RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Local

What A Difference A Year Makes

For anyone keeping score, I started a Year of Inconvenience on April 18, 2010 and finished that experiment in 2011, almost one year ago. And while I continue to get asked whether I’m still doing that “cook it all yourself thing,” I’m absolutely amazed that one year has gone by since I completed that challenge.  Believe it or not, on a pretty regular basis either my partner or I are proclaiming at some stressful point in the week, “Thank God we don’t have to cook this all from scratch.” Yeah, what a difference a year makes.

Last time I checked in – well the time before the Amish bread episode – I was proudly recalling my mid-year success of sticking to at least some of the routines I had learned. Well, that was September 2011. Truth is, the only 2 things I consistently make and have not purchased at all from a store since 2010 are granola and granola bars. I guess I proved at least to myself, that some habits are quite easy to break.

But, out of all the things I can either feel proud of or embarrassed by, the one thing I know that has changed in my life since I started that experiment is my constant need to now know just where my food comes from. You see, I’ve built up quite a big distrust for large agribusiness (and corporate greed) and the almighty dollar that constantly feeds that relentless machine of cheap food most Americans demand. I’m not talking about cheap processed food or fast food, but basic food items like fruit, vegetables, meat, yogurt, bread, or cheese, – items that most people want to purchase at the lowest possible price point. The most valuable lesson learned in my year of from-scratch cooking was identifying and valuing the time and effort good people spend getting really good food to market.

When I was in high school I remember reading with horror, Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle and becoming totally skeeved out by the practices of the meat packing industry. And then I stopped eating chicken when I was 16 or 17 because I couldn’t handle seeing the pin feathers left in the wings of the chicken my parents purchased from a farmer friend of theirs. To me it was too similar to what grossed me out in Sinclair’s book. Of course they were two totally different things – one being the greed ridden industry I previously described – the second demonstrating my point,  the value in knowing where your food comes from.

And now some XX years later (I’m really not going to reveal my age here) I’ve come full circle, abhorred not just by things like pink slime and too many salmonella outbreaks, but abhorred that people continue to demand the cheapest possible food. Do you know what it takes for food to be cheap? Well, from my experience either the farmer/worker is paid less than market value, or the product is made with less than quality ingredients (ie: ingredients that will either extend the products shelf life or products that are purchased from secondary markets where cheap additives help stretch the dollar for the producer). I now know the difference between factory produced crackers, and crackers that were hand made, hand and not machine rolled and baked 70 miles from where I live. And if that means I’m paying more per ounce for them, I understand the value in that price. I know the time and experience it takes to make good crackers. And there are people who want to make a living carrying on that craft.

I will pay more, in fact I will gladly pay more and cut back elsewhere when a local baker makes my bread, or an artisan at the farmer’s market has hand crafted my cheese selection. I’ve learned what it takes to make quality products on my own, and I have formed a deep appreciation of those people who try to make a living doing the same and I think them by purchasing their products whenever I’m not making them myself. And as I just described, that happens much more frequently nowadays.

Advertisements

Eat Local Challenge

The Eat Local Challenge is a two week quest to source meals from the local foodshed. While anytime is a great time to eat local, the height of the September harvest brings to the table the greatest concentration and diversity of local fresh produce.

My co-op, Outpost Natural Foods, is challenging all of our shoppers to take the Eat Local Challenge. For two weeks, September 1 – 15, the challenge is to eat the highest percent of your food  from local sources. At our store, we consider anything from our state of Wisconsin as local. The closer to home and fewer miles traveled, the better.

Another great group, Eat Local Milwaukee, is also supporting that challenge, and you’re not going to find more local food or local businesses in any one place than today at the Made In Milwaukee festival. I’ll be there in a few hours setting up a booth for another great group of local businesses, Our Milwaukee.

Don’t live in Milwaukee?  Hopefully you have a co-op nearby where you too can join others in eating locally!

My first meal of the challenge was a fresh corn, potato, and tomato salad served alongside an organic marinated chicken breast from Angel Acres farm in Mason, WI. My local ingredients included fresh sweet corn, golden plum tomatoes,  red potatoes, spinach, and a yellow pepper. Even the dijon mustard in the salad dressing was made locally! The only ingredients that weren’t local were the shallots, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. That means along side the chicken, that 70-80% of the meal was sourced locally.

I have to say I was really excited that the salad turned out so well, and I got a bit of extra flavor by roasting the corn and pepper on my stovetop. Hope you enjoy!

Wisconsin Summer Salad

3 ears fresh sweet corn (about 2-3 cups)

2 cups small red potatoes

1 red, yellow, or orange pepper (roasted and diced with skin on)

3 cups fresh spinach leaves

2 cups assorted cherry tomatoes, halved

The Dressing:

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons minced shallots

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Black pepper to taste

Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain, and cut into quarters. Meanwhile while the potatoes are cooking, peel the sweetcorn and cook each cob for one minute in the microwave (or 5 minutes on the stovetop in boiling water). If you have a gas range, roast the corn over an open flame until the kernels begin to brown and carmelize. You can do the same with the pepper over the open flame, roasting it until the skin begins to blister and char. If you don’t have a method of roasting, it’s okay to skip this step.

When your corn has roasted, slice the kernels from each cob, and mix with the potatoes, chopped pepper and fresh spinach. If the potatoes and corn are still a bit warm, they will wilt the spinach a bit, which I think brings out a bit more of the flavor. Refrigerate the salad as is, for about 30 minutes.

Mix up the dressing in a small bowl with a whisk by combining the vinegar, mustard, shallots, olive oil, salt and pepper.

When the salad has chilled down, add the tomatoes and the dressing.

Optional ingredients can include some fresh basil from your garden and/or goat cheese. Had I included those 2 ingredients they would have also been local.