Tuesday, June 21, 2011

checking in on eating in

Not a bad crop of potatoes on the way! My late-spring afternoon of humid-weather hoeing and planting has brought quite the bounty of happy little potato plants popping up. Their garden is crude. A chicken-safe boundary of leftover electric fence posts, chicken wire, and a piece of old metal roofing for a door: but it is serving me well, aesthetics aside. By late summer/early fall the leaves will start to wither and below ground will be a bounty of fresh taters. I can not wait to enjoy them new and put the rest up for winter. Not a bad outcome for the spuds I bought in the grocery store and forgot to use and left to seed. Harvesting these will be a good day!

My month of local eating has been quite the experiment for me, and so far I'd say it's a success. I have been happily busy planting, growing, and harvesting my own vegetables and animals as well as making trips to other farms and farm stores for things I can't/don't produce. It is taking more time, money, and effort than conventional eating, but worth it. Hands down, worth it.

Hell, it just plain tastes better!

I haven't been a purist. The things I "cheat" with are exotics like coffee and spices, or basic condiments. Also, food presented to me by guests or hosts. For example, I ate some homemade mac and cheese with local cheese and non-local pasta when friends brought it to a cookout at the farm Saturday night. I had organic veggies at a friend's BBQ that were not from around here. I will never turn down what the guest/host offers based on proximity, but these events are few and far between. So for the majority of the food I have eaten has been from Washington County, and I am in awe of the variety and reasonable prices if people are willing to seek it out and cook it at home.

This week I made a small pizza with onions and garlic from the garden, Cabot cheese, and artisanal sauce from New Hampshire. I made free-range beef burgers last night on the grill. I have fallen into the habit of making double everything, so that I can stock the fridge with leftovers for the work week. When I forget to do that, I'm left eating local jerky and a piece of local cheese from the gas station for lunch, (not the healthiest option). Today we're doing some rogue grilling outside the office, and I brought a big burger I pattied up last night with my own onions, garlic, eggs, and some Veryork breadcrumbs. It should be pretty tasty. I'll eat it between two pieces bread I bought from Wayside. The ketchup will not be homemade, nor the mustard, but the bulk of the meal will be. I'm not into the details, but the spirit of the venture is to make the main course as local as possible.

So why am I doing this? Jumping through all these food hoops? Because seasonality has become sacrament to me, and it is how I want to live my life. I don't want to import my meals from far away, I want to savor what home tastes instead. There is honesty in eating the food that is produced around you, that rises and falls with the turning of the year. It is an agricultural economy that needs our help, and supports our neighbors and landscape. It is how our grandparents ate before the world filled with fluorescent-lit supermarkets selling contrived food. (That's not too strong a word either.) It is wholesome in a world who bought the lie that convenient was more important than anything else. In truth, convenience is killing us.

I like getting my haul from the farmers market and cracking open cookbooks or combing the internet for new recipes. Some things are becoming ritualistic: like the love/hate relationship I have with zucchini and the inevitable batches of Zuc chocolate chip cookies that come out of it. Same goes for the pumpkins on the vine in July turning into jack-o-lanterns at the great Holiday, Halloween. I want to know the stories, history, and folklore around the food that fed the people of this part of the world and soak in it. I want to be a part of the heritage. It's mine now too.

28 Comments:

Blogger Odie Langley said...

This was a great post Jenna. I love following your activities.

June 21, 2011 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Cary said...

"In truth, convenience is killing us." Enough said.

Just picked salad greens and green greens for dinner tonight. Love it!

Jenna, I just hilled my potatoes with straw to encourage more potatoes and the hills are quite tall and freestanding. Will you hill yours?

Great day!

June 21, 2011 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

The hill I will!

June 21, 2011 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Harpy 101 said...

Wonderful entry! I'm sharing it with all the locavorians around these parts, too. We all find ourselves defending the idea lately and you've captured the spirit and feeling of it with your usual true-heart honesty and lyricism. And I LOVE the phrase, "contrived food". When junk food beckons, it's nice to have an accurate name to tell it off with.

June 21, 2011 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Deltaville Jamie said...

I am anxious to begin shopping at my local Farmer's Market and reading your posts heightens the anticipation.

June 21, 2011 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger jlr said...

Have you tried the recipe for Zucchini Feta Pancakes in the original Moosewood Cookbook? Hands-down my favorite way to eat zukes. The recipe says to top them with sour cream, but I prefer salsa. Yum yum. Can't wait until my zukes come in - I got a late start this year.

June 21, 2011 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

When we started eating locally and seasonally, it was rather surprising to find that a lot of things we took for granted just couldn't be done. Our favorite use for a big slicing tomato is hands-down a BLT, but it takes perfect (and nearly impossible) planetary alignment for us to have both lettuce AND tomatoes at the same time. Most of the time, it's heartbreaking. When it does occur, it's glorius. It really makes you rethink all the dishes you've gotten used to eating over your lifetime!

June 21, 2011 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger sheila said...

Spending local is the only thing that will take the power out of corporate America. Excessive shopping at big box stores has nearly bankrupted the country while enriching only a handful of people. Keep your money local, support local farms and businesses. It will save your health and the country at the same time. A good deal all round.

June 21, 2011 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger Peacemom said...

Yes. Exactly.

June 21, 2011 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Will you dig a few of the baby potatoes to try? I've heard you can slip a few out without disturbing the plant and let the rest of the potatoes grow big and fat for winter storage. How will you store them for winter?

June 21, 2011 at 4:03 PM  
OpenID chickadeeworkshop said...

Good luck with those potatoes! My one and only try at those was going great. Lots of plants and lots of blooms. But I fought (organically) the potato beetles all summer and then, when it was time to harvest, we had nothing but small holes where potatoes used to be. Something(s) ate every last one, after all that work. Ask me just exactly how p****d we were! We got nothing after all that weeding, hoeing and removing of bugs in the hot summer weather.

I'm glad you are finding success and satisfaction in your advertures in local eating. I just don't have the time/energy at this point, but retirement is coming in less than two years, and I will certainly do my best at that point.

June 21, 2011 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Siberian said...

A really great cookbook is:

Thirteen Colonies Cookbook by Mary Donovan, et al.

Based on the recipes of the colonists. That alone makes it worth getting!

Great post.

June 21, 2011 at 4:43 PM  
OpenID Tami said...

I just today put in 11 potato starts here in central VA. Late yes I know but this is my first attempt at a garden in 20 years and I figured better late than never. I have never done potatos before but thanks to YouTube I found all of the help I needed (I think).Tomorrow is the weekly farmers market near here and I will be scarfing up lots of locally grown goodies. Last week I got cantaloupe, wheat bread, chai bread, eggplant, honey, and some yellow squash.

June 21, 2011 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

Fabulous post as always. I really wish you had a like button so I could use it on some of the comments. I enjoy reading them almost as much as reading your writings. Keep up to good work, both on your eating local and sharing with us. Thanks!

June 21, 2011 at 5:51 PM  
Blogger judy said...

you can bet I will be at the farmers market come pay day

June 21, 2011 at 6:13 PM  
Blogger karental said...

Read "Tomatoland" by Barry Estabrook and understand why I grow my own (poorly, but they are tasty) even though there are "tomato" farms close by. If I buy I only buy from the natural store and when they can tell me from where they came and how they were grown.

June 21, 2011 at 6:52 PM  
Blogger nawrockifamily said...

You inspire me every day, Jenna! My husband and I hope to start doing this in the next year. We shop as much as we can at the Farmer's Market now, but once we get our house built, we want to have a big garden. Get some chickens and eventually a dairy cow! And yes, you are so right - convenience is killing us!

June 21, 2011 at 9:04 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

I was all psyched up to go to the local Farmers Market last Saturday with my daughter and grandson. It was his first time going and I wanted him to take in the smells of living food. Well folks let me tell you that was a king-size flop. I got there and there were five, count them five stalls: someone selling bagged kettlecorn, a FFA booth selling four herb plants in a pot and some really sad looking carrots (they were in their death throes, the herbs not the students), Starbucks was out there selling coffee, Gold's Gym trying to entice membership sign ups, and last but not least, a Tupperware lady. We live in a small town in the Central Valley of California known for agriculture and this was the best we could do. Needless to say planter boxes are going in on the back patio this weekend.

June 22, 2011 at 12:33 AM  
Blogger Greentwinsmummy said...

There is another darn good reason to avoid the shops as much as you can.Last winter we had unprecendented snow for round these parts and it hung around as well. I heard the supermarkets in town were almost stripped bare, combination of panic buying, realistic buying as in I have made the trip so while I am here I will get several of each thing! and also the fact deliveries couldnt get in.

Who on earth wants to be stuck in a shop rowing over who is going to have the last loaf of bread or pork chop???!

Not I :o)

Eat as much as you can from your doorstep, and if you cant grow it,pal up with someone who can and offer them something you can do. Its not rocket science, its how it was done in the days long gone after all!

Sometimes it means a restricted diet, but looking at the size of some of Joe Public,that aint going to be a bad thing either.

GTM x x x

June 22, 2011 at 8:28 AM  
OpenID localnourishment.com said...

It's something everyone should try for a time in their lives, this locavore lifestyle, and summer is the time to do it! I go a little nuts...my coffee isn't grown here, but it is roasted locally. Same with the teensy bit of chocolate I enjoy occasionally. I do make condiments, but only because I like my recipes better than Heinz's and I want complete control over ingredients. Never mastered the making of buns, but I've devised ways to cut a loaf of homemade bread to resemble them closely enough.

Making do rather than running to Walmart is such a creative exercise!

June 22, 2011 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger Kathy said...

I love the message of this post. I grew up farming and my mom made sure we ate as much local stuff as we could. She made sure all of use knew it was important to support our neighbors by eating what they grew. And it wasn't like it was the fashionable thing back in the 70's and 80's. I'm glad it is now, it'll get more people to THINK about their food and their community.

June 22, 2011 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Jenna, if you have enough tomatoes to put up you should really try making your own catsup. I started two years ago with the Joy of Cooking (1977 ed.) recipe and I'll never go back to store bought- even organic store bought. It's just so much better.

I'm inspired to make our own mustards now (recipes on Sunset magazine http://www.sunset.com/food-wine/homemade-mustard-recipes-00418000071159/ ) and once I'm through the bottled mayonnaise, I'll be making that too. It occurred to me that I don't know how the chickens making the eggs in commercial mayonnaise were raised, and that's important to me. Making mayonnaise isn't hard if you have a blender, and by the time I start making it, I'll be able to use homegrown eggs!

But try the homemade ketchup- it's so good.

June 22, 2011 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

convenience is killing us, but so is cost. purchasing items from a farmers market compared to a grocery store in my area means increasing my food budget by 50-100%

people who shop at box stores aren't necessarily lazy, uncaring, or seeking convenience, they just might not have disposable income to put towards increasing their food budget to allow for local purchases.

where i am, local "aint" cheap, in fact, local is down right expensive.

our local farmers market sells a bunch of asparagus for $5-7+ dollars while Costco sells almost 2.5lbs for under $6.00. purchasing locally organic or certified humane meats and dairy is unthinkable for many. local cheese options are twice as expensive than comparable size blocks from a grocery store, because of that it has to last twice as long. eggs are similar, local free range eggs are easily 50% to 100% more a dozen than those from the grocery store.

its unfortunate that food grown ethically and locally is cost prohibitive to many who would very much like to be able to support their local famers and feed healtheir and more humane foods to their families.

June 22, 2011 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

@Donna and Meredith - those are pretty much the same conditions we're dealing with here too. Farmers markets are (mostly) a joke, and local/natural/organic foods are for the well-funded and mobile. It's really sad, and something I'm trying to do my small part to change.

June 22, 2011 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Around here, markets are what I consider reasonable. 5.99 for a pound of free-range beef. 1 dollar a pound for potatoes. More than the store, but not ridiculous.

But Meredith raises a good point, eating local does cost more, But I find that I pay more for the vegetables and meat, but balance the budget by cooking meals at home and stretching recipes over several meals. I bake bread at home (cents compared to artist's bread) and raise most of my own veg and meats. For me, the price was what changed how I eat, and what I eat, but I am not spending more. But even if you do spend more money many local-food advocates argue it this way: While there are some people without any extra income or time, at all, the average middleclass family has no problem finding the money for cell phones, digital television, high-speed internet?

It costs more because it it worth more. Nutritionally, socially, to your local economy: worth so much more. Worth giving up cable.

June 22, 2011 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

true. i speak to those who are actually struggling and counting coins, not those who whine and moan about their financial situations while making luxury purchases.

June 22, 2011 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

I'd agree with that, Jenna. FAR more people can afford it than buy it, and those folks really should. I just wish it were more affordable for folks with very little to spend. I wish that they didn't get stuck eating the "crap" food. I also think people need to rethink what they're eating. I know many people who wouldn't dream of serving dinner without meat in it, and who wouldn't trade their expensive ribeyes for chuck roast - because they can AFFORD to eat ribeye every week at grocery store prices. I'm happier eating cheaper cuts of better meat less often, but many people view that as a step down, not up (at least here).

June 22, 2011 at 5:34 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

Local used to be very affordable when I lived in South Dakota, and even other Midwestern locations. I raised a garden and my own meat because I couldn’t dream of not, but also because I really couldn’t afford buying at the store—and that food tasted so good! Neighbors would pretty much literally give away—I’d say it was more like begging one to take it off their hands—honey, rhubarb, eggs, loads of sweat corn, etc…and I could get bottle calves to raise up for $10 and piglets for even cheaper or free. I was stunned at the price local costs down in metropolitan Phoenix after moving if one goes to the popular farmers markets around the area. It seems to be quite the new popular thing and prices are steep. I did discover that if you eat in season though and trek a few miles to farm country not for from the hub it gets crazy cheap-cantaloupe, peppers, avocadoes, and citrus for pennies, and I did find a local egg place that is a bit out of the way but well worth it to buy from (I think your blog inspired me to search for that place and now I can’t wait to someday be able to have my own chickens). There are several U-picks for pecans, apples, and peaches that I love harvesting from as well (no strawberries though!) and then there are the vineyards near Tucson and in the Verde Valley. So local is out there even near this big city if one gets creative. I’ll really treasure my community and all they have to offer much more though once I make the move back north again.

Love those home grown spuds!

June 22, 2011 at 8:59 PM  

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