Monday, December 24, 2007

What the heck's a "locavore?"

Well, in case you missed the announcement, "locavore" is the Oxford American Dictionary's 2007 Word of the Year. Here is a blurb on it from their blog:

"The “locavore” movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locavores also shun supermarket offerings as an environmentally friendly measure, since shipping food over long distances often requires more fuel for transportation."

I think that pretty well sums things up, don't you?

Our family began a new adventure in local eating this past year. Oh, we've visited the area farmer's market in season for years, but until this past year local foods only made up a tiny percentage of our overall diet. However, in just this year we've managed to increase that amount to over 25%. My goal for the year 2008 is to bring us up to a consistent 50%.

So, what counts as "local?" I think this is something everyone has to decide for themselves. Some folks only count it as local if it originated within a 100 mile radius of their home. The 100-Mile Diet is one movement that uses this definition of local. Other people choose a different criteria - 150 miles, 200 miles, 300 miles - and some use more of a geographic boundary to define their "local," which makes sense if a major mountain range happens to cover up most of your 100 mile radius! Other than that, it all depends on your reasons for eating locally and how much you are willing to substitute for things that are not produced within your chosen area.

For our family, local means something that is grown in our back yard, or that grows wild nearby, or is commercially grown/produced/processed anywhere within an approximately 200 mile or so radius from our home in Southeastern Idaho. We do make common sense exceptions to this general rule from time to time. For instance, we absolutely love RealSalt, but the place it comes from lies somewhat outside our arbitrary 200 mile radius. On the other hand, it does not travel all the way here from the East Coast, Mexico, France or China. Considering the distance all the other salts available to us would have to travel to get to our pantry shelves, we feel we can happily count our RealSalt as "local" without suffering any guilty pangs.

The biggest challenge I've had this past year was tracking down a wider variety of local foods. The second biggest challenge was figuring out how to store enough of the seasonal items during the growing times to allow them to contribute significantly to our diet during the long winter. The third challenge has been expanding my cooking repertoire to make the best use of these items when they are available without serving the same dishes over and over. The fourth challenge is learning to use local raw materials to produce finished items that are not widely available here as locally produced goods - items like vinegars, wines, simple cheeses, deli meats and whole local grain bakery-type breads.

So, the purpose of this blog is to share our adventures in local eating with others who are curious about locavore-ism or who are also trying to work towards becoming locavores. There will be posts on our progress in tracking down local crops and other local foods, gardening, cooking, food storage, baking, canning and making all those little "extras" we all love. From time to time, I will also review a local non-food business or local event, or a local fun spot. I expect this to be a busy, but fun year for our locavore family, and the adventure starts now... (Okay, I know it's not quite calendar 2008 yet - humor me!)

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