Monday, April 23, 2007

Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge: Day 1

Over the weekend, the Gentleman came to visit for a couple of days, and we crammed a lot of good eating into less than 48 hours. Among the highlights was dinner at the Bistro, a blissful meal full of wonderful local foods, including fresh tender asparagus, morels, fennel, and a locally produced cherry wine. I'd go into the usual raptures, but that's not the point today.

You see, a meal at the Bistro, while fantastic, can also be fantastically expensive. It's worth it, don't get me wrong! (Oh, sooooooo worth it.) But it can also convey the impression that local food is an elite ideal, too expensive for most folks to enjoy.

Still, it made a good contrast to this week's Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge from the good folks who also brought you the Locavores site. As I promised last week, I'm up for the challenge, thanks in large part to all the good farmers' market produce I put away last fall and am still working through little by little.

With the first of seven days down, I can tell you two things. First, with a little advance preparation (that is, the habit of preserving the harvest for later use), you really can have inexpensive local meals that are varied, interesting, tasty, and healthful. Second, you'd better be prepared to spend some time in making them... which is not a bad thing!

I started off my day with a filling breakfast of cheese grits (using locally produced organic cheddar cheese) and a cup of Moroccan mint tea laced with honey. As tired as I was, I didn't think I'd get going on a Monday morning without coffee, but the honeyed tea made a gentle and tasty introduction to the week.

Since I hadn't had time this past weekend to cook much, I ended up throwing together a light hodgepodge of a meal to carry to work for lunch: dilled green beans (made by my colleague, the Archivist, with homegrown beans and dill), pears I had canned a year and a half ago (still sweet and yummy!), a wedge of Gouda from an Ohio cheesemaker, and a pair of my homemade espresso-chocolate shortbread cookies.

When I finally got home after work and a visit with the Innkeeper, I was glad I had thought ahead to thaw some local broccoli from the freezer so that I could whip up a pizza using locally milled spelt flour and locally produced honey in the dough, a locally produced pizza sauce, and local mozzarella cheese. And since I was just in the right mood to offset the weekend's Bistro feast with something more pedestrian, I backed that pizza with a selection from a local brewery: Commodore Perry ale from the Great Lakes Brewing Company.

Since I still have so many food items left from last year's farmers' market, I'm going to have to guess on food costs. (It's all estimates, anyway, because it's really tricky to guess how much is spent on spices or other minor ingredients.) I'll try to calculate it a couple of different ways by the end of the week, but based on the portions that I ate today, I'd estimate that today's costs would have been just over $6 for my meals.

That's right... SIX dollars, even with the beer. Thanks to buying in bulk, storing food in the freezer or the pantry, and moderating portions, I ended up with three satisfying meals for less than what any of those meals would cost at a restaurant or from the grocery store.

I'll try to update daily as I head through this week... but what a great start!

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