Friday, June 7, 2013

Eat Local Challenge Day 6: Leftover thoughts

Posted By on Fri, Jun 7, 2013 at 12:40 PM

My breakfast smoothie yesterday was the only meal that didnt consist entirely of leftovers
  • ALEJANDRO DE LOS RIOS
  • My breakfast smoothie yesterday was the only meal that didn't consist entirely of leftovers

For the month of June, I will be chronicling my participation in the Third Annual New Orleans Eat Local Challenge. Every day, I will post about all the meals I had the day before and the ups and downs of trying to eat only locally-sourced or grown food. Because this is my first foray into being a "locavore", I will be doing the second-strictest level of the challenge.

STATS

Day: 6
Total meals eaten today: 3
Non-local items eaten: 2
Vices: Beer, coffee, bread

Back when I started this challenge, Eat Local Challenge founder Lee Stafford said that my life would get easier once my refrigerator was stocked. He neglected to mention how repetitive my life would also get. Not that this is a bad thing. After cooking so much food in bulk it was natural that I would reach a day when I ate only reheated leftovers. But it's amazing just how quickly I fell into the routine of eating only local food.

Once again, the only non-local item I consumed was coffee (and bread if you want to count that) and it's on my vices list so it doesn't count against me. But this routine makes it hard to write a diary with new an informative content on this. I was thinking about this during dinner last night, which was just a big bowl of the remaining goat dirty rice and a piece of baguette and that's when a few stray thoughts crossed my mind.

— Since I've yet to purchase any local eggs, I've found that my breakfast (which usually consists of something light like cereal) has been mostly fruit and dairy based. Yesterday I switched from just slicing fruit and mixing it with yogurt to blending it all in a smoothie (pictured above). This is one routine I'm not anxious to break but I do want to experiment with other breakfast options.

— A few days ago, I cut into a green pepper I got in my Hollygrove produce basket and found something rather disgusting: a maggot. I'm not a squeamish person so I just calmly threw the bell pepper away, washed the knife I used to cut it and went about my way. It wasn't until later that it hit me that, while gross and unappealing, the maggot gave me a certain comfort that the produce from Hollygrove wasn't treated with pesticides (or, at least, not too much pesticide). Either way, the lesson remains - as always - look before you eat.

— Living in New Orleans, it's hard not to eat out and, yet, nothing encourages you more to eat in than purchasing local foods. Now I haven't kept a steady record of how much I've spent in the first week but I know it's close to $200 worth of food between trips to Rouses, Hollygrove and the Crescent City Farmer's Market. For a guy living alone, this isn't totally crazy, but I can see how a family with kids may see that number and get a little sticker shock. It does, no matter what, affect how I see the food in my fridge. Usually, my thoughts are, "guh, I don't want to cook any of this". That's changed to "guh, I have to cook all of this before it goes bad." I've become hyper-aware of what I use and what I throw out to the point where I feel like I'm a chef in a kitchen making sure his profit margins are ok. I was sort of angry when I learned all the beet greens I had been throwing away could actually be cooked and eaten. I won't make the same mistake again.

— Despite everything I've learned about eating local and all the benefits I've seen to this kind of lifestyle, I still firmly believe that this eating like this is a tough choice and one mostly made by people of means. I'm far from rich, but as an unmarried man with no children, the choice to eat local presents only the problem of carving out time to shop for and cook local food. On many occasions, I've wondered about the practical implications of eating local on even a small family. Of course, these impracticalities crop up because the locavore movement is new and, thus, not as accessible as what has become the traditional method of shopping in America: going to the grocery store. It's just cheaper and easier to eat mass-produced foods and, despite all the negatives, there are ways to eat healthy even if you only shop at Walmart.

That being said, the idea that the locavore movement is made up of privileged people is a double-edged sword. With family in South America and Europe, I've been exposed to how other parts of the world buys and consumes their food. Americans are unique in that most of what we buy isn't fresh or local. In South America, most of the mass produced brands I remember eating were junk food (soda, chips, candy) and it was a rarity compared to the mostly provincial meals I ate. In Europe, going to the grocery story really means going to an open air market. Yes, there are grocery stores in most of the world, but the way that food has been packaged and presented in America is unique in how sanitized and homogenous everything has become. Supermarkets in South American don't smell rinsed and clean, they smell organic and gritty. They smell, well, like a farmer's market.

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