Monday, August 24, 2009

Local Food Status Report

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle last winter, I was motivated to set a New Years' resolution to try and eat more local, seasonal, and organic foods. We've taken the approach of making small changes one at a time - no massive, sweeping changes or moratoriums on certain foods. We want this to be a slow, manageable change that sticks, not a single year experiment that we can't wait to bail out of come December. Sooooo... how are we doing?

What's working:
Buying in Season. We didn't totally write off avocado, but we ate lots more root veggies in the winter and waited for the summer farmers markets to purchase any peaches or tree fruit. Instead, I bought canned fruit this winter. Side bonuses: new recipes to try, most canned pears/peaches come from Washington, my picky toddler LOVES canned peaches.

Local, free-range eggs! I have an past co-worker that started a little farm 20 minutes outside Bend a few years ago. I used to haphazardly buy eggs from Jim at the office, but we made our subscription official in the spring and started getting a dozen dropped at our door every other week. Side bonuses: beautiful colored eggs (not a white one in the bunch), healthier eggs (tests show free range eggs have lower bad cholesterol and higher good stuff), and a great little farm for our play group to visit this summer!

Produce Box. We signed up for a CSA share through Big Star Farm (same as the eggs). In the spirit of little steps, we're splitting the share (every other week) with a friend. It's much more manageable to tackle a bag full of unusual produce (Kohlrabi anyone?) for a week and then get to return to our old favorite recipes the next. We started the spring will bags full of spinach and right now I have a fridge full of purple carrots and snow peas and more squash than anyone should probably consume. At least it inspires creativity - zuccini muffins, chocolate zuccini cake, yellow squash pasta salad...

Container Garden. I posted previously about our container garden. Three little pots of tomatoes and herbs are keeping me happy, money in our pocket, and all the caprese salad on my plate I want. Is there anything better than tomatoes and basil? Okay, maybe chocolate.

Farmer's Market. We have one just a 5 minute drive from our house, so Owen and I hit that on Friday afternoons when we need to stock up on fruits. It certainly feels like summer to sit on the front porch eating blueberries...

What's not working:
Setting some sort of mileage limit for our food. It was never our goal to "only eat food grown within a 100 mile radius" like the locovore (isn't that a great word?) movement promotes. Oregon may have a wonderful bounty, but the high dessert on this side of the mountains would leave us eating sagebrush all winter! I'm reading labels to try and eat more Oregon-Washington-California if possible, but we're not giving up our local brands anytime soon.

Picky Toddler. Our local food emphasis certainly takes a back seat to "whatever the kid will eat today." I finally found an Annie's Organic Mac n' Cheese flavor that he likes, but we're still buying Kraft Easy Mac, Pirate's Booty, and Cheese-its in the bulk box. (Okay, okay, we'd be buying bulk cheese-its regardless of Owen's eating habits, and I ate my fair share of Easy Mac last spring as well.)

Hit and Miss Cookbooks. I bought Deborah Madison's "Local Flavors" but haven't been overly impressed. I like that the book is supposed to be organized by seasons, but they don't seem to be in any logical order. We also tend to eat one pot meals, and her book has more salads and sides. At least we're getting to test lots of recipes (thank you world wide web!) and adding to our repertoire for the future.

Side effects:
Backlash. As the summer moves on and our produce box keeps filling our fridge and counter with beautiful produce, I'm finding that I am craving junky, processed food. Granted, the cravings could be pregnancy related, but we had a pretty funny meal last week of tomato-cucumber-basil salad served alongside chicken nuggets and tater tots.

Wonderful Meals. I was so excited by a recent meal that consisted of grilled chicken in herb marinade, lemony potato salad, and caprese salad. Every bit of herb and produce (minus a lemon) came from our CSA or the pots on our porch. Last Sunday's meal was garlic-lime flank steak (okay...Costco), grilled turnips and potatoes, and Mediterranean tomato salad. The picture doesn't do it justice, so you'll have to trust me that it was yummy.

Protein Shift. We've been fairly intentional about eating at least one meatless, egg-based dinner on the weeks we get our eggs. I also recently discovered that we're not powering through the bag of Costco chicken like we used to. I can't tell if it's a side-effect of summer and having tons of veggies that must be consumed, but time will tell.

What's next:
Local Meats?? This is a big wild card for us. I'd like to make the shift from frozen Costco chicken to an organic source, but I don't know if I can give up the convenience (and the price). Maybe that will be our next small step... right after I swing by Arby's for some deep fried chicken bites.


Stephanie said...

Okay, your last comment made me laugh out loud. Love it! Congrats on your hard work - big changes to be sure.

Spencer Chan said...

Hey Alissa-

If you like the seasonal menu type format for cookbooks, check out "Platter of Figs" by David Tanis... ( Beth and I took a cooking class that made recipes from the book -- there are some great dishes in there. One of our favorites is the green cilantro sauce that's paired with seared scallops. Awesome!

Colleen said...

What a successful effort! Even with the few drawbacks you mention, you are doing an awesome job. And the food sounds so delicious! That final comment about the chicken was so funny, but so true. I keep thinking, I want to go organic on our chicken, but it really ups the budget! The veggies just don't feel like they are breaking the bank in the same way.

Peg said...

I've been loving the share of a CSA box with my neighbors as well. We have the benefit of being able to say "no thanks" on certain things - for me beets and kolrabi! And when I have enough lettuce in the garden I ask for something else - all online. You guys are doin' great - esp there in the high desert. You should get some garden lessons from my sis-in-law there in Bend - she's done veggies there for 30 years! Here's to seasonal eating!

Tracey Yarborough said...

Ya'll eat way too healthy up there!! We do have Farmer's Market on Saturdays, and we do have a Whole Foods, but organic hasn't hit our taste buds yet - you know, in the South, we like everything NOT good for you!! Keep up the good work - it is wonderful, what ya'll are doing, and eating!!! See you soon!!!

SBM said...

You guys are doing awesome! I'm impressed. The most challenging is definitely the local part. In our CSA box in Denmark we get lots of wonderful goodies but at certain times more than half comes from other parts of Europe. You steak dinner looks wonderful!