Sunday, September 30, 2007

wrapping up the challenge

Today is the last day of September, and hence the last day of the September Eat Local challenge. The most interesting part of the challenge has been the realization that it is almost a moot point - we eat so much local food anyway! We didn't eat out (except for a couple of low-blood sugar related meals, when we had pizza from a local joint, or some sushi) and I didn't shop at any major chain stores. I'd say that 95-99% of our food came from farmer's markets; we did get bacon and Italian sausage from a local butcher (who has their own farm nearby) and local milk from either our co-op (we joined this month) or a local health food store. Rolls for burgers came from a local Italian specialty store. Bread came from local bakeries or bakers. Ice cream came from the magnificent local ice creamiere Jeni's (who uses some local ingredients.) We wasted very little food and composted kitchen scraps.

I learned how to make new things from scratch, such as grape juice and polenta. I approximated favorite processed foods (chicken and noodles and sloppy joe's) from local ingredients. I tried new fruits and vegetables, found local sources for many things that I will continue to use, and didn't miss much.

What have I actually missed? The convenience of opening a can of beans for dinner. Lemons. Rice. Indian food. Pizza. Burritos. Dry pasta (I've bought it freshly-made from a local Italian place.) Readily-available celery - I've had to hunt for it, and only found it twice. Spicy crab salad. The convenience of not starting each meal long before dinner time, or of being able to say screw it and get carry-out (I only missed this once or twice.)

I started shopping and eating locally this spring, and watching the seasons change in the markets and on my plate has been a wonderful ride. I will reminisce about the summer every time I defrost veggies or fruits for winter meals (I lament the fact that we didn't get a new freezer until well after asparagus season.) I am saddened by the fact that the season is drawing to a close (what will I do on Saturday mornings?!?!) and look forward to seeing some of my local farmers at the new winter market. And I definitely look forward to spring!

This weekend we have eaten the following: pasta in cream sauce with shiitake mushrooms and fresh herbs, with spiced pears in cream sauce for dessert (Friday); sloppy joe's, home fries and corn on the cob (Saturday's one big meal); raspberry pancakes with peppered bacon (Sunday brunch.) My end-of-the-month dinner, which I will begin preparing shortly, will feature pan-roasted chicken breasts with herbs and pan gravy, broccoli, mashed potatoes, and roasted squash (either delicata or kabocha.) Dessert will be an apple crisp (I'm going to try using honey as a sweetener so it will be all local, except for the cinnamon.)

I've had homemade yoghurt with berries, honey and locally-made granola most mornings. My yoghurt is still terrible, but I'm not giving up on it yet. On cooler mornings I've grated an apple into a cooking pot of oatmeal (now local, yay!) and drizzled it with maple syrup. Lunch has been leftovers or eggs or fried eggplant or zucchini, breaded with local wheat flour. Dinners have alternated between omnivore and vegetarian, and I cooked red meat and chicken about once a week each. I don't see any of this changing any time soon.

So while I'll be hitting my favorite Indian buffet for dinner tomorrow, and occasionally picking up bread or milk at Giant Eagle, I don't see the bulk of our eating habits changing. I imagine that I will purchase my first non-local head of celery or bag of frozen veggies with anguish in my heart.

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