Well, I did make it to the farmer's market this past week which felt great.
I was surprised by how much produce was being sold already. I picked up some lettuce, a huge bag of arugula, green onions, and broccoli. I also bought a jar of ancho mole, which the Food Project's youth made, and some more Boston honey. This year they also have a bakery stand, so I went home with a baguette and some pound cake. I kind of kicked myself for not picking up some spinach and kale to try making a green smoothie. Sounds a little intimidating, but I want try it once or twice and keep an open mind. Plus I still have fruit in the freezer to get rid of ASAP, since strawberry season has arrived.
So, again this week, I was challenged by the one local summer challenge. We went down the Cape Friday night to go camping with the pooch and to visit Provincetown (sorry, forgot the camera battery so we had a camera vacation which was nice), and on the way back home we stopped by Bongi's Turkey Roost in Kingston to pick up some turkey sausage. I was very excited to get my hand's on my first locally produced poultry, since Matt has crossed beef and most pork off his "will eat" list.
Disappointingly, turkey sausage was not meant to be. I was told they no longer make the sausage, as it wasn't worth their while. Instead I picked a turkey pie out of the freezer since we'd made the trip. It was a decent consolation prize. Later, I kicked myself again, this time for not buying a pound of sliced turkey to take home. I was distracted by the fresh or frozen whole turkey signs, knowing without a second thought I am in no shape to wrangle a whole turkey this week. Plus, there's no room in the freezer and I need some more counter and cupboard space before I can go crazy, buy a meat grinder, and try sausage production. Maybe some other day. Don't put it past me.
So without any turkey sausage, I needed to move to plan B for my one local summer meal of the week. In the process, I made myself finally own up to the fact that the one local summer challenge requires keeping it simple and to not counting on any specific ingredients. After the turkey disappointment, we made a quick swing into Whole Foods, and since I hadn't blown my budget on turkey sausage, I sprung for a quart of organic locally grown strawberries. They became the focus of my one local lunch today.
I enjoyed a lettuce and arugula salad, with strawberries and locally made cranberry dressing. I followed it up with some more strawberries on that farmer's market pound cake, with some hand-whipped crème fraîche that I bought last week. It was all delicious.
I'm trying not to get frustrated with what I can't find locally. It's been harder than anticipated, and it's easy to get caught up on how so little locally grown food is available outside of farmer's markets, and how it is challenging, at least for someone like me who is not a farmer, to put together a whole meal that is 100% locally grown. In the process of trying though, I'm learning a lot and become even more aware of how much I'd have to live without if our industrialized farming and transportation system ever collapsed. Flour, ketchup, sugar, olive oil, not to mention the obvious beer, soda and bananas. I'm sure it'd be close to impossible to sustain our population in Massachusetts if no food was available from outside sources.
It wasn't always this way. According to UMass, Massachusetts loses an average of 42 dairy farms a year. That probably explains why it's so hard for me to find milk and cheese that is produced within a 100 mile radius. I can find milk that is processed locally, but the milk production happens in Vermont or New Hampshire. I can easily find locally made ice cream, but I have no idea where the ingredients come from.
The lack of farms, distribution channels, and good labeling (i.e. product of the USA) also explains why I'm feeling a little like I could make a part time job out of chasing down the spectrum of meat, dairy, vegetables, fruits, and grains that would produce a typical meal for me, especially since I live inconveniently outside of the Cambridge/Jamaica Plain/Somerville trifecta where there is a higher concentration of farmer's markets and CSA drop off points.
Yet, it makes me feel hopeful that good people, like the folks at the Food Project who bring together suburban and urban youth to farm together, are trying to buck the trend so that in June I can enjoy some fresh foods grown outside of California, Mexico, Florida, New Zealand, and South America. And I'm excited that I've been including many more locally grown and regional items in many of my meals, and running across unexpected finds on the grocery store shelf, like canned apple sauce from a local apple farm. So despite the occasional disappointments, the challenge is still very worth the while. I'm not perfect at this, but I'm learning and eating well.