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Happiness is… Local Foods

I have recently come to the conclusion that eating locally is not only more nutritious, better for the environment, and supports your local economy, but, getting in the habit of using the freshest and most flavorful local ingredients has the potential to propel my own cooking to the never-before-seen stratospheric heights of gastronomy!  …Ok… I’m only kidding with that last part… but as they say, a good recipe is nothing without good ingredients.

 

There is a reason that the local food movement has struck a nerve with people.  People are sick and tired of getting below-average or substandard food, at astronomical prices, all for the sake of convenience.  That tomato that has just travelled over 3500 miles to get here is not going to taste like the tomato you grew in your garden.  It just makes sense that the best quality products are, literally, right in your own backyard.  

 

Since seeing the benefits of local foods, it has become a proirity to find local sources for most of the foods I consume.  If you happen to have a farmer’s market close by, then you are definitely ahead of the game.  We have a really good one that operates during the warmer months, but in winter it basically shuts down until spring.  There is some talk about extending this market year-round (yes!), but, for the time being I have to make the best with what I can find in smaller grocery stores, vegetable stands and food sources online. 

 

Strategies for Incorporating More Local Foods into Your Diet

It’s a good idea to arm yourself with information BEFORE you go shopping, and BEFORE you plan your meals.  Like, for example, do you know what fruits and vegetables are in season for your area?  If you don’t try checking out your local government website for the info.  For example, in Ontario we have the Food Availability Guide.  For other areas, try searching Google for “fruits and vegetables in season” + the city where you live.  Once you know what is available in your area, you can plan your meals for the week incorporating those foods.

 

Are you lucky enough to be close to fresh fish mongers, ranchers or organic farmers?  Here is where you will find the best meats, poultry, fish, fruits, and vegetables, directly from the source.  Sometimes organic farms have bulk buying programs where you can sign up to receive weekly packages of a variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs.  Since you are never sure exactly what you will be getting week to week, every package is a surprise for you to discover.  This way, you can support you local growers and partake in the best of the season in one fell swoop!  Search for “organic farm coops” or “organic bulk buying” to find one in your area.

 

Sometimes even developing a good relationship with your corner market shopkeeper can yield healthy dividends.  He might be able to give you the inside scoop on best times to shop for certain foods, or that fresh shipment of rutabaga that just arrived from a local farmer! 

 

And if you really like to make the most of what you have, how about growing, preserving and canning your own fruits and vegetables?  It takes some time and effort, but, in the dead of winter, when you are enjoying homemade tomato sauce, blueberry jam, and fresh peaches it’s worth it!  See the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning for specific instructions on proper home canning procedures and food safety tips.

 

More Reading on Local Foods

Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh by Emeril LagasseFarm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh
by Emeril Lagasse

Emeril’s emphasis is on using seasonal, locally available ingredients in his simple, but delicious recipes.  Since fresh ingredients take center stage, there is little need for complicated, demanding recipes, which is great for us home cooks! 

(Good news!  It seems that Emeril has just signed on to have a brand new cooking show on the Hallmark Channel later this year.  Can’t wait to see what he’ll be cooking up for us!)

 

Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by The Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre VivantePreserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation
by The Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre Vivante

If you are interested in older methods of food preservation, this book gives you clear instructions, helpful advice, and over 250 easy recipes for you to try. 

(Some of these “projects” would make really nice, economical gifts as well!)

 

Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat by Deborah KrasnerGood Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat
by Deborah Krasner

If you consume meat and you want to buy the best you can find:  for your health, for the environment, and for the taste, this book will help you do just that.  The discussion starts with how to source all kinds of meat, beef, lamb, pork, game, poultry, and even eggs, that have been raised humanely.  This means an emphasis on farm-raised, grain-fed, free-range, earth-friendly food.  There are specific tips and information on how to purchase different cuts of meat directly from the farm, either locally or from the Internet, using a “cut sheet.”  Also, with over 200 recipes that cover a wide variety of meals to tempt your taste buds, there is something for everyone.  Finally, there is a very good reference section for additional information and product sources. 

(After reading this book you will most definitely need to find some extra freezer space!)

 

Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source with More Than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You by Terry WaltersClean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source with More Than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You
by Terry Walters

At the other end of the dietary spectrum, Clean Food is a collection of recipes (mostly vegan) which is organized by season, and features the typical produce available during that time of year.  For example, there is Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Apricot Lime Vinaigrette, Spicy Thai Tempeh with Cashews, and Chocolate Pecan Pie.  Unusual, yet healthy ingredients are demystified, and there is some sound advice for healthy eating and positive choices. 

(Delicious!  I’m trying the Chocolate Lover’s Tart next!)

 

Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front by Joel SalatinEverything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front
by Joel Salatin

A Virginia farmer’s perspective on the local food movement, and how global corporate food culture has diminished the accessibility of quality local foods.  Also how current government regulations are a hindrance to anyone who wants to buy local. 

(A must if you want to delve into today’s reality of the business of food.)

 

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