On April 1, we started our "Living La Vida Local" food experiment. This is supposed to be meant as a way to prove to ourselves that we don't have to rely on mass produced produce (no pun intended), but can subsist on our own home-grown foods. We always have a vegetable garden, but still manage to bring home quite a bit of fresh fruits and veggies from the grocery store.
What we are finding is this: we have been very spoiled. While it can be quite pleasant to bite into a juicy mango in January, it is not mandatory for good health to do so. And really, who says that that mango from the grocery is actually how a mango in a tropical location would taste? (To show my complete ignorance on the subject of mangoes, I have absolutely no idea where they even come from! If someone were to ask me, I would say, "Safeway".)
So what does local mean to us? It means that the food in question must be grown within 100 miles of our home. It means that it must be grown from gardens that have actual people tending to them. It means that the animals we consume lived happy lives, munching on grass and maybe even had names. It means that there were no chemicals, growth hormones or antibiotics given to ensure rapid growth. It does NOT mean that it must have an organic label on it. I'm going for beyond organic, where the farmer/gardener is in charge, making decisions based on what they would feed their own families. And let me tell you, they are pretty wise about that stuff.
Unless they eat cat. Or horse. Or opossum and raccoon. Then I'm not on their team. Because that's just gross.
I'm also finding that there are some foods that we just cannot grow or buy local, that are a necessary food for our home. Here's a few: peanut butter, olive oil, *raw milk, *butter/cheese, cocoa powder, sugar/sucanat/rapadura, and coconut oil. And while coffee is not necessarily necessary for good physical health, it is necessary for good mental health.
It's also a safety issue.
So here are the rules that we have given ourselves, because without them, we'd just flounder around and continue to live in the land of justification. (And what a happy land it is!)
*Eat in season. This may sound easy, but living in the Pacific Northwest, I'm finding that it's easier for me to say "Eat in season" than it is for me to actually do it because we only have 3. Wet, really wet, and not so wet.
*Grow it ourselves, buy it locally, or do without. In the book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver said it best...Food should not come with a passport!
*Only grow the foods that we will eat. Now this is something that I struggle with. Last year, I planted amaranth because it was pretty. When it came time to harvest it, I had no idea how, or what to do with it! (I've since learned how to use it!)
*Try new recipes with old favorites. Recently, I read an article about freezing pesto sauce, while the basil is in season. Instead of using pine nuts (this is not a local nut!) the recipe called for walnuts. Not only do walnuts grow locally, but most people will pay you to pick them up off of their lawns!
*And finally, allow for 3 items per month that are not local. Even though we cannot grow peanuts in our wet climate, I can buy organic roasted peanuts and make my own peanut butter from them. (Hazelnuts are another popular northwest nut, so we'll be trying our hand at hazelnut butter.) The rule for the 3 items though....they must be organic/fair trade to make sure that we are getting a quality product and the farmer is getting his rightful pay. I purchase coffee beans from a local shop that roasts the beans twice a week. The coffee is both organic and fair trade and I get to show support for a local business owner who does a fantastic job.
And my family gets to rest easy since Momma is getting her cup, or three, of coffee daily!
**Our raw milk comes to us via our local health food store. The laws of Washington state regarding raw milk purchases are pretty strict and we have yet to find a neighbor who is willing to milk a cow for us. The butter and cheese that we use the most is from Tillamook, Oregon. While it is over a hundred miles from us by road, as the crow flies, it would be close enough to be local!
There's that justification thing again....