As I embark on my first Eat Local Challenge, I have already begun to think of my food differently, and it surprises me. Being out of work, I've decided to spend my days putting up food to avoid the high cost of produce in January. I pretty much decide every morning what I want to make, go to the store or a farm stand, and proceed to make whatever it is I've decided on.
This has given me a great excuse to seek out different farms and markets than I normally visit since I'm not as pressed for time as I usually am. I actually found myself dissapointed the other day to figure out that the Twist of Fate Farm isn't within ten miles of my home. Ten miles. Doesn't sound like much, especially since most of the food I've eaten my whole life probably comes from hundreds, even thousands of miles away! But I had this idea in my head that I wanted to see if I could get everything I needed within ten miles.
This isn't just a food-related thought, it's a whole lifestyle coming together. While I'm looking for a new job, I'm focusing on staying local. I've gotten a lot of greif about this from people that say - it's no big deal to commute 20 miles north or south to Nashua or Concord. Heck, a lot of people commute to Boston from Manchester. But this is my choice and my life.
I've also noticed that the food I'm purchasing lately is much more personal. I've met the guy who works the land and harvests the produce. I've met his teenage boy, and waved to his wife. I've walked by the chicken coops and the pig pens on the farm where I got my eggs and bacon, I heard them clucking and snorting. I've gushed over the freshness of the eggs. They are more precious than "regular" eggs. They are infinitely more precious than the single dollar extra I paid for them. They are somehow more real and I plan how I'm going to use them much more carefully. This morning I set about to make chicken nuggets using an egg batter. I debated if I really wanted to use four of my precious eggs as an egg batter! Really. They're going to be eaten SOMEHOW, why not this way...
But it takes me back to a few years ago. We were doing a Bible Study about the tabernacle and the temple. One part explained how sacrifices were made and how the person seeking forgiveness had to bring the live sacrifice to the altar and kill it there. The person had to physically kill the animal right then and there. Ever since, I haven't looked at a single piece of meat the same again. I used to get chicken or something and put it in the fridge intending to cook it right away or within a few days...but something would come up and we'd eat something else and before you know it, the meat would go bad. Since visuallizing the sacrifice at the altar, I have rarely had to throw away bad meat. It just doesn't happen. I am so much more aware of the waste, the meaningless waste.
I think it's very smart to be thinking about eating locally in the fall, specifically. It's a natural time to be putting food up for the winter, and concentrating on eating locally at this time thereby ensures that you'll be eating locally through the winter as well.
My goal for the October Eat Local Challenge is to find a new source of locally grown or raised food each week and to make at least one completely local meal each week. I am still on the hunt for locally milled flour, and I have found a couple sources listed online. Not within my 10-mile radius, but still well within the region. Now it's just a matter of getting my butt over there!