Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Local Yokel

You might be wondering why I'm spending so much time talking about local eating. "Who cares, anyway?"...."Just another silly 'hippie/yuppie' trend" you may be thinking. Which may be so, but I ask you to think about this: An average dinner travels approx. 1500 miles from 'farm to fork'. Given today's high fuel prices (albeit, lower than this time last year) and the rising global demand for oil, many people are looking at what they can do to help reduce their 'carbon footprint' and minimize our nation's dependency on oil. It seems that everyone I know is looking for 'greener' alternatives, from reusable shopping bags to hybrid vehicles. Sometimes the solution can be as easy as looking in your own backyard (or maybe your neighbors).
For me, there were many factors that began my path towards the 'locavore' lifestyle.

1) The Environmental impact - My 'carbon footprint' is big enough between the 70 mile round-trip commute (although I do carpool most days) and the amount of air travel I do. Why not try to reduce the amount of oil 'in' my food?

2) Supporting my local farmer(s) - I am fortunate to live in a suburban area that still has a lot of family farms. Harleysville has not yet been completely developed, sub-divided and taken over by strip malls. One of the reasons we loved this area so much was because it still had a "small town" feel. In order to keep it that way, I feel, it's important to keep the small farmers and gardeners in business. On average, $0.21 of your supermarket food dollar actually goes to the farmer. The rest of the $0.79 is used for marketing, distribution and other assorted costs. When possible, I prefer to put that whole dollar, directly into the hands of the farmer who grew it.

3) Rethinking consumerism - In this economic environment I've really started to think about the lasting affects of a consumption based society. I consider myself lucky that Jake and I are both gainfully employed and haven't been impacted by the economic crisis like so many other people we know. That said, I have really started to think about my spending differently. Trying to eliminate wasteful spending and really taking a look at the business models we support by our consumerism. Right now, our country is in an economic restructering period. We have really been trying to support the businesses whose ideals we agree with, rather than what's sold cheaply in the 'big box' stores.

4) Food appreciation - I've noticed that the week's I go to the farmers market and bring home fresh ingredients, I am more inspired to break out my cookbooks and do something that brings out the flavors of what I've purchased. It also forces me to think about what's in-season (which is easy to forget when cucumbers and strawberries are available in most grocery stores year-round). By thinking more creatively about what's for dinner makes cooking much more enjoyable...not to mention we eat a lot better.

Now is the best time of year to try and become a 'locavore'. While I don't want to sound too 'preachy', I would like to encourage everyone to visit their local farmers market to see what's available locally and meet the people who grow it. If you don't know where to find one, check out www.localharvest.org

Speaking of local meals, here are a couple of the local dinners we made last week:

Turkey sausage and cauliflower stuffed peppers:
The first green peppers were available at the farmers market last weekend (they had to have been started in a green house, since we've had so much rain lately).
We stuffed them with browned turkey sausage, green onions, mushrooms, carrots, and steamed cauliflower (instead of rice). They were very tasty!

I also made Halupki (stuffed cabbage rolls). I've never made it before and let me tell you it is a PRODUCTION! This was a total impulse purchase - the farmers market had the biggest, most beautiful heads of cabbage I've ever seen (pictured at the top of the page). I had to buy one. we served our cabbage rolls (stuffed with local ground pork and non-local organic rice). Served with green beans -which were picked that morning- and boiled red potatoes all purchased from the farmers market...delicious.


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