Thursday, October 09, 2008

Eat Local Challenge: Progress Report


One of my favorite cooking tips is pictured above. I can't remember where I read it originally (I think it was Cook's Illustrated), but it has proven invaluable. To strip the kernels from a cob of corn without spraying the entire kitchen with errant kernels, stand the cob up in the center part of a bundt pan and then, using a small sharp knife, cut the kernels from the cob in long strips. The pan catches the kernels, the cob doesn't slip and wobble all over, and your young children will be entranced.

That tip is neither here nor there at the moment, as fresh corn has disappeared from my farmer's market, but my camera was apparently left at The Carnivore's shop in town, and I find myself separated from the stash of photos I had recently snapped. Pictures of my children on hay bales surrounded by pumpkins along with shots of my sweet potato chips and fried chevre, you know, food photography that would fit perfectly with this post.

Truly, if I sound a wee bit frustrated, 'tis because I am nine days into this month-long Eat Local Challenge and I'm finding it to be a bit more, um, challenging than I had hoped it would be. For the past couple of days, instead of focusing on the positives, like new recipes and intriguing new ingredients, I have rather been keeping a list of my complaints. For instance, in The Things I Miss Most List: homemade granola for breakfast, trail mix stashed in my bag for emergency on-the-go snacks, whole-wheat fettucine noodles, and tortilla chips.

If you noticed that Edy's Strawberry Fruit Bars were conspicuously absent from the above list, well, I'm sure it isn't at all because I completely broke down this week and bought a box (okay, four boxes) from the supermarket.

Wouldn't you rather think I was perfect and that I would be able to report that eating 100% locally was not only possible, but easy as well? Maybe full disclosure is not the best policy, after all. I'll never know. I am honest to a fault when it comes to my own shortcomings.

Don't get me wrong. It isn't all doom and gloom around here, and we certainly won't be starving to death anytime soon. I mean, sure, I do suppose this would have been easier in, say, July or August when everything was still going strong around here; when berries were in season and corn was aplently. When, let's be honest, it was too hot to eat anyway. But truth be told, I am heartened to have discovered local grits and local, grass-fed beef (for the husband's sake, at least), and I will never go back to commercial breads again. Fresh eggs are a godsend, and the local cheeses that I have procured have been life-changing in their purity of flavor.

I have had to add a few items to our list of exemptions though. While local feta and chevre will remain mainstays in our diet now, commercial hard cheeses cannot be replaced at a cost which we can comfortably afford on a long-term basis. I went out of my way last week to The Healthy Gourmet, a locally-owned gourmet boutique, and picked up two cheeses from Georgia's own Sweet Grass Dairy. They were serendipitous, those cheeses, easily two of the finest I've ever had the pleasure of tasting, and I will doubtlessly purchase them again, but they aren't exactly the kind of cheese I can throw in my husband's sandwiches without breaking out in a cold sweat and recalculating our monthly budget. And of course they would be wasted in a sandwich that sits in his truck all morning until he scarfs it down while driving between job sites. So I admitted a small bit of defeat earlier this week and quietly picked up couple blocks of organic white cheddar cheese from the supermarket.

I am also fairly sure I will be going to the store tomorrow to pick up a couple bags of organic yellow corn tortilla chips, if for no other reason than I think it sacrilege to not be able to make nachos on Sunday afternoons. What can I say? It is kind of a ritual around here, and you wouldn't believe the sadness on a four-year-old's face when he's told he has to go without his favorite snack while his mother performs her own version of a walkabout.

These new exceptions notwithstanding, I am most assuredly not giving up on my month of eating locally. We will press on, and I will continue to search out fun recipes for the produce that is currently in season. If you need me on Saturday mornings, I will be at the farmer's market; on Thursday afternoons, I can be found at the Locally Grown pick-up site. My new, revised goal is to pony up at least 75% of our food expenditures this month at those two places and I think we're on track.

Right now though, I have every intention of making out with a strawberry Edy's bar (or two) while I page through my cookbooks in search of just the right recipe for some acorn squash I picked up today. If anyone has any suggestions for their use, please let me know.

13 comments:

Mama JJ said...

If you lived any closer, I could lean out my window and toss you a chunk of the wheel of stirred-curd cheddar that I just cut into the other day....

Is there a tortilleria in your neck of the woods? Buy a stack, slice them into nice little triangles, and then fry and salt them. Mmm. (They can be baked, too, but first spritz them with water so the salt has something to stick to, and then bake them in the oven.)

-JJ

haleysuzanne said...

I just saw this delicious recipe for acorn squash recently: http://www.thehungrymouse.com/home/?p=656. Yummy.

Sarah Beam said...

JJ - I would love to live closer to you. And not just for the cheese either. I imagine we'd make for really good neighbors. As for the tortilla chips, I imagine the only way to have them be as locally as possible is if I (argh) make the tortillas myself first. I love making the chips, but always purchase the pre-made tortillas as the store.

Haley - thanks for the recipe link. I'm going there right now...

Becky said...

I made Red Mule grits and some greens from my mom (kale?) and it was so yummy together that I ate it all. 4 meals worth. Had to duke it out with the 4 year old for the last of the grits, tho.

Becky said...

Also, I just saw that they have rennet at Earthfare, and Farmer Cheese is pretty easy to make if you can get local milk.

Sarah Beam said...

Becky, those grits are so good we've eaten them every day for two weeks now. And I'm sick to death of fighting 4-year-olds for the last of the grits. Vicious young'uns. Thanks for the tip on the rennet. I've never made cheese, but I'm sorely tempted now (especially since I miss mozzarella so much and I understand it isnt' that difficult to do).

Mama JJ said...

Sarah,

Come visit me! My Aunt is coming to see me this week and we're going to make cheeses together. Just throw the kids in the car and COME!

-JJ

Mo said...

Been checking out your blog for a little while now. Married to a Georgia boy I am envious of your ingredients and want to try out the recipies. Living in Scotland it ain't always possible! You know I may take on this local challenge for a month. How local is local?

Sarah Beam said...

JJ - you have no idea how tempting that is.

Mo, local is as local as you want it to be. Many people choose to stay within 100 miles because of the popularity of that particular movement (The 100 Mile Diet). Some go for statewide, and some go for regions. I chose Georgia, Florida and South Carolina as my tri-state local area. I would have stayed within GA, but I wanted rice from SC and sugar and citrus from FL. And, of course, everyone picks some exemptions (olive oil, spices, coffee, etc). The idea is really to open your eyes to what is locally available and to more appreciate that which you must source from afar. It is as rewarding as it is challenging.

alexandra's kitchen said...

that is such a cool tip! it sounds like something that would be in Cooks Illustrated. And the butternut squash pizza looks heavenly!

Sarah Beam said...

Alexandra, I just picked up two more butternuts at the market this morning so I could make those pizzas again. I can't stop thinking about them.

Mama JJ said...

Sarah, honey, are you still alive? Have you shriveled up and perished due to malnutrition due to only eating locally for one measily month? Are you breathing? Can you type (tap-tap-tap) while you're weakly reclining on the sofa? Or are you doubled over with the pangs of starvation? Should I mail you a pumpkin? A wheel of cheese? Some sourdough bread? Or rather, some starter in a jar? (You know, they say it is better to teach a woman to bake, rather then give her a loaf of bread... or something to that effect.)

Just checking in... 'cause I miss you!

-JJ

Sarah Beam said...

JJ, you crack me up. I'm not malnourished, just bogged down with unfulfilling busyness. And, okay, a little weak from lack of chocolate.