Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Local, on the Cheap

I'm a few days late making this announcement (I didn't even know there was a deadline). But I'm already in such a time-warp, this is less of an announcement and more of a post mortem. Except nobody died. Everybody had a good time.
And you will have a good time, too, if you choose to participate in the Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge next week.
Click on the link to learn all about it, but let me briefly explain that this is a one-week exercise in eating a diet of strictly local foods, within a strictly defined budget. The point? To prove it can be done. To dispel, once and for all, the idea that there is something "elitist" in living on regionally grown food.
My personal time-warp stems from the fact that a reporter pal at the San Francisco Chronicle wanted to be able to write a story about the event that would appear in the paper early enough to give others the chance to join in. She asked me and Cranky to bump up our effort by a couple of weeks so she could follow our progress.
In other words, we already did it.
Go read about it yourself, if you're inclined. Here's the link; the photo of me and Cranky is pretty cute (and our kitchen looks so spotless and tidy for the real-estate people!). The other two stories about premature locavores that accompany ours are great reads, too. Good job, Chronicle!
I kept careful notes and took pictures of my food, so I will be doing a sort of ghost blog all next week. Which is convenient, because right now Cranky and I are up to our sternums in newsprint and cardboard, packing for a move to "we're not sure where yet but we hope it's in Marin." While you're reading about me dining inexpensively on delicacies from my foodshed, in actuality I'll probably be scarfing take-out burritos.


Bonnie/Dairy Queen said...

You guys look adorable! I can't wait to read the blow by blow of all your meals, as I could certainly use some lessons in this area.

I think the story captured your attitutde about "hey this is fun, but it's not a cult" perfectly. ...even if I can't get with you on the Chilis visit. I hate their nachos.

Anita said...

It was such a pleasant surprise to find you at our breakfast table this morning! :D

Monkey Gland said...

I'd happily be scarfing down burritos, if there were as good as the ones you get locally. Damn I wish I had one now.

Katie said...

Now, that's my kind of knife!
Never send a paring knife to do the work of a chef!
Moving into the great unknown?
We will be someday soon as well - house on the market, clueless as to where next.
Take-out burritos....yum!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to do it, but it would be kind of hard here in the Midwest where they are just now plowing the fields for the spring planting. I can get locally raised beef and pork this time of year, but not much else. It was below freezing at night just a few days ago. Come August though, you're on!

Those figures seem awfully high to me: mine would be $121 for the three of us. Not only do I spend less than that per week, but that includes beer and wine too!

~ Peggasus

Kevin said...

Great write-up. But around here our farmer's market shuts down at the end of October and Doens't start again until May -- and won't have anything to eat except lettuce until late June.

ChrisB said...

CC Loved seeing the photo of you and Cranky. Is that a marble top I see hiding in the background, it looks a lovely piece of furniture.

Ray said...

Thanks for the preview of what lies ahead next week.
We're shooting for a week of local grub Saturday to Friday...a bit early, to best leverage farmers' market days.

Beccy said...

Loved the post cookie and the photo, you sound like you did really well but I do think food is cheaper there than here. An organic chicken costs €20 (about $27-28).

Willa said...

I'll be joining you (even though you are already done- I guess I'll actually be trailing you) next week. At first I thought it would be too difficult since we are still under frost, but I realized I have a lot of stuff canned and in the freezer and the only real difference between how we usually eat and this week is I will have to keep track of money and Chuck won't be able to eat his plastic American Cheese. (like I could keep him from it!)

Willa said...

I do have to say- Chuck and I both work, and still do OK- It's a little hectic in the summer when I do a lot of canning and freezing, but the rest of the year I rely on the crock pot and making things that are good as left-overs.

Dagny said...

The photo is way too cute. I will have to try the soup recipe. And I had never thought of putting bacon in the chicken hash. But I'm going to give it a try because I know that bacon makes everything better.

As for the budget, that's probably more than what I spend in a month for food. If you throw in the alcohol budget, the numbers sound about right.

I probably don't cook often because I have a hard time cooking in small amounts. And then I have way too many leftovers.

Leena said...

I am in Australia where the most Mexican food consists of dining at Burp tacos. Basically flour tortillas and a tomato sauce with chili powder they call "salsa". Please, count your blessings in burritos and then send me one! Good luck with the move!

cookiecrumb said...

Bonnie: OK, it's Cranky who eats the nachos, not me. I like the caesar salad with shrimp. (Please. Remove my foodie credentials here and now.)

Anita: What did I have for breakfast? Grits?

Monkey Gland: I'd happily consort with you for a local burrito. Come back!

Katie: Yeah, we have a set of Global knives I like. Also, we just had a visit from our real estate guy, and it's looking like things are firming up. Whew. Good luck to you!!

Anonymous: I think the recommended priceline is a little spendy too. Not that we need to pare way back on our food budget, but the proof is in the week we just went through. It's not that expensive!

Kevin: I'm sorry to hear that. I would have thought you'd have a wider growing season in Tennessee. Even so, knowing your limitations, there would probably be a fun and innovative way to undergo this challenge.

ChrisB: Yes! It is a marble top! I'm so impressed you spotted it. See the rolling pin there? It's our pastry surface (nice and cool).

Ray: It's really important to plan ahead. I wish I could read about your progress.

Beccy: I had no idea. That's a fortune. Our organic chicken (about four pounds) was under $10.

Willa: I think this will be fun for you. You are allowed to "fall off the wagon," by the way. It's all part of the learning process. But it sounds like you're in great shape. Good luck.

Dagny: I'm so used to cooking for two, I screw it up if I try to increase a recipe. Anyhoo. You should just make a partial, half-hearted stab if you can't really commit. I'd love to hear how you do.

Leena: Burp tacos! Ha ha! Thanks for the encouragement.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Cookie, I love the use of moving box. Very nice. I too cannot wait to see what happens next week. I have a question though: could you cite for me what definition of "foodshed" you are thinking of. I'm pretty sure I know what you're talking about and have in mind, but, to date I have not found a definition that I am happy with. Thanks. Oh, and no rush. I know where to find you in cyberspace.

And remember, lift with your legs darlin'.

Brett said...

I bow to your greatness. Your picture and recipes are fantastic. Excellent, excellent work. You two are an inspiration. I just may have to take part! (As long as I don't have to eat at Chilis at the end of the week).

Stacie said...

Ok, now I am obsessed with The Real Cookiecrumb!!! Who is she, and what makes her tick! I'll be stalking you now... you're lucky I don't live in the Bay area anymore, you lady with the cute kitchen and even cuter hubby! What sort of writing did you two do?? At the Chronicle? I, of course, wallow in your presence... you rock!

Anonymous said...

Awww, you two are too cute! I wish the writer hadn't made it seem so difficult, though. Instead of pointing out your "advantages" of having experience eating locally and living near a farmers market, they could have encouraged their readers to just START eating local and trying to find their nearest market. Oh well.

Hopefully the story and your blog will inspire others though!

Anna Haight said...

Great photo! I'm going to be in Chicago all next week chowing on business dinner fare w/clients so I'm not going to be very local, just loco! I'm also trying to get some posts ahead so it won't be a blank week....

Erin S. said...

What a great article--hopefully it encourages others to join. Nice work.

Barbara said...

Yes, you are beautiful...and Cranky is so handsome. BTW an organic chicken here is NZ$16.

Amy Sherman said...

Uh, excuse me, but because two retired people with time on their hands were able to do it, or a professional chef could do it, that means it's not elitist? Sorry, but I'm not buying it.

I applaud your efforts and look forward to the day when it is easier for everyone to do it and to not go hungry like that poor copyeditor!

tammy said...

Great article. I thought one of the most interesting parts was that eating locally on a tight budget gave you just the right nutritional pyramid. It's something to add to the obesity debate.

And perfect timing as I've been working out the specifics of eating locally. I'm going to be taking notes next week.

Anonymous said...

Wow !!! Holy crap! That's awesome, neat. Now you're not only famous on the internet, but for reals. Congrats.


cookiecrumb said...

ermilkMonkey Wrangler: Bingo! So glad you noticed. Mmmm.
So: "Foodshed." A hokey word, if you ask me, and I've never bothered to source its definition. My personal specifics define local food as coming from within a 100-mile radius (which, for me, includes a lot of ocean). If it happens to be 105 miles, what the hey? This is a project, not a math exam.

Brett: Hi! How cool to see you here. Don't bow to my greatness, though I'd like to boast to you, a professional chef I admire greatly, that we came up with some pretty tasty (and vastly simple) food for the project. I hope you'll give the challenge a try, even if only for a day. See you at Chili's! :D

Stacie: No. YOU are the editor of a paper. You rock. (I will tell you offline what we did at our jobs; one of us was a star and one was a pathetic hack. Guess which.)

Lotus: Thank you. Very good point. The reporter actually asked me if we had difficulties or disasters to confess to, and I had to say, "no." It's so doable. Good for you.

Anna: Even if you can't participate chronologically -- heck, I didn't either -- you can give it a try sometime.

Erin: Well, we're spreading the word. And the sense of confidence. Thanks.

Barbara: {blush} Yikes! Expensive chicken.

Amy: I know where you're at on this topic. I appreciate your remark, and there's some truth to it. But I don't think the copyeditor starved. Ya gotta make plans. It's exactly like the ant and the grasshopper. Little House on the Prairie. Like that.

Tammy: It's just so... natural! And really, really tasty. I will happily hammer you with suggestions.

Hey, Biggles: Fame. Damn.

Liz said...

Woo! Great article CC! :)

Greg said...

finally got a chance to read the food section and there you are in all your glory. What a fun time.Your guys are moving??What up with that? The only cooking I'm doing lately is in the microwave.There is a black hole were my kitchen was. Local not. Take out and lunch meat yummy..not.

Passionate Eater said...

Cookie and Cranky, you two are gorgeous! What a great couple!

Also, I am now printing out a copy of the SF Chron article and framing it! They really found the right couple to teach their readers about the merits of eating local. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, and with all of SF! ;)

Pam said...

Good luck with the move. For the chicken lovers, tell them that if we all start demanding organic,free range, locally raised chickens, the price will come down!

Lannae said...

Wow! I think that your challenge, eat locally and cheap, is an awesome idea! I would like to try it, as there are a lot of farms in the surrounding counties of Nashville. I would have to spend a fortune on gas to get to the farms to buy direct. The problem is, Nashville is all about the box-stores, and importing cheap foods in cardboard boxes, or GM. I am jealous for the areas that can get locally grown and raised foods.

Dagny said...

Maybe at another time. I get paid monthly. As the result, I do the bulk of my shopping at the beginning of the month shortly after payday. In between, I pick up produce and other perishables on an as-needed basis. That means that right now I'm pretty broke. Because "extra" money? Well, that must have been part of the party budget.

Anita said...

OK, we just decided to join in. And we're starting our week tonight, 'cause we've got that same shindig on Thursday that everyone is going to, and then we leave for Seattle on Friday.

I know you make your own vinegar, but I noticed tonight while shopping that the "O" olive oil and vinegar company is San Rafael-based. You probably knew that... (

cookiecrumb said...

Dagny: It just takes a little planning and a bit of extra work if you don't ordinarily cook all your own meals. But if you're already out of sync, try it some other time.

Anita: Woo-hoo! It will be fun, if you like projects (and I know you do).
Yup, I know O olive oil is in San Rafael, but I don't know where the olives come from. It's just a tiny downtown office. McEvoy olive oil definitely comes from Marin.

Lannae said...

I am jumping for joy! Thank you for the pennywise link, and all the great info! Thanks for your blog story that is inspiring. Cookie Crumb, the exciting news is that I will be trying my own "eat locally" experiment when I get back from biz travel and when I have a full week at home. I went to the local Earthday in the park thing, and there were CSAs and local organic farmers who have banded together, and will start a booth in a local market on Saturdays 9a-1p and selling only locally grown organic veggies, and free-range locally grown meats and eggs. I hope they have milk and soy milk too. For cooking with alcohol, will Jack Daniels count, as that is made just south of Nashville? I do have plan, and buy once. I think I can do my own experiment too! Thanks so much CC!

cookiecrumb said...

Lannae: I am excited for you. Cranky and I have been talking about your "big box" store limitations in Nashville, and to think that you will take on this admittedly tricky challenge -- wowza. Whenever you decide to begin, plan ahead a little with a pen and paper. How much will your protein cost? Will you get enough carbohydrates? Are you planning on cheating somewhere in your diet? (That's OK.) You are allowed to eat salt no matter where it comes from; your body needs it. Stuff like that. Have fun.
Welcome to this wacky club.

Kate Petersen said...

Cookiecrumb -

I tinkered with your soup recipe and wrote about it tonight in What's For Dinner? over at that big orange place. I gave attribution, linked back to your blog, but did not link to the article because I was not sure if you would like to be identified.

I hope this is acceptable. If not, I will edit the diary and remove mention of you and your recipe.

cookiecrumb said...

Yo Kate: That's really nice! No need to remove it. And it's certainly fine if you tinkered with the recipe; I don't think the Chronicle printed it exactly the way I gave it to them in the first place, and they did some tinkering themselves. (It's so rewarding to think a recipe of mine was tested in a kitchen lab.)