Join the eat local challenge


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  • Local lunch at the Harper house. Raheli Harper, of Campbell Hall, is eating local in September along with her two young sons and slightly skeptical husband. Photo by Raheli Harper



In September, sourcing food from a 250-mile radius

By Becca Tucker

On September 1, the experiment will begin. My family of four, along with a hardy crew of adventurous souls, will be eating local for the bountiful month of September – not once in a while, but every meal of every day. Join us for the month, a week or even a day. Sign the pledge at eatlocalwithdirt.com.

In taking this journey, you’ll be supporting your local economy and farmers, eating serious quantities of fresh food, broadening your cooking skills, and gaining a new appreciation for nature’s rhythms and the breadth and bounty available to us right here at home. It may just be life-changing.

Here’s how it works. You commit to eating food grown, raised or caught within 250 miles of home. This doesn’t mean the bread was baked locally, but that the flour was grown locally. (Google Maps is handy for calculating distances.) You do your best to convince the people with whom you cohabitate that this is a good idea.

You get five exceptions: coffee, bananas, almonds, avocadoes, olive oil, whatever. We plan to start the grown-ups’ list off with coffee (and embarrassingly, Heinz ketchup for the kids), and add to it as it becomes clear what we can’t do without.

Spices are unlimited. Nonperishable powders like baking soda and baking powder go in that bucket, too. As for sugar, that’s your call, but honey and maple syrup do the trick in our house.

Love to eat out? You still can. Sponsors of the challenge, Fannie’s and Conscious Fork in Warwick, will have a 100 percent local item on the menu all month.

In preparation for the month ahead, I spent the last week doing my best imitation of a squirrel getting ready for hibernation. I hit four farmers’ markets and two orchards in six days, gathering not only the classic late summer cornucopia -- corn and melons, apples and peaches –- but also Pioppini mushrooms, mozzarella, chicken sausage and haddock. I secured a jug of sunflower seed oil for cooking, and a 25-pound bag of local flour for baking.

The shopping part was more fun than the processing. A substantial amount of my weekend unfolded in the kitchen: slicing peaches for canning, slicing apples for dehydrating into dried apple rings, which the children don’t particularly care for, turns out.

But my batch of zucchini muffins, with a baseball-bat zucchini from our garden and eggs from our hens, maple syrup from the Adirondacks, flour from near Ithaca, and sunflower oil from Middlebury, Vermont, went like hotcakes, and I’ve got more in the freezer.

Having got wind of the challenge, Sustainable Warwick moved its book club selection to “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver to September. The memoir documents the year Kingsolver and her family ate entirely local, reinventing their own food culture. The meeting is at the Florida Public Library on Tues. Sept. 19, 11am, conveniently, the day of the Florida Farmers’ Market.

See you there, with apple rings to share.

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West Milford, NJ