I know that many of people approach eating locally with a mentality of deprivation. They discuss what they will give up while they endeavor to eat locally, usually for a set period of time, whether a week, a month or a day, They talk about having “exceptions” to their vow to eat locally, usually three, because as all Americans of a certain age, we know that three is a magic number. Yes it is, a magic number.
Exceptions of course, are non-local foods which the budding locavore cannot possibly do without. Most folks limit themselves to a handful of exceptions to their attempt to eat locally, and while that is fine, I just–well, I just think that this whole deprivation method of learning to eat locally is the wrong way to go about changing the way you shop, eat and look at food. I also think it is related to the rather Puritanical American view of food–we have this weird undercurrent in our culture that is anti-pleasure which extends to the pleasures of the table, which has led to us having a rather adversarial relationship with food that is less than healthy. Americans are all into dieting, especially if it involves strange combinations of foods or exclusions of entire food groups.
For all that Americans are known for wanting instant gratification all the time, a behavior which has led to super-sizing of meals (and of people), and richer and richer confections and desserts, we also seem to have the idea that if we deprive ourselves of something that gives pleasure, we are granted instant moral superiority.
But just because we -don’t- eat certain types of foods does not make us moral people.
And, frankly, I think that if we look at eating locally as a matter of -not- eating certain foods, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We are going about eating differently from a negative perspective, instead of a positive perspective. Instead of -adding- foods to our diets, we are taking foods away.
I just think that if we approach eating locally from the perspective of -adding- local foods to our diets instead of taking non-local foods away, then we are less likely to stick with eating local foods.
So, what is the point of this little post?
Well, the point is this–today for lunch I combined fresh local shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, green garlic and the chili garlic sauce I made last fall with some of my own frozen chicken broth and a package of ramen noodles, and it made a fast delicious, inexpensive meal for Kat and I to share.
And no, the ramen noodles didn’t come from Athens–they came from Korea. And yeah, that is a long way for a package of noodles to go before getting to my bowl.
And yeah, there are American brands of ramen, but they aren’t as tasty as the Korean sorts.
I guess I could have used a different kind of noodles, but every now and then, I would like a bowl of super-fast ramen for lunch. I suppose that as a chef, I should not admit to using such a blatant convenience food as a packet of ramen, but the fact is, I like the taste of it–or at least the more expensive Korean versions of it.
And I see no reason to deprive myself of it for ever and ever just because it is made in Korea.
I don’t feel guilty about it in the least.
And I don’t think that I should. When I buy more than 80 percent of my fresh fruits and vegetables in season from local farmers, when 100 percent of my fluid milk, butter, tofu meat and eggs come from local farms and food producers, and when at least 1/3 of my cheeses come from local dairies, and even 1/4 of my pasta is made locally, and I even freeze, can and otherwise preserve local foods for the winter, I don’t see how I should feel bad about eating a package of ramen from Korea now and again.
And I don’t think anyone else should feel bad about not eating completely locally, either.
The way I look at it is this way–I can help change more people’s eating habits for the better not by stressing facts like the “carbon footprint” of food, or how local foods support the local economy–which is valid and good and all. I can get more people to eat locally by talking about how great it tastes–and where to find it and by cooking and feeding local food to folks that tastes far superior than the stuff we get at the local grocery store.
It’s just a different way of looking at the issue of local food.
And hey, if some enterprising sort here in Athens decides to start making packets of local ramen, well, I’ll give the noodles a whirl and see what happens!
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