Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My Thoughts on the Burning Questions, Or "HOW Many Miles Did You Say?!?"

Silly me, I've been trying as hard as I can to stay within roughly 100!

Ruminating on Liz's post about our varying concepts of & approaches to the subject of "locality", it seems obvious to me that we really need to clarify our guidelines for this project. Of course, we'd have about as much luck in trying to come up with a unified stance on our position regarding our construct of God, or Goddess (or Nothing, for that matter). Perhaps the best way to tackle this is to clearly state, on the record, our individual guidelines & how we formulated them.

Here's more or less exactly how I'm doing the challenge:

I'm eating locally (80% or more of a given meal), more than 80% of the time. Well more, as far as I can tell. Almost all of my food is currently coming from the shelves of our own store, with the exception of a few side adventures to other locales. I have a couple of "tiers" that I use to determine the (sometimes fuzzy) percentage of my meals, as well as a couple of allowable "cheats" that I'll get to later.

The first tier, which makes up the bulk of my food choices, I'm calling "Real Local". This means that the food was grown & processed within approximately 100 miles of the Twin Cities, as far as I'm reasonably able to determine. I know with some certainty that if I buy something with a local label from my meat cooler, then it comes from somewhere within a (roughly) 100 mile radius. I fully realize that there are hidden miles in many of these items (from the farmer to the processor, perhaps to a warehouse, & then to the store), so sometimes that 100 miles is really 150, or even more. My absolute outside boundary in defining "local" could be considered something like 250 miles.

Honestly, we're all flying partially blind, here. We are involved in a system of trust, between us & our suppliers, & between us & our customers. None of us has the time to individually Googlemap every single one of our ingredients before we make our purchases, although kudos are due to Liz for trying. We have to take it on faith that the "Local" sticker on the product actually means that said product is reasonably local. Quite frankly, I'm dismayed that something with an 800-odd mile itinerary was even up for debate in the first place.

The second tier consists of foods that are processed within 100-300 miles, using at least a healthy portion of actual local ingredients. I'm guessing that Whole Grain Milling products & Salsa Lisa might fall under this category. Various locally baked breads would be included here, too. Because these sorts of items fulfill at least some of the requirements for inclusion in the first tier, while still supporting local small businesses, I'm likely to shift them towards the local group when figuring out percentages for individual meals.

Only slightly beneath is the third tier, which I define as basically any meal component I make myself (like Liz's tortilla example, or possibly my mayo recipe), with a mix of local & less-local ingredients. If I don't feel comfortable with the subjective mix, I'll be honest & shift it towards the non-local percentage.

As for seasonings, if we're talking fresh herbs & they're not in tier one, I'm not making that dish. Basics like salt, pepper & vinegar (or oils) aren't being counted any longer, because to do so would drive a man insane.

Cheats include certain specific things that I simply "can't" live without, things that if our civilization crumbled tomorrow, I'd be willing to trade dearly for (one example might be the occasional scraping of Parmigiano-Reggiano). Or if someone offers me a piece of their birthday cake. Another acceptable cheat is yerba mate, since I gave up energy-drinks & coffee for the challenge & I still have to make it to work in the morning (I use the St. Paul brand, Nativa, for what it's worth). Oh, & cigarettes.

So, that's the basics of my "how". As to the "why", the more experiential & philosophical aspects of the Challenge (as I see them), I'll post on that soon enough, as well as provide an update on my first month's costs.

-nano out


Liz said...

Sounds like you've got a solid system down, nano, and that it's working well for you. My hope is that when our customers/members are taking the challenge, we can encourage them to look for the local signs, but then turn the product over and look for the actual address to decide if it fits with their challenge definition. I just hope that we can keep it simple enough that people want to take the challenge!

nano said...

Thanks, I'm really enjoying taking the Challenge. Although, it must be said that I'm dying for some pasta... I'm saving up my "percentage points" in the hopes that I can splurge on some mac'n'cheese, soon :-)

One thing that's making it fairly easy for me is that I eat a goodly amount of meat & dairy, which this region excels at producing.

But mostly, I'm just trying to stay off the slippery slope between my self-delineated first tier & ordering pizza luce. Just like exercise, the harder I go, the easier it feels.

nano said...


As far as the package flipping & such goes, maybe we can all huddle before the official launch & work up a couple of "Market Recommended" approaches that are simple to follow & can be slotted into different levels of intensity, as well as addressing different dietary concerns.

'Cause, you know, we all need more meetings in our lives!

Liz said...

I think that's a fab idea. Maybe those instructions of sort could be on the blog and/or website? And I'm also looking for a few good MM locavores to help teach my "Surviving the Eat Local Challenge" class. Any takers? You are all welcome to participate!

nano said...

Oo! Oo!

*jumps up & down*

Pick me! Pick me!

Nano's Mom said...

Are you sure you're getting enough to eat? You look kind of thin in your picture.


PS - Seriously, though...thanks for sending the blog address. I'm looking forward to reading about your adventures.

Nano's Mom said...

Hey, Patrick. I may have sent you the same posting twice due to unfamiliarity with the rules of the blogosphere.