Friday, June 14, 2013

Eat Local Challenge Day 14: Quality control

Posted By on Fri, Jun 14, 2013 at 5:23 PM

This breakfast was supposed to have some green peppers in it, but that didnt work out
  • ALEJANDRO DE LOS RIOS
  • This breakfast was supposed to have some green peppers in it, but that didn't work out

Days: 13
Total meals eaten today: 3
Non-local items eaten: 5
Vices: Beer, coffee, bread

So yesterday I wrote about trying to find some inspiration to get out of the doldrums if found myself and to find a way to make the Eat Local Challenge more practical in my daily life.

Well, that didn't really go as planned. The day started off with another simple scrambled egg breakfast. I had intended on doing something different and adding a ton of produce to my eggs but was immediately stymied by finding out the green bell pepper I bought from Hollygrove Market had started to mold from the inside out. This is the second time I've picked a defective bell pepper and, if nothing else, in the long run it's taught the value of being very discerning with my produce.

The short-run though was just immediate disgust and a renewed loss of confidence. I'm seriously starting to question this whole endeavor.

OK, no bones about it, eating local is very, extremely, almost impractically hard. There's really no skirting the point any longer. It's hard to cook without olive oil, peppercorn and cheap butter and it's harder still to cope with the fact that meats and cheese are at least twice as expensive than if bought at a chain supermarket or Walmart. None of this even factors in how much time you spend preparing, cooking and cleanup up after meals. Being a locavore means making a lot of sacrifices. At what point do you draw the line?

Of course, when things aren't going well, it's easy to see all the flaws in what you're doing. Yesterday, I would've happily traded in my rotting bell pepper for a genetically-modified, insecticide-soaked one from Chile that I could actually eat. Of course that ignores all of the negatives that come with said vegetable from another hemisphere but hungry people aren't interested in where their food comes from right before eating it.

At which point I realized that that best way to get past the rotting bell pepper was to just not think about it. I settled on eating the rest of my breakfast as I had planned it (scrambled eggs, sautéed potatoes, and toast with home made fruit leather) and went with red beans and rice leftovers for lunch. At that point, I had made a decisions that dinner would be off-the-wagon again. My thinking was that the only way to be inspired to make great food was to eat it. So my friend and I were off to Boucherie in Uptown.

Anyone who knows me knows that Boucherie is probably my favorite restaurant ever. It helps to be close friends with much of the staff and that Nathanial Zimet is the New Orleans chef version of 50 Cent, surviving multiple gun shot wounds and going on to win Chopped. But what first got me hooked on Boucherie was just the food. It was simple, affordable and delicious. The brisket - which I had - is the best in the city, the duck is perfect no matter how its cooked (off the top of my head I can name half a dozen preparations) and the Krispy Kreme bread pudding (which Walk Ons totally ripped off) is so good I want it to be my wedding cake. If this place was a cult, I would be the first to drink the Kool-Aid after handing it out to everyone I could find. For all intents and purposes, if you don't like Boucherie, we cannot be friends.

I could write an epic poem about how much I love Boucherie, but seeing as how I was challenging myself with eating local, it's nice that I can use it to talk about the blurry line between locavores and the shop local movement. Boucherie is a quintessential neighborhood restaurant. Zimet prides himself on two things: cooking meat and using fresh produce. He's a classically trained chef and, like all classically trained chefs, knows that he's only as good as his ingredients. This is why the restaurants menu changes from month to month to reflect what local farmers are cooking. One of last night's special was a creole tomato salad and the duck breast was prepared with green peas.

That's when it hit me: I know plenty of people in the city that work with local food and they do it well. It was time that I started tapping into that wealth of knowledge and expand my horizons. I left Boucherie inspired once again with the possibilities of eating local food.

I hope it lasts this time.

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