Sunday, November 23, 2008

Local food

Not too long ago, I was wandering through the produce section at one of the big chain grocery stores when I happened across an attractive display of apples. But it wasn't the apples that caught my eye so much as it was the sign above them. It advertised the apples as being from New Zealand.

Now, I don't have anything against NZ . . . never been there, but the photos I've seen are beautiful . . . I have several friends from there . . . and I think Flight of the Conchords are hysterically funny. So please don't think I'm picking on NZ - 'cause I'm not. My point is that NZ is something like 10,000 miles from Indianapolis. Why does food have to travel that far? Seems to me that the apples would have to be picked prematurely . . . not to mention the carbon footprint it takes to transport them across the Pacific and then over the North American continent. Besides, there are tons of apples already here in Indiana. 

No one likes or enjoys "world food" more than me. When it comes to food, I'm definitely adventurous. In fact, if you asked my what my favorite foods are, I'd list among them Thai green curry, Vietnamese pho, Austrian Kasnudeln, and pretty much everything from the Mediterranean/North Africa/Middle East region with the exception of seafood.

I won't stop having my favorite world foods on an occasional basis, but when it comes to my everyday cooking, I'm going local. I recently signed up with Farm Fresh Delivery to have mostly local, mostly organic produce delivered to my house once a week. I can add to my standing produce order all sorts of local meats, dairy products, and other products. 

I've been a fan of Traderspoint Creamery for a long time - their low-fat vanilla yogurt is not only da bomb in my opinion, but has won all kinds of awards. Their dairy cattle are grass-fed and "hormone-free" and they make a lot more other delicious stuff, too (milk, cheese, ice cream). And they're just located over on the northwest side of Indy. 

Our Thanksgiving turkey came from Seven Spring Farms, located in Carthage. We also get eggs from there in our weekly Farm Fresh Delivery order. Know how to tell if an egg is fresh? Crack it open. The yolk should be a bright orange color - if it's more like yellow, it's been sitting around on the store shelves for a while. The eggs I got in my order last Friday were collected just two days earlier according to the date stamped on the carton. I can't get any fresher than that without having my own chickens.

There are all kinds of local options for food. Our beef and pork has recently come from Seven Sons and Moody Meats. My most recent local discovery is Local Folks Foods, which makes an amazing pasta sauce and fire-roasted salsa from Indiana tomatoes. They even make and sell their own organic whole wheat flour.

I can find locally-roasted coffee, locally made chocolate bars, local breads and granola, and of course, LOTS of local produce. I may not be able to get whatever I want year-round, but shouldn't we be eating what's in season anyway? 

Sometimes I have to decide between local and organic. I'd really rather have both, but this is not always possible. Still, I think that local is the better option, all things considered.

The prices are higher for some items, especially the meat. But I decided I'd rather eat less meat that's "local" and better quality, than cheaper, older meat from the supermarket that's been pumped with who knows what (read the labels sometime - it's scary) to make it look fresh. So while there are times when I may choose to eat something exotic, for the most part, I guess you can say that I'm going local.