Year end is commonly a time for taking stock - looking at where we've been, where we are and where we want to go. As 2013 rolls in, I realized it's been nearly three years since I started transitioning toward eating as a locavore (a person who eats only locally grown food, as much as possible). Perhaps it's a good time for a progress report.
Three years ago I read three galvanizing books: "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan, "Plenty" by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, and "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver.
"Omnivore's Dilemma" talks about the U.S. food system and a couple of alternatives. Pollan, in a remarkably neutral presentation, lifted the cover on standard American food and revealed rather ominous practices, from a health perspective. "Plenty" describes the experiences of a couple in Vancouver, B.C., who decided to know who grew their food and to eat only food grown within a 100-mile radius of where they lived. Finally, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" was a report from Kingsolver about her family's year of eating local food in Kentucky.
Thus started my own locavore experiment, focusing on getting the healthiest, most sustainably raised food I could find. For simplicity, I defined "local" as "grown in Whatcom County." Abundant fruits and vegetables, dairy farms, the Community Food Co-op and Terra Organica in Bellingham. How hard could it be?
It turned out to be extraordinarily difficult, especially in the winter (which is when I started). I spent a lot of time researching, talking with people, making field trips (pun intended) and studying food production methods. I started sharing what I was learning, first through my blog, and then these weekly articles.
So that's where I started. Where am I now?
This year, probably 85 percent of what I ate was locally grown, and it felt easy, fun and incredibly delicious. There are still food sources I haven't checked out, but I've gradually developed a seasonal routine to meet our family's basic food needs. Here are the highlights:
- Bellingham Farmers Market for produce
- Wildcrafted nettles
- Asparagus (some goes in the freezer)
- Preorder organic tomatoes for canning (whole, sauce, etc.)
- U-pick berries from Boxx Berry Farm (Ferndale), including some for freezing
- Home garden provides most of our vegetables and herbs
- Pickling cucumbers and a garlic braid from Boxx Berry Farm
- Apples and cider from BelleWood Acres (Lynden)
- Fresh reefnet salmon (extra to freeze and smoke)
- Smoked cayenne peppers from Rabbit Fields Farm (Everson) (ran out of these last spring - never again!)
- Pie pumpkins, squash and root vegetables
- Using home-canned and frozen foods
- Still some fresh garden food (chard, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
- Year-round free-range egg CSA (Community Supported Agriculture - it's like a weekly food subscription) from Red Barn Lavender (Ferndale)
- Side of grassfed beef from Second Wind Farm (Everson), including soup bones and oxtail for homemade stock
Occasionally we go to the Community Food Co-op or Terra Organica for ingredients like flour, fresh pork and local dairy products. The Islander grocery (Lummi Island) also carries local dairy products.
Where to go from here? I'd like to find a steady supplier for chicken meat and pork sides. Bellingham Farmers Market will be open once per month January through March for the first time in 2013 - can't wait to see what's offered! I'm reading Steve Solomon's new book, "The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient Dense Food," to learn better gardening. I'm learning more about issues faced by local farmers, so I can better support their efforts. I'd like better winter storage for root vegetables and fruit. Finally, I want to continue to improve my health by eating locally grown foods.
1 cup mashed potato (Rabbit Fields Farm, Everson)
1 packet dry yeast (21/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water
2 eggs, beaten (Red Barn Lavender, Ferndale)
1/2 cup honey, split (Red Barn Lavender, Ferndale)
1 teaspoon salt (less is OK)
4 cups flour (Fairhaven Organic Flour Mills, Burlington)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened (homemade with cream from Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy, Lynden)
Create the mashed potatoes by peeling 1 to 2 large potatoes or 3 to 4 small white potatoes. Boil the potatoes in water (no salt) until soft. Drain potatoes, then mash until no lumps remain. Measure out one cup and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix yeast and warm water. Set aside.
In a large bowl, add the cup of mashed potato, two eggs (beat as you add them), half of the honey (you'll have 1/4 cup remaining), salt, and yeast mixture. Stir in three cups of flour (you'll have one cup remaining). Mix until dough has pulled together, but do not knead. Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place for 2 hours, or until the dough has risen to double its original size.
Punch down the dough. Cream together the butter and remaining honey. Fold the butter and honey mixture into the dough until well-incorporated. Slowly incorporate the last cup of flour as you continue to mix. When the dough is solid enough to handle, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth, shiny and highly elastic.
Lightly grease the mixing bowl and place the dough back inside. Cover again with a damp cloth and place in a warm area to rise for 11/2 hours, or until the dough has doubled again.
Again, punch down the dough. Knead briefly to remove any air pockets. Split the dough in half and shape each half into an oblong ball. Grease two 9-by-5-inch baking pans and place a dough ball in each. Cover with wax paper, return to the warm area for another 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, remove the wax paper and put loaves into oven. Bake for 40 minutes. Be aware that using honey instead of sugar will produce a darker crust, but if the crust appears to be getting too dark, cover with foil.
Creates two 9-by-5-inch loaves.
Reach Nancy Ging at 360-758-2529 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow her day to day locavore activities, "like" Whatcom Locavore on Facebook (www.facebook.com/whatcomlocavore) and "follow" on Twitter, @WhatcomLocavore. For locavore menus, recipes, and more resources, read her blog at whatcomlocavore.com.