by Val Webb
My significant other, The Perfect Man, designs and builds homes. His houses are not large, but he uses light and form to create a comfortable sense of spaciousness. A cupboard tucked here, a window seat there, a cozy set of bookshelves -- and the result is a house that quietly comforts and nourishes the people who live within its walls. When it comes to square footage, substance beats size every time.
That's how I feel about my kitchen pantry today. My groceries are all about substance: no frozen veggie burgers, no boxed snack crackers, just a few fresh local ingredients. At the close of the second day of the 2008 Eat Local Challenge, there isn't much in there. But there's enough.
Breakfast was three locally grown satsuma oranges and a cup of coffee. The satsuma, familiar to most people in the form of canned mandarin oranges, is cold-hardy enough to grow here along the Gulf Coast. Late in the nineteenth century, sprawling groves of the sweet little citrus covered hundreds of acres just to our east, in Baldwin County -- until brutal freezes in 1894 and 1895 brought a quick and icy end to large-scale Alabama orange cultivation. Since then, they have become a favorite of backyard grovesmen (The Perfect Man has several young trees) and small farmers. Tiny, leather-skinned and sweet as honey, they are scrumptious replacements for my usual morning glass of commercial orange juice.
I made the short trip to a family farm market across the bay in Daphne, scoring a few more provisions for the pantry shelf: Mississippi sweet potatoes; coarse grits and corn meal from a Louisiana town 20 miles inside my 200-mile limit; local peanuts still in their big, knobby shells. And wonder of wonders, on a rack near the cash register was one lone remaining loaf of walnut wheat bread just waiting for me to invite it home for lunch. (It was made by Jane Holland Smith, The Bread Lady, who works her bakery magic in a special kitchen she built next to her house. She's always my first stop during our downtown farmers market season.)
Alas, the locally grown zucchini I bought never made it to the pantry at all. Atticus assumed that the green oblong was a strange new chew toy. Judging from the expression on his face, it was very tasty.
Val Webb is an illustrator and clay artist living in Alabama. Val's writing can be found on her blog, The Illustrated Garden.