I’ve been thinking a lot about local food lately. With last week’s official launch of Twice as Tasty Live, I’ve been making the rounds of local purveyors of flour, milk, coffee, tea, fish, and more to find ingredients for the first two Twice as Tasty house concerts coming up in the next week. I’ve also been inspecting progress in the garden, keeping tabs on what will be ready to harvest and take straight to the host’s table for each event.
But how to define “local food”? Some sources define the local food circle as within 100 miles of where it’s bought or eaten, but many federal assistance programs extend that range to 400 miles. Some define it as food grown and processed within a state, whereas others define local food systems by regions rather than borders. Giant chain stores sell local food; so do farmers from roadside stands and weekly markets.
My local food sources start with the ground I garden in, extend out to local producers and locally owned businesses, and continue down the road to the closest source for any item that isn’t grown in my backyard. I love the way Barbara Kingsolver put it in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life: “Our highest shopping goal was to get our food from so close to home, we’d know the person who grew it.” It’s a lofty challenge, but this may be the month to work toward it.
The Montana Local Food Challenge
This month, the Northern Plains Resource Council has organized the 2018 Montana Local Food Challenge. The goal is simple: Eat local food every day. But the effects of doing so can be profound. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that “producers receive a greater share of retail prices in local supply chains.” Farm to school programs are growing, and a recent study found that teaching kids to cook can make them healthier eaters as adults. It all likely stems from the number 1 reason given by the NPRC for eating local food: “It’s delicious.”
These are just a few reasons to eat local food every day. Although the NPRC challenge focuses on Montana, you can live anywhere and set yourself the same goal.
Taking the Challenge
I treat eating locally as a lifestyle change, not a diet. You’re not setting out to deprive yourself of favorite foods that don’t thrive in your climate (for me that includes coffee, chocolate, tea, citrus, rice, seaweed, and shellfish). Instead, you’re looking to bring everything a little closer to home. I may not be able to buy Montana-grown coffee, but I have my choice of local coffee roasters. I don’t know the farmer, but I do know the person who turned those beans into a drinkable brew.
Unlike a fad diet, a lifestyle change takes time. Although the Montana Local Food Challenge only lasts a month, you can see it as a way to start the process of eating locally. Start by visiting a farmer’s market: What’s on display that you buy from a nonlocal source? Buy some of the local produce and compare: Does it taste better? Is it fresher? Is it perfectly ripe? Chances are, the answers are all yes. And once you start looking for local food sources, you’ll be surprised by how many choices you find.
Good ingredients make good meals, and simple, basic local ingredients can make many fabulous ones. As the recipes here show, the garden (yours or someone else’s) may hold most of what you need:
- Fresh Green Tomato Salsa
- Herbed-Tomato Dip
- Rhubarb–Huckleberry Galette
- Spinach and Herb Frittata
- Zucchini Pancakes
Unless you keep your own cow, grow and mill your own grain, and are otherwise self-sufficient, you’ll likely need to purchase milk, flour, and other staples. But look around; you may be surprised by how close to home you can find the base ingredients for these recipes:
- Basic Granola
- Crepes with Wild Berries and Lemon Cheese
- Fresh Yogurt
- Grilled Fish Tacos
- Sourdough Pizza Dough
Twice as Tasty
July may be over, but the range of summer produce just keeps growing. This month’s posts will continue to offer delicious ways to enjoy what’s fresh in your garden. I crave light, easy meals in summer that show off produce still warm from the sun, including tomatoes, peppers, squash, and watermelon. This is also the month for meals that can head out of the kitchen to the lakeshore, the water, and the mountains. Happy eating and adventuring!
Like what you’ve learned? To learn more in a Twice as Tasty workshop—in your own kitchen, among friends, and with my personal help—click here. If you’re not yet a Twice as Tasty subscriber, get this newsletter and weekly post notifications delivered straight to your inbox by clicking here.
Tried & True
These books may inspire you to eat locally:
- Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life follows her family’s challenge to eat locally—very locally—for one year. You’ll learn not just about their experience but also about your own relationship with food.
- The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is part cookbook, part garden book, part manifesto, with foraging, butchering, family stories, and soapbox rants mixed in. Start with the introduction, where he expounds on local food, then dig into the foods that interest you most and try some of the delicious recipes.
- Michael Pollen is known for his succinct, bold statements on food, such as “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food” and “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” His collection now includes several books on food; start with the The Omnivore’s Dilemma if you’re new to his work.
- Alice Waters, chef and activist, has long been a leading advocate of the farm-to-table and farm-to-school movements. Her memoir Coming to My Senses is personal and passionate, taking you back to the roots of eating local.
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