Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Adventures In Local Eating.

So, Eat Local continues on apace.

I noticed a stack of Challenge sign-up cards at work today. It was a pretty tall stack, & I must admit to feeling a moment of disappointment. Akin to that feeling of working all day on a dinner for friends & then having half of them cancel at the last minute.
Was anyone doing the Challenge this year? Was last year's seemingly enthusiastic response just the peak of a dying trend? Perhaps the glacial pace of economic recovery had convinced many people that they didn't have the money or time to participate (I bet they do, though)...

With some trepidation, I asked our cheerful customer-service guy Luis if anyone had been signing up at all. "Oh, yeah," he said, "We had to make a whole new stack because so many people were interested!"

That is so totally rad, people. Rock on with your Local selves.

& now, a word or two on "adventure" as it relates to our exploration of the local food world. Despite my obvious (perhaps borderline
corny) enthusiasm for all things Challenge, I think it's only honest to admit that at certain points along the journey, "adventure" hardly applies. In fact, we can often find ourselves in something of a rut. Whether this stems from developing a routine (not a bad thing in itself & actually quite necessary in terms of saving time & money), or from being timid about trying out new things, many of us will find ourselves saying, "Jeepers, not _____, again!" as we throw together the umpteenth meal using the same trusty ingredients. Personally, the vast bulk of my Eat Local meals are less about reductions, pairings or presentations as they are about simple functionality. Does the meal provide me with a good mix of nutrients, inoffensive taste combinations, & a minimum of expense/effort? Yes? Good:

Local andouille & red green onion on toasted petite pains,
with russet french fries & tomato.

"Good", yes. "Exciting"... Not so much.

There are several approaches to this problem. One might be to consciously "practice" Local eating, in the Eastern sense. By which I mean paying attention to (& respect for) the seemingly mundane details. In
The Miracle of Mindfullness, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh relates the following;

"There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes & the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes."

Obviously, easier said than done, sometimes. Especially when speaking literally about dishes. But when we focus on something that has become chore-like with a renewed sense of attention, we are often surprised by beauty.

Another angle of attack on the doldrums could come from making a point of setting aside a given weekly meal, or even part of a day, dedicated to stretching horizons. Last year, I had the immense pleasure of taking a trip out to the boonies to eat farm-sourced pizza in the open air. On other occasions, I tried out ingredients & techniques that I'd never been "comfortable" with even after years spent in professional kitchens. More recently, someone guided me through the process of making pie crust. Certainly not an "adventure" to many, but to this practically baking-phobic cook, quite the thrill. I've also been big on picnics this summer. Earlier this week I attended the final "Movies & Music" in Loring park, which was a new thing for me in itself:

Local picnic of 1.) wilted collard greens, green beans & chorizo,
tomato-fennel salad & 3.) sandwiches of sauteed zucchini,
carmelized onions & cottage bacon with basil aoli & 4.) nut brittle for dessert
(all not shown, due to being in the process of digestion).

Local beer was my date's, not mine. Pig-themed cutting board is absolutely mine.
& you can't have it.

As nice as it was to have a change of pace, however, perhaps the biggest "excitement" to be found in this situation was whether or not the home-made mayo in the sandwiches was going to keep during the hour-long bus ride...

Let the record show that in fact it did. Hooray for adventure!

- nano out.

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