I went into the Eat Local Challenge pretty cocky, as some of you may remember. I believed I could boil sea water for salt. I foraged toxic pepper that eventually scared me, so I stopped eating it. I got a stomach ache from wild blackberries that were underripe, and maybe even had been sprayed for mosquito control.
I had visions of squeezing juice from local fruit and boiling it into a syrup, as a sugar substitute – until I remembered we have good local honey.
I picked very, very local grape leaves, brined them with Bay Area Cargill salt (Diamond kosher) – an exception I just had to live with – and filled them with local beef, diced potatoes (instead of rice, since I spent the first week of the challenge restricting my diet to Marin County), and herbs from the patio.
I invented potato crackers that were not much more than misshapen “Pringles”, because I was avoiding wheat for that first week.
I foraged wild fennel pollen to season local oysters.
Some of the food was wacky, some of it was sublime, and I’ll brag: all of it was good.
I had my “cheat” moments. A half a bag of tortilla chips. Half a slice of nonlocally grown wheat bread. Unsourced spices on, I think, only two occasions. Budweiser. Breadsticks and unlocal wine one dreamy afternoon. Oh – and those turnip cakes and potstickers. (I’m not even going to apologize for what I devoured at the SF Food Bloggers’ Picnic.)
But cut to the chase. Here’s what I came away with:
1) This local eating is not only doable, it’s easy.
2) Because I live in Marin County, mainly. And I don’t have a job, so the effort was – well, no effort. In fact, a large part of my diet has been very local all along.
3) I had loads of fun inventing meals; didn’t even get around to some of the possibilities I dreamed up.
4) I visited a new farmers’ market (Point Reyes Station) that will henceforth be a regular pit stop.
5) Meals tasted so good, in general, that we didn’t overeat.
6) So we even lost a little bit of weight.
7) At first think, provisioning seems to cost more, but rethink – we didn’t buy any processed food, or go to restaurants (well, only once, not counting the wine and breadsticks day), we got super involved in utilizing every aspect of our food, including using the bones from lamb stew to flavor baked beans, and layering a veggie lasagne with the tomato skins saved from making tomato sauce. So our food bill was actually lower than usual. Also, as I said, we ate less.
8) It was just really a seriously great experience.
9) Oh, and I feel all righteous.
10) But not smug.
Jen at Life Begins at 30 asked participants to list some of their successes, failures, discoveries and longings. All I have to add to the list above is:
11) Honey in my tea (and, no, the tea was not local). I’m going to keep doing that. I’ve lost all interest in refined sugar.
12) I’m dying for a tostada. Funny, huh? It was the last thing I ate in July, and will probably be the first thing I have in September. You’d think that a local diet would cleave closely to ancient foodways, and in California, that means Mexican food, rancho food. But I couldn’t get any locally sourced dried corn products. However, I can’t wait to try Rancho Gordo tortillas. In a couple of days.
13) Oh, OK, baker’s dozen: I’m simply thrilled to have discovered Rancho Gordo beans, Marin Sun Farms eggs and meat, Marshall’s honey, Full Belly Farm whole wheat flour, Happy Quail Farms dried chile powders, Wild Blue Farm produce, Peter Worsley’s incomparable garlic and potatoes, apples from Sebastopol, St. Benoit yogurt, Kitchen Line vinegar… But I hope you’ll find your own local suppliers and be as happy as I am.
14) Baker's dozen plus one: I'm gonna keep doing this (although not as religiously). It's just too good to stop now.