winter's worth of food storage. But we'll see how next month goes. Then I'll think about preparing for a full year of local living next year.


nejyerf said...

you are awesome.


and i'm coming to dinner to eat your fresh, locally grown vegetables.

have you thought about joining a co-op? then you would be that much more invested in your fruits and veggies if you helped plant and nurture them.

Ami said...

Jen - You're welcome to come have dinner with me. I love to cook for other people! Yes, I considered joining a co-op (CSA farm), but it was too late to sign up by the time I got around to looking them up. So that's on my calendar for next winter/spring.

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