Eating local food

This is a piece I initially wrote in early July for my own blog, inspired by an Eat Local! Challenge.

I love the idea of local food (and growing my own) -- the benefits are clear in dinner tonight, a lovely squash medley with garlic, a fresh tomato, basil, garlic and onion sauce (all homegrown) for some homemade semolina pasta, and some baked chicken.

Our regional Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (North and South Carolina, USA) has issued an eating local challenge for the week of July 7-13 -- for folks to try to eat locally as much as possible (more challenging here in the Southeast than in some parts of the U.S.)

The chicken was probably from somewhere regional (there are lots of chicken farms in the Carolinas), but it wasn't organic or free-range, the eggs in the pasta were from regional free-range chickens, but the wheat flour was from a midwestern source (King Arthur flour). The tarragon and thyme that flavored the chicken was homegrown. But the black pepper came from the other side of the world, and the coffee I had this morning came from South or Central America or Africa. And the 'big organic' milk I had in my coffee was certainly a mixture of milk from a variety of sources, and probably not regional at all. And the parmesan cheese we sprinkled on our pasta was American-made, but certainly not local, and the Braeburn apple that I ate after lunch was from Washington State, and the raisins and nuts in the homemade whole-grain bread in my sandwich was certainly from California, but the tomato was homegrown, but the lettuce came from California, too. The fresh mozzarella was produced by a New Jersey-based company.

For lunch, my gardening companion had leftover organic brown rice (probably grown in the Central Valley of California), with leftover corn (grown somewhere in the Southeast), with pesto made from roasted cherry peppers (origin unknown), homegrown garlic, balsamic vinegar from Italy, pecans from the local coop (presumably from the Southeastern U.S.), cilantro from somewhere in the U.S., and grated parmesan (maybe from Wisconsin?), and a bit of the fresh mozzarella. Hmmm. It's illuminating to be mindful of where our food comes from! I remember seeing some years ago in a Central Market in Austin, Texas garlic labeled as from Argentina, and finding it a revelation. We import garlic from Argentina? Who knew? Of course, now we're much more aware of how much food is imported from all sorts of places (I saw Chinese garlic in a local produce market).

I can't help but think that we've had world trade in food and spices for centuries, if not millenia for good reason. But eating more locally is always a good thing, and there's no reason to have out-of season grapes flown in from South America considered as a 'staple'. Or to mindlessly buy whatever is available, just because it's there.