Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Eating locally

British blogger Bryallen has decided that she will only eat foods grown in the United Kingdom.  This apparently came about after a discussion of where her family's food was coming from and the impact it had on the planet.  She figured she'd try going local for a week, and her posts so far are eye-opening.  (I figured that being a vegetarian, it would be easier for her, but nope.  It was actually more difficult.)  I really admire her for doing this and will be interested to hear what the experiment was like for her. 

She's already pointed out that there are a lot of non-locally sourced foods we take for granted.  And she's so right--coffee, tea, olive oil, flour, rice are all things that are certainly not produced in my neck of the woods.  So if I wanted to go local, I'd have to cook in butter, skip bread (unless I got my flour from here) and skip a lot of cuisines and baked goods, since New England is not known for being a great producer of cinamon, allspice, sugar, cloves, and a whole host of other things.

She made me think of a book I'd read a few years ago, Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet. The book chronicled a Canadian couple's decision to eat only locally grown and sourced foods--and by locally grown, they meant food grown or sourced within a 100-mile radius.  They went without bread for a long, long time, as well as olive oil.  They also went without salt until they learned how to get it from the sea.  There was a lot of stuff they just couldn't eat.

One thing I love about living in this age is that we can get any kind of food we want.  But one thing I hate about that is that we've really lost sight of the fact that food is seasonal and regional.  Oranges apparently used to make an appearance in the grocery stores in the winter.  And it's not as if New Englanders would see a lot of oranges--let alone mangos or starfruit--in the grocery store.  We didn't have fresh vegetables year-round.  Even meat has seasons, which just surprised me when I learned that. 

Now, I would hate to live in a time where getting a simple bottle of soy sauce or olive oil would be a major undertaking--you will pry my soy sauce and olive oil from my cold, dead fingers, people.  (As well as my curry poweder, garam masala, bay leaves, and other assorted bits of flavor heaven.)  But I'm not sure how comfortable I am taking these things for granted, either.  Maybe I'd be more comfortable with getting spices and olive oil and soy sauce if I knew that the things I should assume were sourced locally actually were sourced locally.  Unfortnately, even when foods are grown locally and are in season, it's well-nigh impossible to find them at your grocer.  My local grocery store carried apples from Washington state when apples here in New England were in season. 


  1. Wow, I would not expect meat to have seasons! Unless it was lamb I guess.

    We had the apples problem too - I found a British variety called Cameo that were DELICIOUS, but most of the ones I found were from New Zealand! We have an apple tree in our garden, but they're cooking apples unfortunately, so no good to eat as a snack!

    That book sounds fascinating, especially getting salt from the sea! I wonder whether spices would grow well in more temperate areas. Probably not. To be honest I wouldn't even know what a cinnamon plant looks like!

    You can buy coffee plants here though... :D (They don't produce beans unfortunately!)

  2. Good post, feral one. I feel that we can temper our commitment to local eating with a little historical perspective. For one thing, trade has brought about a lot of human progress over the centuries (I know, I know, it has also inspired a lot of horrible behavior). But still...you can move a lot of nutmeg without adding all that much to global warming. This doesn't apply to so-called fresh produce, which is heavy and perishable. But I'd give cinnamon, pepper, bay leaves and so on a pass. And you gotta have olive oil.