Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Think Globally, Eat Locally

Eating organic is soooo 90s. Locavores--those who eat food grown locally (within a 100-mile to 250-mile radius, depending on who is setting the standards) are the standard bearers for the newest green trend, according to an article in the New York Times.
Many drawn to the movement say they have been eating that way for years and had never thought about the implications beyond the flavor. “Initially it was the taste thing for me,” said Robin McDermott, who lives in Waitsfield, Vt., where locavores call themselves localvores. “But now when I think about what it takes to get lettuce across the country so I can eat it in the middle of winter, between the fuel costs and the contribution all the transportation is making to global warming and climate change, I just can’t do it. It’s not sustainable and I don’t want to contribute to it.”
Those who think this is another harebrained scheme of the food fringe may be surprised to learn that locavores are poised to move into the mainstream. Barbara Kingsolver, the best-selling novelist, has written one of three books out this spring about eating locally.
“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” (HarperCollins) recounts her family’s adventures during the year they spent eating food raised in their corner of southwest Virginia. Her book and others are successors to several earlier books including “Coming Home to Eat” by Gary Paul Nabhan and “Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection” by Jessica Prentice, who coined the word locavore and founded the Web site
Ms. Prentice’s group claims to have started the grass-roots locavore challenges that sprang up in California in 2005. Participants exchange recipes and advice.
Some locavores follow the 100 Mile Diet, created by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, authors of the just-released “Plenty” (Harmony). They spent a year in British Columbia eating only food grown within a 100-mile radius.
It wasn’t easy. Faced with potatoes, once again, for lunch, Ms. Smith recounts her feeling that “I’d kill for a sandwich.” When Mr. MacKinnon said he would make her one, she couldn’t imagine what he had in mind because they had no local flour for bread. But soon enough he produced greenhouse-grown red peppers and fried mushrooms with goat cheese between two golden brown slices of something. Something turned out to be turnips.
The authors held so strictly to their plan that when they eventually found locally grown wheat they took it even though it was filled with mouse droppings. Mr. MacKinnon painstakingly separated the droppings from the wheat with the edge of a credit card.
The plan outlined in Ms. Kingsolver’s book is much less strict than the one in “Plenty.” The author said that in her attitude toward food she is something between a Puritan (“I’m going to be holy right now”) and a toddler (“I want absolutely everything every minute and the idea of not having fresh peaches in January is sort of horrifying”).
Each member of her family was allowed one luxury item that came from far away. Her husband chose coffee, her children hot chocolate and dried fruit. Spices were Ms. Kingsolver’s indulgence.
“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” gives no sense of privation or even boredom. Ms. Kingsolver spent a fair amount of time putting foods by when they were in season so that the larder was stocked.
But most readers would have trouble following her program, which included raising much of what the family ate on their farm, including chickens and turkeys.
“We undertook this project because it brings together so many compelling issues of the moment: carbon footprint, global warming, the local economy, the nutritional crisis and community,” said Ms. Kingsolver. “Community is very important to me and every book I’ve ever written is on this subject: what is the debt of the individual to the community?”
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