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Chris Amirault

How Local Are You Really?

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I was thinking about this over the past week - spent mostly on two fairly remote islands in the Ogasawara group, Chichi-jima and Haha-jima. A group of us were supposed to be looking at readiness for travelers, especially foreign travelers. We were warned that the remote location (cargo/passenger ferry only) meant a limited range of available foods, and restaurant and hotel fare could be "samey".

Three things occurred to me:

There's no way a small island can feed all its visitors, or even residents, even if they used more of the native plant-foods than they do (e.g. the residents came from the urban mainland and have not yet figured out remote rural eating in a different climate!).

I'm not sure how do-able locavorism is, considering that people move around so much these days - how many people are living and eating in the same location that they grew up in...and how many live where their ancestors lived? Food has always moved with people - and our movements damage the environment just as much as any travelin' cabbage does.

So...how do you eat when you go to a resort location? Local food only? A mix? Ham and eggs three times a day?

As an ex-tour guide and travel planner, I've noticed that people tend to be much more conservative about breakfast foods than snacks, lunch, or dinner. Do you agree, or are you happy to eat local breakfast foods even on the morning after the night before?

What about fish? I've noticed that those who rarely eat fish are usually strongly aware of fish on their menus - if you holiday on an island, do you adjust your tastes, or is fish a non-negotiable issue? We ate it three times a day, which is fine for people like me who grew up a few steps away from the sea, but I wondered how it seemed to inlanders?

I'm curious to know whether people feel more rigorous about the locavore issue when on holiday ("get the full local experience, even if the locals have to eat spam because we ate all the fish and it's too stormy to go fishing"); or less rigorous ("I'm on holiday, darn it, and anyway the locals make more money selling me imported or specially grown tomatoes than gathering sweet potato shoots")?

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When I was on vacation in the Phillipines, I was a great locavore. Everything we ate was grown locally, except the crocodile (it came from a different island, but it was raised in the Phillipines).

Usually when I'm on holiday, I go for whatever looks good, and if that happens to be local, so much the better. But to be honest, I can't say I thought about it very much at all until recently. I'll definitely be looking/asking about the sourcing of ingredients on my next vacation.


"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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I may not be that much of a locavore technically, but I always shop for my meat at my local butchers and groceries from my local fruit and veg shop. I support my local independent business and even though they both have to import some of their products, they both still sell local produce from the area, which is what I tend to buy.

I leave near the sea and although there is no fishing to be done direct off the beach. There is an old man who has retained the only license to keep a small rowing boat there since the 1950's. Every morning he rows out at 5.30am and pulls his nets in and catches wild sea bass on the line. He supplies some restaurants I think but I pop down to see him some mornings at around 8am. I get anything from fresh Dover sole to wild sea bass and never pay more than a few quid for it. This way its as local as you can possibly get, I'm supporting another local business AND saving money. I do think supporting good, local, independant business' is more important. If they are worth going to, they will gladly buy in whatever it is you are after anyway.


@lostinthelarder

Lost in the Larder - the life and times of an inquisitive appetite

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Some interesting 2010 predictions from Natural Foods Merchandiser and Mintel, a market research firm:

Local gets stretched: In today's society, for many shoppers buying only local goods is a pipe dream. However, people still want products with recognizable origins and those that haven't been shipped too far. Mintel reports that 43 percent of U.S. consumers claim they buy local when possible. In 2010, the definition of "local" will expand, becoming more practical for major companies to use and for mainstream shoppers to purchase.

Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I wonder what the words "when possible" mean to the 43% who said they would buy locally. I seem to recall surveys that said a substantial number of U.S. consumers would prefer to purchase clothing made in the country yet when those U.S. products turned out to be more costly than those which were foreign-made, the expressed preference turned out to be subordinated to the preference for more money in the consumers' pockets.

I suspect Purdue is going to continue to outsell the small, local chicken producers even in the farmers' backyards, both because of price considerations and because of the convenience of grabbing the chicken out of the cooler 50 feet from where the fabric softener and canned peanuts can be found.

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Excellent question. It was financially possible, sure, for me to buy that pork for $8/lb, but only in the strictest logical sense of the term. Pragmatically, it was impossible: I had more I needed to buy with that $20 than a 2+ lb piece of pork shoulder.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Interesting note about "local" in Sam Sifton's NYT review of SD26:

A starter plate of cured meats, for instance, brought credible mortadella, prosciutto, salamini, a few marinated mushrooms. Where were they from? The waiter looked confused at the question. “Italy,” he said. “This is all from Italy, imported here by Mr. May.” Which is terrific. But it is a hard truth that in Manhattan in 2009 excellent meats from “Italy” are not what people want. Weird but true: They want salumi out of a basement in Greenpoint, made by some kid with tattoos who dropped out of Wesleyan. Local is the new authentic.

Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Oddly enough, I'm planning on trekking to a local meat producer this Saturday, just outside Atlanta -- Patak Meat Products. I have no idea where the meat is sourced from and/or how it is raised (I plan to ask) but at least I know it is cured/smoked/stuffed/butchered here.

They are only open one Saturday a month, which makes things difficult.

This gets to my main point -- I think I need a dedicated freezer. When it comes to locally-produced meat, I'm going to have to go out of my way to find it. If so, I need a freezer to make it worth my while. I never freeze beef or seafood, but I do freeze other meats (poultry, sausage, pork). If I'm able to procure a large amount of meat (therefore, decreasing my effort) at a decent price, eating locally will be much easier.

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Meat & fish, all local--if buying salmon that travels pretty far when alive but is caught by fishermen out of a local port (Newport, OR) is buying local. I can also buy local shrimp & crab.

The majority of my other "meat" (chicken) comes from a local farmer. I use sausage or bacon sometimes in soup, neither is local.

Produce-in the summer, all of it except for citrus is local, from farmers' markets or gifts from friends or overflow from acquaintances. I got I don't know how many pounds of Bartlett pears from a staff person at an office share I moved into this summer--she had a surplus. Made pear chutney & pear sauce, a few jars are pear & apple sauce as a friend gave me some apples from one of her trees. Except for citrus, most of the fruit I eat all winter is still local, as I freeze or dry some of what I buy/grow or pick (at a friend's place) during the summer & early fall.

Vegetables--probably about 50% or so local during the offseason/winter, I grew enough potatoes to store, about 5 lbs of Romano beans (ate & froze the surplus) and some winter squash. Froze enough corn bought at the farmers' market to last until it's corn season again. Herbs like parsley, sage, thyme, sorrel, etc., usually overwinter in the garden. I have some lettuce, kale & broccoli growing in containers outside. Some nuts, local (hazelnuts, walnuts). All mushrooms are local, either picked locally or grown locally. Canned tomatoes, probably not local (Muir Glen), & I think most of what my local co-op carries during the winter is from CA.

Spices for Indian or Asian meals, 0% local.

Grains, 0% local as far as I know, unless the millet is (some millet is grown in eastern OR). I make my own bread & bagels, so the processing is local. Sometimes my eggs are local.

About 80-90% of my cheese is local, goat cheese from within 20 miles, cheddar/monterey jack, etc., within about 70 (Tillamook cheese--Tillamook also produces butter & ice cream, both of which I buy sometimes). Most of my dairy, except for milk, is local, as Nancy's (yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, sour cream) is in Eugene, OR, & buys local milk as far as I know. Sometimes I can afford to buy the blue cheese (very good but expensive) made in southern OR (which would be sort of local, w/in 150 miles or so).

Dried beans/legumes, probably 0% local.

Wines, not local unless someone brings a bottle of wine from OR/WA, otherwise I buy reds from Argentina or Chile because they're good & they're inexpensive. I guess I could buy all "local" (or made in OR) gin, but I haven't yet. If I drank beer, I could probably buy all local beers. Tea, not local, I don't drink coffee, what I keep around for friends may be roasted locally, but is otherwise definitely not local. Ditto for chocolate, cocoa powder, sugar.

Water, 98% local except when I'm traveling), as I drink filtered municipal tap water drawn from a local river.

So I'm only partially local. I feel lucky I can eat as many locally produced foods as I do & perhaps in a few years I'll be living further inland & can grow more of my own produce. For 4-5 months/year, western OR seems to almost overflow with great produce--5 or 6 varieties of berries, 5 varieties/types or more of melons, many apple varieties, hazelnuts, walnuts, chesnuts, sweet & sour cherries, plums, peaches, pears, nectarines, sweet peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, lettuces & other greens . . ..

There was an article in an OR newspaper (Oregonian) that talked about growing olives in OR--that I've got to see.

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The local independent grocer has started to label produce based on country of origin or if it is local. With this setup, I am able to buy more local produce. In an unusual twist, this has resulted in me buying organic garlic and ginger from US and Peru respectfully rather than conventional garlic and ginger from China. I know this may open a can of worms, but given the food safety issues of Chinese products (this can be a separate topic, if you want), I would rather spend twice the price for the organic stuff.

Other than this, yes, I am currently in withdrawal now that the farmers markets and local orchards are closed for the season. I still have about 10 lbs of apples in the fridge, but after that... gulp!

Dan


Edited by DanM (log)

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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Where are you located, Dan?

New Haven, CT


"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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Being a locavore is close to impossible when you live on an island in the Caribbean. And my particular island doesn't grow much compared to some. We have a lime tree and a passion fruit vine at home but our hill is very windy and salty so it's not a terribly garden friendly spot.

I do get local vegetables like tomatoes, cabbage, bok choy, beautiful peppers and ground provisions (starchy tubers). And of course tropical fruits, though a rather high percentage of that is shipped in also. Also, there's locally caught fish available at a market run by the government fishery. And we have eggs that come from chickens tended by the prisoners at the jail (so probably not so free-range). But those eggs aren't as good as the organic free-range ones that are shipped in.

There's local goat and local beef, but the beef isn't very good. It took me a long time to warm up to local chicken because you never see a garbage tip here without its resident chickens. But they are farmed now and I buy them sometimes. They have good flavor but can be really tough so it's kind of a toss up.

A funny thing here in the BVI is that until fairly recently almost everything grown by the local farmers and caught by the fishermen went straight to the restaurants and never hit the consumer markets. That's changing slowly and I'm very vocal at the market about my love for the local stuff and I always buy it when I see it, even if it's more expensive.

The government is trying to help the local farmers but they seem to be going about it the wrong way. They set up a space where local farmers could grow produce but didn't provide for water. So it's all overgrown and unused now. Their idea lately is to build a bunch of greenhouses. But the local farmers don't want them and they'll likely blow down in the next hurricane. I've spoken with a few of the farmers and what they want is reasonably priced water delivered to their farms. Water can get pretty expensive here. But, as usual, government doesn't seem to be listening.

I'd say maybe 5% of what I buy is local. The rest is imported. Tropical fruits are great but my diet would be very limited if I stuck to what was locally produced. You can only eat so many mangoes (which are only in season a few months anyway).

I'd love to be more of a locavore but I'm not yet willing to trade in my ocean view. And most of my rum is produced fairly near us. Some on island and some from down island. The rum is good.


Abigail Blake

Sugar Apple: Posts from the Caribbean

http://www.abigailblake.com/sugarapple

"Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone." Big Night

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I am fortunate to live in an area where one can be somewhat of a locavore all year - the Pacific Northwest. And I have a great local grocery (PCC) just down the street that identifies where produce comes from. I do my best to source fruits (easy - apples and pears from Eastern Washington, bananas? well, that is a different story, as are lemons....) and vegetables from local farmers. Gets tough as the winter progresses. I need to tap into veggies from California from time to time. I try very hard not to purchase fragile vegetables and fruits from the Southern Hemisphere - just can't stomach (pardon the pun) the fossil fuels for shipping and the lack of quality - said produce is bred for durability, not flavor!

I am also fortunate to have a chest freezer and access to grass-fed beef, pork, and poultry all within WA state, some just a couple of miles away from my home. Eggs come from my own chickens most of the year, and herbs from my garden. Milk is usually local. As is seafood.

Grains and pasta - not local - but I'm less concerned about shipping these durable foods that have a long shelf life.

I make wine from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes from Oregon, but have been known to enjoy bottles from overseas. Same with cheese. There are some food items for which quality justifies the travel miles!

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My food sourcing just got a lot more local with two new discoveries: my local coffee shop is roasting coffee from Yunnan province FRESH WEEKLY! I love living in coffee-producing countries. I also finally found the live animal market, which means I can have my chickens killed to order. Having to look the chicken in the eye first means I hope to be using my meat more carefully.

In the meantime, I'm avoiding milk products and other processed foods domestically produced for safety reasons. I can't avoid getting my dairy from Australia, I'm afraid.

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Had a pretty local shop at the farmers market Saturday, where I was on the lookout for a grassfed eye of round from a local farm (Aquidneck Farms came through) to cure for bresaola, and I was prepared to (and did) pay premium for it ($8/lb). I also needed coffee so grabbed a pound from New Harvest and used a gift certificate to grab three different VT cheeses from Matt Jennings at Farmstead.

But I also found that the price of eggs had dropped at a few stands, which saved me a trip out to Stamp Farms for eggs (about 15 min drive), and with a bit more intelligent shopping I grabbed a few other things (carrots, turnips, garlic) that probably cost about 10-20% more than Shaws but were of superior quality.

It was about the most well-rounded locavore haul in a while, but there's no way I could sustain this sort of pattern, both bc of the limited availability of certain products (the folks whose parents send up citrus from their farm weren't there, sadly) and the cost.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Yesterday I picked up some root vegetables, and some frozen beef short ribs, threw the whole lot (ribs still frozen) in the pressure cooker with a bit of water, salt and savory and had a plain but satisfying winter stew on the table in about 45min. Everything was produced within 100km except the salt.


Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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I am up in the borderlands of Maine and New Brunswick, so when growing season finally arrives after 6 months of winter, I am very happy. But during the long winter our local shopping is restricted to maple syrup and meat. Fabulous meat though, from an Amish farm a couple towns over. We just brought home the equivalent of half a cow this weekend, as well as some gorgeous bacon. After three months of eating basically no beef at all (except for one emergency when we absolutely had to have chili), my family is ready to feast!

I just peeked in our chest freezer again.

It's a lot of beef.

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An observation I have towards the local food sentiment. If you were to tell people over in Hong Kong to "eat local", 99.9% of the people will want to rush you to a psychiatric ward for assessment on any signs of mental degeneration. In much of Asia, local food movement simply doesn't exist.


Edited by johung (log)

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