Let me start with an overview of my performance on the Eat Local Challenge: for the first half of October, I was eating entirely local at home and eating out about 20% of the time. I started out feeling like I was cheating every time I ate something outside the home, but as I realized that my life always involves regularly dining outside the home, I started to feel better about being able to maintain local eating the 80% of the time that I cooked my own meals.
The second half of the month saw a rather dramatic increase in the demands on my time, and a fair amount of traveling, so I was eating closer to 60% of my meals out of the home. At home, things were still local, but I think a couple times I forgot what home looked like! Then, in the past few days, I was served a cold with a side of sinus infection, and as I've said, when I am sick I develop carb cravings that cornmeal just won't satisfy. You can imagine what happened chez Potato, and local didn't really figure into the resulting three-day flour-fest.
Eating locally for a month, or at least attempting it, was incredibly thought-provoking. I kept thinking back to the people who lived on this land before industrialized agriculture and globalization brought such variety and constancy to our food supply. Not just because I was eating a few of the same foods, but because finding, processing and cooking that food moved to the forefront of my mind. I imagined— what if I didn't just have to travel to a distant specialty store to find my locally produced grains (ah, irony), but if I had to grow, harvest, and grind them? Or if those damn squirrels that ate all the corn I was growing this summer really meant I would have no corn all season? I thought about colonists missing the luxuries of their hometowns, and about people who had lived their whole lives with no wheat flour or oranges. At the same time, the cornmeal I was eating every day kept getting more and more delicious— an element of deprivation, something that goes hand in hand with local eating in Massachusetts, is truly the best seasoning. I really came to appreciate the things that added crunch and variety to the diet, and my willingness to work for them grew. Take the squash seeds shown above: while I might occasionally roast pumpkin seeds, they most often end up in the compost because of the effort required to de-slime them, but this month every last one was cleaned, toasted and savored!
Ultimately, I think what I learned was that I was already eating as local as is really feasible for me. I estimate that we usually eat about 50% local, with 30% of our diet being grains and processed ingredients that are not produced locally, and 20% of meals eaten out of the home. We get our meat, dairy, eggs, and produce locally already, and living with corn as our only grain, while technically doable, is pretty miserable. Ditto forgoing the small variety of imported ingredients I use for ethnic cooking and the fresh fruit I crave in the dead of winter. Not only that, but giving up those non-local things does nothing to support local or sustainable agriculture, it only makes me grumpy! Not having the options of the modern market is interesting to contemplate, but voluntarily giving up something as wonderful as wheat flour... well, it is untenable. So, I give myself a C+ for October, but I think I'm doing alright overall.