Hello, August: Time for the Eat Local Challenge

Hail and welcome, all of you regular (and irregular) readers of Tigers & Strawberries! It is the first day of August, and that means it is time for me to set out my parameters for my own personal August Eat Local Challenge. (Honestly, it is the 2nd of August, and I am recreating the post I wrote and posted yesterday that for some reason disappeared when I posted this morning about the salsa. I think Blogger farted or something, so here I am rewriting what I had already written. Yeesh.)

So, here are my ground rules, with commentary on what I am and am not likely to do while participating in this challenge, put on by the Locavores with much blogger-wrangling, cat-herding and organizations and promotion by the very passionate and committed Jen at Life Begins at 30.

Rule Number 1: I will try to have my household consume as many calories from local sources as possible by obtaining as much vegetables, fruits, meats, grain, eggs, fish and dairy products from local (Ohio) producers as possible. I will give preference to locally grown organic produce when I can, but if it is between locally grown conventional vegetables and organic, shipped in from who knows where vegetables, I will choose local every time. (And this is standard operating procedure in my shopping habits anyway.) I will also try and use as many Ohio-produced processed foods such as pastas, tortilla chips and bottled sauces as possible, but only if I would use the product in the first place. I won’t start using jarred spaghetti sauces produced in Athens, for example, when I make even better sauces from scratch.

Rule Number 2: When it comes to sweeteners, I will use local honey and maple syrup where applicable, but I will not mess up my baking by randomly substituting liquid sweeteners for granulated raw sugars. This is something I am fussy with. Since I have worked so hard learning how to bake beautiful pies this summer, I am not going to give up on that endeavor or bugger it up by trying to substitute liquid sweeteners for granulated in my pastry crusts. Sugar cane was never native to Ohio, it is never going to be grown here, it has always been imported and so I will use it, though I will try to give precedence to local sweeteners when possible.

Rule Number 3: I am not giving up on coffee, tea, granulated cane sugar, rice, tofu, soy sauce, fish sauce, coconut milk, citrus fruits, vanilla, or chocolate. This sounds like I am not giving anything up, and that is because I am not. This is not Lent. This is not about removing foods from the diet, this is about adding foods and changing your shopping habits. This is about preferring items grown in Ohio to the same items that are grown elsewhere and shipped into Ohio. Coffee, tea, cane sugar, rice, tofu, soy sauce, fish sauce, coconut milk, citrus fruits, vanilla and chocolate have never been, nor ever will be grown or produced in Ohio, therefore, they do not count in this exercise.
Let me explain. Since I try to eat locally as much as possible anyway, I have a pretty-well developed philosophy on the matter, which can be summed up fairly simply:

What is grown, produced or created in Ohio, I will eat in preference to the same items shipped in from elsewhere. I do this for several reasons. One: the products grown locally are almost always fresher and better tasting. Two: local products are often cheaper. Three: eating locally supporst local farmers, with whom I hold familial, political and social solidarity. Four: eating local produce is better for the local economy and environment.

The other products, those which have never been and will never be grown or produced in Ohio, I will continue to eat, but I will buy as wisely as possible, by choosing organically grown, free-trade products that have been grown or produced with the welfare of the environment and farmers in mind. In other words, the vanilla beans I bought on ebay the other day are organically grown. The coffee we buy is fair-trade, shade grown organic from Mexico. The tofu I buy is made in California, from organically grown soybeans that may well have been grown in Ohio–soy is our second largest cash crop after corn.

While I am discussing philosophy, let me point out that humans have been trading food items for as long as humans have been able to travel farther than they can walk in a day. Food commodities have always been big items in commerce; a good look at any ancient Chinese, Roman or Greek cookery text will illustrate this. Trade has always influenced and changed the diets of local human communities, often for the better.

With the discovery of the New World, these changes became global and irreversable as foods flowed back and forth across the oceans while cuisines evolved and adapted to the new foodstuffs. Tomatoes and cornmeal came to Italy, changing the cuisine forever; it is hard to imagine Italian food without marinara sauce or polenta. Chiles came to China and India, displacing the peppercorn as the sole source of heat in their fiery cuisines. Beef and dairy products came to Mexico, along with the pomegranate and various citrus fruits; can we imagine northern Mexican foods without crema, cheese or lime juice? Without pomegrantes, there would be no chiles en nogada, a classic dish of stuffed jalapenos sauced with walnuts and garnished with pomegranate seeds. Where would Switzerland, Holland or Belgium be without chocolate?

While I am a strong proponent of eating locally grown produce, I am also an unashamed globalist. I have studied Asian cuisines and make part of my living teaching the cookery of Thailand, China and India–how could I not have a global culinary worldview? The sharing of culture, in my opinion, is best accomplished through the sharing of food, so, even as I cook and eat locally, I am still cooking and eating globally.

So, there we have it: my own rules and regulations for the Eat Local Challenge.

May the local, global eating begin.

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