In the past couple of years, locavore bashing seems to have become the new American sport among food critics. There was even a book devoted to "debunking" the idea of locavorism (eating only locally grown food, as much as possible).
Arguments against eating local food usually begin by attacking the comparison of typical grocery store food being trucked an average of 1,500 miles before getting to the consumer, versus only a few miles when grown locally. On the surface, that would appear to be a big savings on fuel consumption, thereby significantly reducing greenhouse gases.
Early in the locavore movement, this idea was indeed put forward by Barbara Kingsolver's husband, Steven Hopp, in her book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." He had done some quick math with statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
With a little more analysis, the idea quickly falls apart. Yes, local food travels much shorter distances, but if you have 150 people each driving 10 miles to purchase food at a local farm stand, you just used up those same 1,500 miles as one truck hauling food to a grocery location.
While Hopp's statistics may have attracted some early attention to the concept of local eating, I don't think it was ever a prime motivation for anyone to become a locavore. Nevertheless, the argument continues to be a favorite target for debunkers because it's an easy point with which almost everyone quickly agrees.
After that, attackers begin to get very subjective and even a little ridiculous. Locavorism is talked about as if it were some kind of elitist cult, a utopian fad destined to fade into oblivion.
At worst, locavores are attacked for fostering food production methods that would bring harm to the environment and starvation to the world if implemented globally. These positions are usually made as grandiose statements of fact in a tone of voice leaving little doubt that anyone who disagrees is simply foolish.
Most recently, critics profess to use science to discount reasons for eating as a locavore. "The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet" is this kind of diatribe. The author, a geographer, claims that locavores use arguments that are not factual. He then proceeds to fill his own book with supposition, diatribe and innuendo.
I personally welcome debate of food issues, including local eating. Factual debate is desperately needed, but it's not what I see happening.
To be clear, I'd like to offer my statement of why I have chosen a locavore lifestyle.
For me, it's always been about health. In this country right now, the only way for a person to truly know whether the food they are eating is safe to eat is to know their farmers and to talk with them how the food is being produced.
It's not about trying to persuade others to eat only local food. It's not even about saving the planet (though that's important and I think an argument can be made). It's a simple matter of making sure I'm feeding my family real food - nutritious, ripe, fresh food - with as few toxins and disease-causing ingredients as possible.
I have come to believe that our global industrialized food consumption is killing us on an epidemic scale. I can show you the research that led me to that belief. I've chosen to opt out of that food by eating locally produced food from farmers I know personally, who also care about healthy eating. It's taken an extraordinary amount of effort over a period of several years, and I write this column to try to make it simpler for others who choose to follow a similar path.
If that sounds cultish or elitist, so be it. Do I think the whole world could work based on locavore eating? I have no idea. Do I think we should adopt a "back to the land" mentality and return to producing food by hand? Definitely not. I wholeheartedly support rational technology. Do I love the local food I eat? I feel a gratitude I could never have imagined.
On a lighter note, today's recipe is designed to help solve another perennial problem: how to get kids to eat vegetables. My grandson will eat potatoes, green beans and broccoli, but beyond that it gets sketchy.
One strategy is to hide the vegetables in something that kids love. The hamburger recipe below hides a full half cup of vegetables in each burger patty. Our little guy gobbled his right up. It was the first time eggplant had ever passed his lips with such enthusiasm!
HIDDEN VEGETABLE HAMBURGERS
2 cups raw vegetables, finely chopped or grated - I used beets (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island), carrots (Rabbit Fields Farm, Everson), mushrooms (Cascadia Mushrooms, Bellingham) and eggplant (Sunseed Farm, Acme)
1 pound ground beef (Second Wind Farm, Everson)
1-2 large eggs (neighbor, Lummi Island)
1 teaspoon fresh herbs, finely minced. I used sage (home garden, Lummi Island)
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil (Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, Lynden)
Use any combination of raw vegetables you have on hand: Beets, carrots, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, cabbage, radishes, onions, cucumbers, spinach, kale, chard, bell peppers and so on. You can literally use just about anything.
If the veggies are firm, like carrots and beets, I suggest grating them. If they are softer, like mushrooms and eggplant, a small dice will work well. The goal is to have veggies that will cook in about the same amount of time as the meat.
Thoroughly mix the prepared vegetables with the ground beef. Add 1 egg and mix again. If the mixture is not sticking together as much as you'd like, add a second egg.
Select a fresh herb or two - sage, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, oregano, basil, etc. Add that to the meat mixture.
Shape into four patties approximately equal in size.
Heat hazelnut oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy skillet. When the oil is hot, add the meat patties. Sear for a couple of minutes on one side, and then turn to sear the other side. Turn again and cook for 3-5 minutes more on each side until done. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your patties.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen, 1313 N State Street, Bellingham
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959
BelleWood Acres, 6140 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-318-7720
Bellingham Country Gardens (u-pick vegetables), 2838 East Kelly Road, Bellingham
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158
Five Loaves Farm, 514 Liberty St., Lynden
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151
The Green Barn, 211 Birch Bay-Lynden Road, Lynden; 360-318-8869
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190
Joe's Garden, 3110 Taylor Avenue, Bellingham, 360-671-7639
Lynden Farmers Market, Fourth and Front streets, Lynden
The Markets LLC, 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020
Reach Whatcom Locavore columnist Nancy Ging at 360-758-2529 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow her day- to-day locavore activities, go to Whatcom Locavore on Facebook or @whatcomlocavore on Twitter. For locavore menus, recipes and more resources, go to whatcomlocavore.com.