I feel newly connected to the growers, producers, markets, co-ops and stores and restaurants that provide us with local food. For the second year on October 1, I embarked on a 10- Day Local Food Challenge. The challenge is to eat food sourced within a 100 mile radius of my home except for 10 “exotics” of my choosing.
The nearly year old Crow River Food Council, of which I am a board member, is sponsoring our local version of the challenge and joining with folks all over the country who are part of the national 10-Day Local Food Challenge .
I love doing this because it’s a trick of the best sort. Far from being an exercise in deprivation as it first appears, it turns out that it’s an exercise in purely, pleasurable eating. First there is the foraging for local food which provides a reason to get out and meet new people and visit new places, markets and co-ops.
There is the beauty of the food itself which takes on a deeper dimension when the person responsible for growing or producing or selling it is known to me. There is the satisfaction of spending time preparing and cooking it as there is little you can buy prepared that includes all local ingredients. And best of all is the discovery of the deliciousness that is a characteristic of food grown for flavor instead of sturdiness for mass production and travel.
All in all it feels like a good thing to do, a positive action in a sea of worry and negativity about our food supply. A way for us, merely eaters, to support those who are doing their darnedest to provide the most foundational thing; healthy, delicious food. For us.
To aid my resolve and for inspiration, I am reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, an account of her families one year adventure in eating locally sourced food, much of it grown by themselves. In it she speaks of the challenges of a whole family giving up mangoes and discovering instead the satisfaction of seasonal eating.
Last year I discovered these things. This year, I’m discovering them all over again and resolving to carry many more of these habits into my life AC, after the challenge. There ARE challenges - probably why it’s called that. It takes time and thought. My “exotics” list alone is a work in progress. Right now it includes olive oil, lemons, salt, spices, almonds, yeast, wine, tea and coffee. The coffee was an accident. I decided on tea instead of coffee mostly because I can sip it all day without fear of night wakefulness. Then I found myself sipping a nice hot cup of coffee at the market on Saturday at the Community Market while telling someone about my list of 10 exotics and when I left out coffee, they offered, "and coffee?". I’ve been debating between oatmeal and rice….. I could have had both if it hadn’t been for the coffee slip, but the unconsciousness of my eating habits is a lesson worth the price.
The rules are arbitrary of course. Open to interpretation. There are slips. And occasions to make conscious choices. Like deciding to bag it to eat out for my sister’s birthday at Travail. I think much of their food is local, but I decided not to plague the busy staff with an interrogation about the source of ingredients of every one of the umpteen courses that night.
One could choose to do the challenge for a day, or a weekend or adopt the second choice the Food Council offered of eating one new local item each day from a radius of 150 miles. Doing something different is more interesting than doing the same thing we do every day so I figure if I have to make up the rules to make it work for my life, it’s way better than not doing it at all. It's never to late to learn something about life. Just saying.
Enjoy the week,