by Sarah Beam
It is only Day Four of the 2008 Eat Local Challenge, and I've already tried three new recipes that will be added to heavy rotation at my house. Around here, eating locally during October (when the CSAs have ended their seasons and most everyone's personal gardens have gone to seed) entails much advance planning in that there aren't many available opportunities to actually purchase food grown locally. We have the Saturday farmer's markets in Athens and Watkinsville, and the Thursday pickups at Athens Locally Grown for the food that was ordered on Monday and Tuesday, but that's it. If I need eggs on Sunday, I'm out of luck. This is a sea change in a time of 24-hour supermarkets whose shelves are stocked with every imaginable foodstuff from around the world.
Maybe that's why they call this a challenge.
It is because of these purchasing limitations that I took some chances and picked up a few things we might not normally have bought. After all, I can't have us running out of food, now can I? And since a few of our usual fall-backs are currently off limits, most notably pasta, I'm finding myself willing to step out on a limb and get a little more creative with meal-planning. Frankly, this is right up my alley. I thrive on a good challenge.
My carnivorous husband generally tolerates more than supports my food purchasing proclivities so I had been more than a little concerned about how this local food pledge would affect him. One of my goals is to show my family why this is so important, not to teach them the virtues of self-denial. I want them to have as much fun as I am, to see this as an adventure, to be able to laugh at my missteps and foibles (and believe me, there have been more than a few), and to feel a sense of ownership and camaraderie when we do well.
Good thing my expectations aren't very high, hmm?
Amazingly, even when the odds have been stacked against us and time has been short and it would have been much easier to just open a box of pasta and toss it with one of the sauces I froze over the summer, my little family has thrown themselves behind me, transforming into my personal cheerleading squad, and cheerfully accepted one very late dinner and one less-than-satisfying dinner. And the tolerant carnivore who I had feared would roll his eyes at this whole undertaking? When the kids and I showed up at the Locally Grown pick-up point on Thursday, there he was, sitting on the steps in his work clothes, waiting to surprise us and to find out what the hubbub was all about.
I love my support squad. And I want so badly to make this worth their while.
So I have pulled down obscure cookbooks from high atop my shelves and I have picked up some ingredients we have very little (if any) experience with. The bread machine has earned a permanent home on my kitchen counter and I've scoured the internet looking for information on purchasing a pasta roller. I've learned how to make fried chevre, one of our long-time favorite restaurant items; I have finally mastered the art of making pizza crusts, thanks to my yard-sale bread machine; I have learned how to make sweet potato chips and succeeded in converting my husband from his former sweet potato spurning ways. Like I said, this is right up my alley. And I'm having more fun than is probably socially acceptable for a rural stay-at-home-mom just making dinner.
Sarah Beam cooks, eats and pretends to work just outside of Athens, GA. She chronicles her food neuroses at Recipes for a Postmodern Planet