True to form I dived deeply, madly, raucously into eating local. I spent days devouring the book and then stayed up late nights watching vidcasts and surfing to discover whether Bob's Red Mill grain really is grown in Oregon? (It's not, I don't think, though I may not care.) I became passionately angry about what I shall henceforward call Big Corn. I decided never, ever to eat CAFO, aka feedlot-raised meat again.
Given my general predisposition toward making a challenging thing even more difficult, I happened upon the Urban Hennery's Dark Days Challenge. Start in October? Phooey! It's way harder to start in the last few days of December. And truly: I'm cooking, and eating, some outrageously delicious things.
So I start our eat local mission -- and it's not a challenge, it's a change, a new way of life -- in the middle of the winter. It is not a resolution, as I never intend to change back to the way things were. I will perhaps make occasional and terrible exceptions (my husband will continue to take the kids to the awful Chinese restaurant where his sister works, where I cannot even write about how un-sustainable are the ingredients), but I will not go back. I will forge forward and discover a new way of living, I will learn to preserve, I will embrace my inner gardener, I will go deeper and deeper into the truth of eating local and seasonal until it is all I know. But for now, some rules:
- All meats, no matter what, will be sustainably farmed; free-range, grass-fed, the works. Strawberry Mountain natural beef (site under construction -- the farm's in John Day, Oregon), I must say, is a revelation in eating.
- No corn-derived products (other than actual corn, for instance, corn meal). This necessarily means no packaged goodies. It also, unfortunately, means no Tillamook ice cream.
- All fresh produce will be sourced as locally as possible -- I'm not establishing a radius but, but I'm ending my dependence on California produce. If it's not in season or available from a greenhouse, we're not eating it. Frozen vegetables and fruits will be phased out, unless there's a local source. I will slowly transition to much more major dependence on my own garden.
- Eggs and dairy will be local and organic / free range / etc. We will get more chickens in the spring so that all of our eggs can be from our own yard; we will get a dairy goat next year and start making our own cheeses. Milk will be the most difficult transition, as I'll have to plan a lot better to get the good local stuff. If you know of a dairy that delivers, please let me know.
- Bread will be purchased from as "honest" a local bakery as possible (Grand Central, mostly); I will put off asking where the wheat for the flour is grown until I experiment with baking my own bread.
- I will also ignore for the moment that Bob's Red Mill sources many of its raw ingredients outside Oregon, until I'm able to find a good acceptably local source for flour. I will, however, consider strongly the purchase of this gorgeous hand grain mill. I will hope to find a good local source of dried beans, or else, be very sad.
- I will begin to limit juices to local offerings. This will be expensive. We may drink less juice.
- Maple syrup, sugar and chocolate will be exceptions. I'm not ready to switch to honey for everything yet, although we may not be able to afford maple syrup any more, if I can find a local honey that's inexpensive. I just can't do without chocolate, not yet, though I'll try to buy the most sustainable I can afford.
- No more packaged cereals and bars and cookies, even the organic ones. I'll bake breakfast foods, instead, except for rare visits to coffee shops where I'll purchase baked-in-Portland pastries. There may be an exception for the kids' cereal, but I'm going to try to convert them to homemade granola.
- Olive oil will be an exception, though I'll work to use butter, instead, and start purchasing olive oil from reputable family farms.
- I've heard about Oregon sea salt. I'll find it, but until then, will stick with the exception of salt, pepper and all dry spices. Herbs will be grown in my garden; basil will be made into pesto and frozen.
- Coffee will come from Stumptown, as I trust the organization to get the most sustainably-grown coffee and pay the best prices in the market; I'll work on getting sustainably-farmed (is tea farmed?) tea. I'll try and do more home-grown and locally-gathered herb teas.
- I may make an exception for canned tomatoes, until late summer. Also may make an exception for organic ketchup, until I work out the process on making it (there's a recipe in my Blue Ribbon Preserves book I'm dying to try).
- I will not let existing food in my kitchen go to waste, unless it's truly awful and packed with the fruitless fruits of Big Corn.
Am I surprised? Or unsurprised? That the first products of my new life order have been truly amazing. On New Year's Eve, I went shopping in the early afternoon, idly selecting good things for Jonathan and I: Piccolo Como bread, Strawberry Mountain New York strip (1.05 pounds, $16.80), organic russets and a giant leek from Groundwork Organics, Gene Thiel's heirloom carrots, a huge red onion, local European-style butter (only $3.19). I took them home and started inviting family and friends for an impromptu party. At home, I sliced potatoes thin and coated with rosemary from my garden, olive oil, kosher salt and roasted them in a hot oven. I got out farmer's market shallots and sauteed them in the local butter until they were caramelized. I took out the end of my precious goat cheese from Monteillet Fromagerie; I heated my skillet to searing. I salted and peppered the steak then cooked it, without oil, in my hot hot cast iron pan, 15 minutes on one side, 8 minutes on the other, until it was rare and wonderful. I let it set while I finished preparing the rest of the sandwich toppings, then sliced it as thin as I could. New York strip sandwiches with caramelized onions and goat cheese with rosemary roasted potatoes, as local and as good as it gets.