As you might remember, when we last met, for 10 days I decided to go local. The challenge was to eat food from within a 100 miles of my home plus 10 exotics. I started on Wednesday October 15 and ended on Friday October 24th.
Here’s what I learned:
- It was fun! It was like a treasure hunt, reading labels like a mad woman and finding (Eureka!) this product and that. One find was a wonderful cheddar cheese made in Cokato! And a flour mill that grows and grinds heritage varieties of wheat in North Branch called Sunrise Flour Mill that people swear doesn't interfere with their system like regular wheat does.. Did you know there’s a little outline of Minnesota logo that appears on Minnesota products which you can see in the photo above.
- We really do live in a great place. We have dairy, grains, meat, eggs, honey, and lots of vegetables (in October anyway). I’m happy I don't live in the desert!
- It was challenging. I’m used to having a cupboard of spices and vinegars and oils and odd things like fish sauce, tuna and noodles. Spices tripped me up more than anything. Yes it was tempting to cheat as it turns out and I did cheat, mostly unintentionally. For instance, I accidentally ate cheese curds with cajun spices and I counted it as one spice although I'm sure it contained at least 10 things, none local and when I inadvertently put pepper in my soup out of habit, I pretended I didn’t.
- People are generous. But I knew that. I was offered everything from local honey to eggs to venison to chickens to kimchee, all sorts of vegetables, herbs, black turtle beans! I could have easily eaten from a 10 mile radius and not suffered at all.
5. I learned a lot about what’s available in Minnesota. This was half the reason I did this. I wanted to see what we have around us. I learned that there are a lot of opportunities for growing things that aren’t readily available and plenty of room for new products if one was so inclined. I learned that even the co-ops have very few items produced locally, other than produce. I learned that the labeling is sketchy as to where things are grown.
6. I learned a lot about me. Unexpectedly, I loved having fewer choices. I had a shelf in my refrigerator with food in the “have at it“ category. Faced with a squash, I fixed squash. Faced with a homemade loaf of bread that was about to go stale, I ate it up. I wasted not a thing, except some beets that I had cooked a week earlier and when I got to them they were very sadly inedible. The food felt almost sacred to me, knowing who grew it and how dear it was. Eating local food was not cheap but I easily came out ahead since I didn’t eat out, except the once when I had brussel sprouts and chicken for dinner at The Boulevard and was more thrilled about that than probably any of the other diners that night.
7. Even after only ten days it was kind of weird to face my full cupboards. I’l be interested to see what sticks, because I’m quite sure a lot of it will. I know I’ll continue to read labels and be happy about any new finds I make.
8. My list of exotics: salt, lemons, coffee, sugar ( not really necessary except I had some homemade grape jelly (oh oh… pectin!), cajun spices (we’ve already talked about this), wine, oil, tea (another accident and then I remembered I have a whole patch of peppermint that makes great tea!), liquor ( OK I’m categorizing these together- cheating once again. I had a Negroni (3 items although one could be considered a wine, and then I had a little Scotch, geez) cinnamon, and of course the pepper. Thank you for hearing my confession, such a rule follower I am.
9. I feel like I have a new appreciation for History. I seem to remember, there’s been a lot of fuss over spices, tea and alcohol now and then over the past.
10. I think we make a lot of assumptions about our food that upon a little scrutiny are not true. Local is a whole different category. Organic, healthy are totally different. Much of this comes from far away. That is good and all, but for some reason, having a relationship with the growers and producers, has a whole different level of meaning for me. I did use Kemps milk some. But I don’t actually know those farmers so although their website does feature some of the dairy farmers and their families and technically local ( I think but can't know for sure), it felt different. I had a thought wondering if a restaurant could survive on truly local food, probably spurred by my experience with the brussel sprouts and chicken. To be totally transparent would be an interesting experiment. There could be a list of exotics and everything else could be produced within whatever amount of miles would make it work. There are restaurants that do a pretty good job of this but they do the opposite, listing the local items, not the exotics and they are in a bigger market. Delano might not be the place for this experiment, but interesting.
I do believe that what we pay attention to grows. So if it makes sense to encourage the local growers because of the benefit to our planet and to our souls, the bigger fuss we make about local products, the more there will be. It's good to know when we feel so powerless about a lot of things, we do have some say in this area.
Enjoy the week and happy Halloween!