Monday, August 27, 2007

Loco for Local

It's exciting to see how many more people are coming to appreciate not only the freshness of local food but also the worthwhile efforts to preserve that food for later in the year, when fresh food is harder to find.

Conversations with the Archivist the past few weeks have inevitably turned to what we've been canning in the evenings, and if you think I've been putting up a lot of tomatoes, you ain't seen nothin'. The Archivist reports that she and her husband regularly can in multiple-quart quantities, and her list currently includes tomatoes, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, salsa, pickles, and I have no idea what all else. Quarts! I'm telling you, I'm out of my league next to them.

Phone chats with the fair Titania also revolve around food, though often her reports focus on her farmers' market finds (tomatillos this week) and what exciting ways she chooses to preserve them. Having recently acquired a stand-alone freezer, she's been filling it to the brim with bags of vegetables and jars of preserves and tomatoes. And just last evening, we had a lively discussion about cold storage and ways that she could stockpile squash and potatoes for the winter (hint: wooden boxes or plastic or metal buckets packed with straw). We both agreed that we sounded like homesteaders in our enthusiasm for putting up food for the winter... and that that was a very good thing.

Even a visit to my hairdresser on Saturday revealed an astonishing side to this young woman as she talked about making tomato soup from scratch with some of her homegrown tomatoes. Cool!

So with all this food frenzy going on around me, I think it's only fitting to share the reminder that the folks at Eat Local Challenge have set September as their Challenge Month this year. Visit their site for guidelines... and yes, you can determine some exceptions in advance (like spices, oils, coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.). Aside from that, the goal is to enjoy local foods as much as possible throughout September.

I'm really excited about this, even if I don't have any local whole wheat flour right now (my biggest gap, which I hope to fill soon). With all the wonderful food coming into the farmers' market these days, I think it would be hard not to eat local!

I'd like to encourage all my Dear Readers to accept the challenge this year. It's coming at the perfect time, and you'll still have time after September to put some more food away for winter if you so desire. If you don't think you can make everything or every meal local, it's okay. Do what you can, but try to challenge yourself a little.

Can you take a favorite recipe -- just one -- and make it all local? The dish above is my all-time favorite comfort food, broccoli-walnut pasta, and in this version, the pasta, broccoli, garlic, and oven-dried tomatoes were all local. Can you find a new source of local ingredients that you haven't considered before? If you need other ideas, feel free to check out any of my Eat Like You Live Here pages (on the right sidebar). I think you'll find it easier than you expect!

If you plan to take the challenge, the Eat Local Challenge web site has a logo you can download and add to your blog so that you can show everyone (and remind yourself!) that you're choosing to eat locally in September... and maybe longer. And if any of you are willing to share a link to your site so that we can all enjoy eating locally with each other (albeit virtually), let me know and I will set up a list on the side of my page.

(On that note, are there any NE and Central Ohio food bloggers who might be up for a get-together one of these days? Just a thought!)

While you're thinking of eating locally, don't forget to visit some of the local festivals and county fairs around the state in the coming month. Ohio has a grand tradition of celebrating agricultural products, so go and enjoy one of these fairs or festivals, too!

And if you've got time, tuck a little local food away for winter. You won't regret it!


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