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Jan 1, 2008 09:52 PM

Slow Food Challenge?

WINTER SEASON ....a little more difficult.
What type of creative meal can you prepare utilizing only ingredients that are native to your area/region? A radius of say 25 miles from home. (Not written in stone)
As close to 100% local ingredients as possible, please

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  1. The "local" food challenge is almost impossible as you define it. Who wants to eat that way? Everything 100% from within 25 miles when most of us live in cities where we can't even keep a chicken or grow a small garden? Can you do that even in summer?

    I think the articles that have been written on this are affectations by writers looking to sell their work, maybe prove a point. They're silly.
    As long as man could walk, ride a horse, had pack animals, sail a ship or set out to see what was on the other side of the mountains or ocean, he has brought back foods from afar or seeds and cuttings for plants to enrich his life. Why should we do without them?
    This doesn't mean that I should be eating asparagus and peaches now. I don't. They taste wrong and out of place on my table. They won't be as magical when their time comes.
    But I'll be damned if I'm going to live without my coffee, pepper, salt, lemons, even the oysters from the Chesapeake Bay that came 50 miles by truck to the fish market near me, or the collard greens that were grown 100 miles away, cinnamon, flour and rice that don't grow near here, olive oil, steak from the Mid-West, chicken from N. Carolina, wild-caught shrimp from the Gulf and all the other things that I love.
    Most of what I eat is seasonal and local, bought at farmers' markets, even now in winter in the Mid-Atlantic. But no way am I doing without spices and herbs and staples of life.

    6 Replies
    1. re: MakingSense

      Chill! He didn't say make it a way of life, he said make a *meal* -- surely that's not impossible, even for city dwellers. Most cities have a green belt around them with truck farms that will produce something you can make a meal with. Egg and milk production tend to be the last farming operations to move away from cities, because of the high demand and the perishability and high cost of shipping the product(s). And don't forget they call New Jersey the garden state!

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        The OP did challenge us to prepare a meal "utilizing only ingredients that are native to your area/region... a radius of say 25 miles from close to 100% local ingredients as possible, please." That's hardly possible for most of us. I'm not sure Frugalscot can do it in Toronto where he posts from this time of year. Any cows, pigs and chickens inside the Washington DC Beltway are likely in petting zoos. Most major cites are pretty much the same and last week about 60% of the US was covered with snow. Did you see the weather reports for Florida last night? The Bay Area is an anomaly but you still probably don't have farms within 25 miles of the city center.

      2. re: MakingSense

        You are assigning a strictness to the locavore movement that simply does not exist. After all, no sane chef would cook without salt. expressly permits leaving your 100 mile "food shed" for certain purchases. If a food you love or need is not available locally, try and source it from an organic and/or family farm and try to purchase it through a local business. It's also perfectly acceptable to purchase "foods famous for the region they are grown in " such as brie from Brie and parmesan from Parma.

        Your historical diatribe also seems to confuse localism with nativism. Locavores have no objections to cultivating non-native plant species.

        I am surprised to hear that you can't find good, pasture-raised beef or chicken in the Mid-Atlantic region.

        Given the way you describe your own eating and buying habits, I'd argue that you are a locavore regardless of whether you embrace the label.

        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          Your explanation of the locavore movement is one that makes sense not only for one meal but also as a goal for a way to live life. It just takes thinking about what you eat and some planning.
          Although it's below freezing and I live in the heart of the city, I was out today along the Chesapeake gathering local foods and buying other things from the same small vendors I've traded with for years. Even got some venison, geese, and fish from friends who hunt and fish. I was fortunate to have a free day to do that but I can still do it in town with moderate effort.
          There is pastured beef , organic everything and all the other goodies here in town but it isn't that easy to find. I've always shopped this way so I know where to go but it's overwhelming for younger people or those new to town. It's all too easy for them to go to the supermarket.
          Many towns don't have established small vendors, family farms who sell in town or even local producers who sell through other outlets. The specialty imports can be very expensive for many people on budgets if they do find shops that carry them.
          Sometimes those who live in CA don't recognize how hard it is in much of the US for a great portion of the year when the farmers' markets cease operation. Things are easily available in NY but that's not true in many smaller towns in the Heartland where people have to drive long distances to stores. There have been more than enough silly articles extolling the virtues of only buying locally. I'm old enough to remember what it was like to live through the winter with nothing but a little iceberg lettuce for salads and I'm not going to tell people in Nebraska that they should live that way. Maybe one day we'll have a food system that makes it possible but it's not here today.

        2. re: MakingSense

          Didn't mean to upset. Was just hoping some folks might be up for this type of culinary challenge.

          1. re: MakingSense

            I agree. I am a Slow Foods member and do try to buy what is produced in my area. Right now with the exception of meat and eggs there is not much to be had. If I had taken the time to can this summer instead of working I might have something to add to the meat but I did not. Our local Winter Market will start in a few weeks and it will be interesting to see what the local growers bring in. If I expand the radius I might be able to add Capriole cheeses to out meal.

          2. Where I live (Jersey shore) 'local' is probably limited to squirrel meat and twigs (ok, some fish obviously). Fortunately we are also endowed here with a great highway system, refrigeration, etc., so I can enjoy relatively good food and produce 12 months a year. And I have numerous food stores within 25 miles. There's nothing better than fresh jersy corn, tomatoes, blueberries, etc., during the peak season, but as I tend to eat year round, I have found alternatives,

            1 Reply
            1. re: bnemes3343

              Rub the twigs together, bnemes3343, to make a fire and roast the squirel over it. Voila!
              Perhaps a new nutty flavoured delight. Davy Crockett would be proud of you.

            2. fruglescot, I admire your challenge. I did the eat local challenge for the month of August 2006. Granted, August isn't the toughest time, but I live in Minnesota and I needed a little slack. My radius was 100 miles. (Whole Foods considers anything within a 7-hour drive - less than a day - to be "local.") I allowed myself coffee and chocolate, salt and spices (but I actually gave up Diet Coke for the whole month - that was a real challenge for me!). But absolutely everything else came from within 100-miles. I agree with MakingSense that we shouldn't or needn't eat this way 100% of the time, however, I found one of the great values of challenging myself for a month was discovering local producers for items I didn't think I could find - tortilla chips (ingredients and processing both local), oatmeal and vinegar, for example. I also got really in tune with with what's seasonal. The challenge definitely influenced how I continue to eat today.

              That said, what is available locally for you depends on where you are. Right now, I'm still getting local beets, radishes, carrots, squash, parsnips and cabbage. All easy to prepare with minimal added ingredients. I roast a lot of veggies and I actually recently ate squash for dinner 10 nights in a row (because I love it, not because I "had to." But trust me, I'm excited when the first asapargas turns up in the spring! Besides veggies, I would bet you can get locally raised meets, eggs and local cheeses. I had to give up tofu for my challenge month, but I sure did eat a lot of good cheese and steak!

              14 Replies
              1. re: jennywinker

                Actually, we're eating many squash meals back-to-back right now, because we "have" to. The squash we've stored from our CSA is in rapid decline, so we're using it up as fast as we can. I'm astonished you're still getting local radishes--lucky you!--we got radishes in our CSA in spring and haven't had any since. Otherwise, we're using up the last of our CSA potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, rutabagas, garlic, and brussels sprouts and celeriac. Of course, all of those things were harvested two months ago or so before the ground froze...

                We have a bunch of chicken stock in the freezer we made from our CSA chicken carcasses and various veggies and we also freezed a lot of shredded zucchini (all gone now), chopped onions, chopped scallions.

                If we're allowed to count the locally-raised pork we have in our freezer (purchased directly from the farmer and butchered by a local butcher--that's within about 100 miles), and skipped the "browning step" we can make this crockpot pork chops and sauerkraut recipe (the second of the two recipes in the post) right now entirely from local ingredients (the honeycrisp apples come from our co-op, but they're local. Not sure within 25 miles, but certainly within 100...) (The recipe calls for a can of sauerkraut, but we could certainly have made it ourselves from the CSA cabbage we have in our fridge...) Not sure if that's "creative" enough for you.

       (we also threw some cinderella squash in with the sweet potatoes this time around because, as I said, we're trying to use up the squash).

                During CSA season (May-early December for my CSA) we eat pretty darn locally most of the time, mostly just due to pressure to not let anything go to waste. All our produce comes from the CSA, as do our chickens and maple syrup. We keep bees, so that's our source of honey. We work directly with the folks who raise and butcher our beef and pork. And, here in Minnesota, all of our dairy is easy to get locally and it's easy to "choose" local.

                But, yeah, salt, olive oil, coffee, spices, that all comes from afar. And anytime you want an "authentic" ethnic ingredient, those come from afar, too.


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  TDQ- which CSA do you use? We joined one last year that failed within a month. We would like to find another one, but are very wary. The CSA you were in seems like it was very good, if you are still eating from it.

                  Also, you can get local organic radishes and eggplants at Lunds still.

                  1. re: churchka


                    Oh, sorry to hear your CSA experience this year wasn't a good one. With all of the floods this year, I suspect it was a bad year for a lot of CSA's (although, if yours failed within a months, that sounds too early in the season to be flood related...). We were very lucky and very happy with Hog's Back. We plan on re-upping with them next year. I know most of their shares sell out quickly and they give preference to people who subscribed in the prior year, so you might wish to contact them as soon as possible to be put on a waiting list of some sort.

                    Will have to look for those eggplants and radishes at Lunds! Thanks for the tip.


                    1. re: churchka

                      Was that Double Rabbit Farm, by chance? I'd like to find a good CSA too, but am very wary after a really bad first experience.

                      1. re: egusto

                        It was Double Rabbit Farm. I'm still bitter. Never trust hippies.

                        But I contacted the folks at Hogs Back Farm and they will notify me when shares are open. I'm giving this whole thing another chance.

                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        THINK GLOBALLY ...EAT LOCALLY
                        Since I proposed the SLOW FOOD ( eat local) winter challenge I suppose I should submit a menu of my own.
                        So many Ontario wines to chose from just down the QEW in St. Catherines but available through the LCBO stores. I'll go for an inexpensive Merlot from Inniskillen Winery. (It's Fruglescot's favourite)

                        Roast of pork from the local Chinese market that sells farm fresh local meat.
                        There is a locally made soy sauce, I've seen, that could be used for seasoning, along with home grown sage, and Ontario garlic from the St. Lawrence Farmer's Market to spike the roast. Local apples will provide an applesauce side or I could serve it with red current sauce. (picked locally from my neighbours garden and frozen)

                        The dinner will commence with an onion, hot house tomato and carrot shavings salad with parsley & garlic and a vinegrette dressing with a small amount of back bacon dripping for taste (olive oil free)

                        A pureed soup of carrot, parsnip , sweet and white potatoe,Ontario (unsalted) butter and hopefully ginger (if its available locally?)

                        The pork main will be served with a baked buttercup squash half, flavoured gently with honey or maple syrup, butter and a bit of garlic (YES, You noticed.?..I like garlic. In my mind it substitutes for salt although I do use celery salt a lot) I learned about a wonderful rootabaga back bacon and cabbage recipe here on Chow hound recently but I think I'll opt for some Ontario frozen peas as a colourful veggie side and to avoid abundant root selections.
                        For desert ... An upside down Cranberry bread cake/brioche (Muskowka, Ont (see a map) crans' are some of the best in NA but outside the 25 mile radius)
                        I could get some locally produced vanilla ice cream from Reid's Dairy as well.
                        Canadian old fashioned style butter tarts would be another desert posibility
                        A dram of Ontario Ice Wine for my guests as an aperitif ('apropos' in winter ?).
                        Mint tea would be available after the meal.

                        Care to join us for our regional supper?

                        What are you serving?

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          TDQ - Lucky you with the squash. My CSA's squash crop was in a critical stage of development when we got that huge dump of rain and it ruined the whole crop :-(

                          There are black radishes at Mississippi Market from a local source. And don't forget about that local burdock root!

                          1. re: jennywinker

                            Oh that is a real bummer. Well, one of the things you're supposed to be doing with a CSA is helping to support the farmer by guaranteeing him or her a crop, even when the crop fails. But, hopefully, the good outweighs the bad for you, as a consumer...

                            I've never heard of black radishes and...well, I'm not sure what to do with burdock root! I suppose I should investigate. Thanks for the tips.


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              I've been with my CSA for 8 years and love, love, love it. (Common Harvest near Osceola). I totally support the idea that my weekly boxes rise and fall depending on weather and other conditions. That we share the bounty as well as the crop failures. Fortunately, nothing seems to kill kale, so there's always plenty of that :-)

                              There's a Japanese dish that's braised shredded carrots and burdock called kinpira gobo that makes good use of burdock root.

                        2. re: jennywinker

                          ...DON'T FRET MY CHOWHOUND FRIENDS

                          My intention was not to suggest more than a meal made up of local ingredients
                          and I thought it was presumed that basic salt would be exempt from the distance restrictions although those who wished to stick to a more demanding definition might try finding salt substitutes. As I indicated in brackets "nothing is written in stone" so utilize items outside the 25 mile limit, if you so desire.
                          This type of challenge does demand a certain amount of thinking and initiative and is therefore not for everyone so do feel free to bow out if you think my parameters are just too restrictive, paleez! I was simply looking for some interesting regional creations from a plethora of possibilities although those living in the more northerly climes, like my Canadian location, will no doubt find this assignment much more demanding.
                          Of course you are the CHOWHOUNDS, knowledgable,creative, resourceful, adept,
                          all knowing of the joys of pastoral living and nutritive ingredients,, who better to present this proposition to? ......Dig in!

                          Is someone out there willing to sponsor a FIRST PRIZE for the most creative submission that adhers nearest to the the original rules?

                          1. re: jennywinker

                            why give up tofu? a lot of local restaurants make their own, & you can buy it direct from them (or make your own if you're hardcore). i know for a fact that peninsula makes their own tofu.

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              I wish I could find a merchant locally that sold house-made tofu to home cooks, so that we could cook it up ourselves. The fresh stuff is so tender and delicate. Lovely. And certainly, with all of the soybeans grown in MN, there would be the possibility of having it be truly local.

                              I've toyed with the idea of making it myself (yeah, right)--I understand it's similar to making cheese. Not that I make my own cheese (there's so much wonderful local stuff out there already, no need to)--but, it can't be that hard, can it?


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                If you find out how, let us know TDQ - I love the thought of home-made tofu...and the tofu skins. Grrrr. Dammit, now I'm hungry WHILE I'm cooking! ;-)

                                Maybe dreaming, but it sounds luscious, especially in the middle of soybean country.


                          2. I prefer to spend my time cooking, eating, and having fun. Such a "challenge" holds no interest for me.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: filth

                              I think the challenge is a good way to use some creativity and imagination. It's easy to go to the store and buy whatever looks delicious. It requires skill and a willingness to try new things to limit yourself to what's local and seasonal, even if it's just for one meal.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Thanks for your support and enthusiasm for the project, Ruth
                                What local do you find yourself in?

                                1. re: fruglescot

                                  Like I said, it's easy in Northern California -- I went to the farmer's market Sunday, and there was a panoply of produce: winter greens (several varieties of kale, chard, spinach, etc.), broccoli, broccoli romanesco, cauliflower (white, orange and purple), kohlrabi (green and purple), rutabagas, turnips (red and white), beets (red, gold, chiogga), parsnips, winter squash (several varieties, including pumpkins), onions, garlic, shallots, celery, potatoes and carrots of different shapes, sizes and colors, lettuce (several varieties), mushrooms, etc. Not as much variety for fruit, but there were lots of different citrus, including oranges (navel, blood, caracara), pommelos, mandarin oranges/tangerines, and pomegranates, apples and persimmons. Granted, most of that was grown more than 25 miles (but less than 100 miles) from my house. But still, fresh from the farm, picked within a couple of days, not grown in a hothouse or shipped from Chile.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Ruth- I found your post because I was doing a search on chowhound for sources of broccoli romanesco, before starting a post.

                                    I love it, and the last head I was able to buy was in mid-December. I was afraid the season was over. Where have you seen it recently? Thanks much!

                              2. re: filth


                                Well, thank you, for bringing your point of view, so brilliantly succinct, to our attention.
                                Let it be known to all that,"FILTH", is relieved of any and all inclinations to
                                participate even though the assignment was designed to encompass all of those endeavours he/she aspires to.

                              3. How tight are your guidelines? I'm not sure I can find any locally sourced salt....

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                  I never intended to make the guidelines that restrictive as to include salt.

                                  1. re: fruglescot

                                    A lot of kosher salt comes from the huge mile-deep mines under the Detroit river. Check your box for a Windsor or Detroit origin.