The local food movement is becoming such a trendy thing these days that, I’ll admit, recently I’ve been getting a bit sick of hearing about it. It seems every new restaurant that pops up in Pittsburgh has some sort of commitment to using local meat or produce. Not that this is a bad thing, it’s just that most people who talk about eating local seem to have a holier-than-thou air about themselves. Like how can I even think about eating an orange that traveled all that distance to get to me? Gasp!
But in the past few weeks, my attitude toward local eating has taken a complete 180. It started with a sign that I saw driving through my neighborhood for Isidore Foods. Curious, I googled it and found that it’s a company that partners with regional farmers to deliver local produce, meats, pantry items, and dairy products, with many products being organic. I perused their website for quite some time, intrigued by all the different types of food subscriptions they offered.
Now, let me say that I already subscribed to a CSA for fruits and vegetables, but didn’t consider myself a complete local food freak. I subscribed to a CSA simply because local fruits and vegetables taste better than store-bought produce, not because I had lofty goals of saving the planet.
But after reading about Isidore Foods, I became more and more interested in the concept of local eating that I eventually rented a book from the library on the subject, The Locavore’s Handbook, by Leda Meredith. I’ll admit that even when I started reading it I was still fairly cynical about the whole thing, and was pretty sure the book was going to make me feel guilty for not already eating locally and shame me into doing so.
However, what I found was the complete opposite. Meredith addresses the history of our food production and food culture and explains many of the problems with it. She also addresses many of the questions cynics like me usually ask, such as “isn’t eating local more expensive?” and “how can I possibly have time to cook local food?” As I kept reading, I began to realize that eating local isn’t simply a hot trend, it’s a way of life that requires changing your entire way of thinking about food. For example, we have gotten so used to being able to eat whatever we want, whenever we want. Eating local has an entirely different attitude about it that starts with eating seasonally- looking to see what is in season and then deciding what we can cook with it, rather than the other way around.
Although Meredith made a pretty drastic lifestyle change by deciding to eat only things that were produced within 250 miles of her home, she includes a section in each chapter titled “If you do just one thing,” which makes the whole book much more accessible. My fiance and I (ok, maybe it’s mostly me- but I think I’m winning him over) have decided that we’re going to take this ‘if you do just one thing’ approach. We’re going to start doing one thing bit by bit, and build up to what we’re comfortable with. This is much less overwhelming than going cold turkey from non-local food, and doing it step by step will probably mean we’ll stick with eating local rather than giving up along the way.
So, what are we doing to start eating more local food?
1) Subscribing to a CSA: Ok, so we already do subscribe to a CSA (Dillner Family Farm), but we plan on continuing our subscription next year. Honestly, this is probably one of the easiest and most satisfying ways to eat locally. The fruit and vegetables we’ve gotten have been a million times tastier than things we’ve gotten from the grocery store.
2) Eating as much local meat as possible: We just started a subscription through Isidore Foods that will provide us with 2-3 different types of meat per week out of the following: ground beef, ground pork, pork chops, bacon, and beef tips. The beef is grass-fed and is from McElhaney Farm, whereas the pork is pastured and is from New Creation Farm. Isidore Foods also has pretty much any other type of meat cut you could want. The chickens are whole, so I need to learn how to cut one up before we get one of those!
3) Introducing local dairy into our diets: We also just started a subscription through Isidore Foods for half a dozen free range eggs, half a gallon of organic milk, and half a pound of grass-fed cheese every other week. Weekly options also exist, but for now we’re going to ease into it to see if we can use everything.
These are the things we’ve committed to so far, but there are many other things that I’m interested in, including canning and drying food, gardening, and local grains.
Stay tuned to read more about our journey into local eating, and to see what new things we attempt!