Are you willing to prepare one meal a week for 14 weeks from locally grown foods? We challenge you to do just that.
The quote that inspired this idea is from Barbara and Camille Kingsolver and Steven Hopp, who wrote Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: “If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.”
This does not mean making your own vinegar. But you can make your own vinaigrette and spend less money, imbibe fewer unknown substances and cut down on packaging.
Pasta and grains will be another challenge. We encourage you to get as close to a local source as you can.
The Lawrence Headquarters Branch’s job this summer, just 14 weeks from Memorial Day to Labor Day, will be to offer interesting recipes for both carnivores and vegetarians, and resources where you can purchase food from local farmers and millers. Or, as our first lady Michelle Obama has done, you may choose to grow your own vegetables in a kitchen garden. Over the next few weeks, we will be developing a website with resources as part of the program.
The first taste of Jersey Silver Queen white corn or a ripe Brandywine tomato signals that high summer has arrived. To taste the best, sweet corn should be eaten within 48 hours of being picked. After being picked, the sugars in the corn immediately begin to break down and turn into starch. This starch is not sweet, makes the kernel tough and doesn't have much flavor. If we buy locally or grow our own, we can get corn that has been picked that day and is the freshest and very best tasting product.
We can also get tastier varieties that cannot be shipped like heirloom tomatoes. If you haven’t tried a Cherokee Chocolate, you have a treat in store.
The benefits are also nutritional. Nutritional value declines, often dramatically, as time passes after harvest. Because locally-grown produce is freshest, it is more nutritionally complete .
The idea of eating locally as a way to save the planet began in 2005. Two women in San Francisco coined the term “locavore” which became the New Oxford American Dictionary 2007 Word of the Year. It beat out such worthy contenders as “tase” (to stun with a Taser) and “cougar” (an older woman who romantically pursues younger men). For you non-locavores, the word is defined as “a person who endeavors to eat only locally produced food.” They further defined it as food produced within a 100 mile radius of your home.
Barbara Kingsolver, her husband Steven Hopp and their daughters decided to become locavores after moving from Tucson back to their farm in Appalachia. In their book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, they describe the joys and challenges of their year. Every week they each chose one thing they could not give up. Coffee and olive oil were on the list. They also allowed themselves to use the spices and vinegars that were already in their cabinets. The rest they raised, grew, or purchased locally.
Whether she is describing the need to lock the gate in August to prevent friendly neighbors with over abundant crops like their own from depositing bags of zucchini and eggplant on their front porch, or unraveling the mysteries of turkey sexual reproduction, Kingsolver is a master writer.
In the book, Camille, their oldest daughter, describes the difference this has made in her life. Raising animals for their meat has given her greater respect for the food she eats. She no longer wants to grab a bite while standing up, but wants to sit and savor her food. This book, written in Kingsolver’s pristine prose, is delightful.
Other books to read in this genre are Nina Planck’s Real Food: What to Eat and Why; Michael Pollen’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma; and Wendell Berry’s Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food.
Please join us in the challenge to eat regionally and seasonally this summer.
Shop local: Whenever possible purchase all fresh produce, eggs, cheese, dairy, meat, poultry and seafood, from local farmers and producers.
Use fresh herbs which are grown locally and limit the amount of other ingredients as much as possible.
See our previous blog posts on eating local:
- Donna W.