As some of you may know from my reading list on my other blog, or from my farmer's market problem on this blog, I have been reading both Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Alisa Smith & JB MacKinnon's Plenty (known in Canada as The 100-Mile Diet). In addition to these books, there seems to be a great deal of attention in the media lately on the sources of our food.
The arguments presented are compelling to me, not only in terms of the environmental impact of trucking our food across the country, and even across continents, but also in terms of what else is lost--flavor, a sense of connection with the seasons, local agriculture, the family farm. We've lost touch with even the knowledge of how food is grown, of the natural cycles of life represented by the things we eat. So much is processed that it's not even recognizable as having come from the earth, and in many cases, it barely has, having been created in a factory from ingredients that are themselves highly processed.
But change is hard, especially when it comes to patterns that have been in place over a lifetime.
So in our house, we're taking baby steps.
First is the garden. I have spoken several times of the garden that my Dad and my preschooler have put in place here. I think that garden, as it evolves and expands over the seasons and through the years, will be a great lesson to my children about the origins of food and the benefits of eating it fresh. It does my heart good to see my daughter stuffing her mouth with handfuls of our own lettuce, or pea pods, or tomatoes, or broccoli, knowing that she's eating the best, freshest food possible for her young body.
But the garden is not enough to serve as our only source of food, even during the harvest months. And our palates demand more. However, even in a rural area, finding local food sources is not easy, and making dramatic changes in our eating and buying habits all at once isn't either.
So here is our plan. One of my newer blog haunts, Liz at Pocket Farm, is sponsoring the One Local Summer challenge, and I have convinced my family to participate. The challenge is that we agree to eat one meal per week, just one, of local foods. The challenge begins today and ends September 1. Ten weeks. One meal per week.
Officially, OLS participants were to blog about their meals each week and post photos on Flickr. I was late to try and sign up, however, and Liz has closed signups. So we're not officially participating, but are still doing the challenge. It's better this way--no pressure to blog about each meal and I can just keep you guys updated on our progress as we go along.
Liz has been very flexible with the challenge and is allowing each participant to define "local", given the ranging availability of different types of foods around the country. For our purposes, we will define local as being from Western North Carolina, Upstate South Carolina, or Eastern Tennessee, what will essentially be a 200 to 250-mile radius. Cooking items such as olive oil, salt, and pepper will not be local (by necessity). Spices and seasonings may included in that category, although I hope to try and use our own herbs as much as possible for flavor. I haven't decided about drinks, yet, although there are local wineries we could try, and it wouldn't hurt us to drink more water. I plan to scout the farmer's markets, tailgate markets, farm stands, and maybe even the Food Co-op or Earth Fare or Greenlife Grocery stores in Asheville for some ideas and ingredients. I also plan to rely on the excellent local food guide published by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.
We'll start planning our first meal today for sometime this week and see how it goes.
In the meantime, tonight we have our first zucchini, yellow squash, fresh onions, kohlrabi, and maybe even a tomato to add to our commercially-raised, grocery-store chicken on the grill.
Oh, and possibly some frozen margaritas--most definitely not made of local ingredients.