Making Room for Local on the Thanksgiving Menu

(Kim O'Donnel)

Remember back in July, when 54 households across America pledged to take the Mighty Appetite Eat Local Challenge (ELC) for a week? The goal: to incorporate into our diets 10 food items grown or raised within 100 miles of where we live. Over the course of the week, guest bloggers from five corners of the country shared their stories, tips, travails and revelations about eating from their respective food sheds.

For some readers, the notion of eating locally for an entire week was daunting. My response to those feeling overwhelmed by food miles: Scrap the notion of a week and do just one day instead. And do it soon, as in nine days from now -- on Thanksgiving Day -- the one day of the year when eating locally is as easy as pie. If there ever was a time and day to see what this eating-local stuff is all about, Thanksgiving is it, kids.

Here’s what I propose: As you sketch out the menu this week, look at each dish on your scribbled-on napkin and ask yourself what, if anything, can be sourced locally. If you’re already a farm market shopper, you know that your local market is aplenty with winter squash, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, potatoes, garlic, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, collards, garlic, onions and mushrooms, to name just a few. And butter. And honey. And cream. And eggs. What are secondary sources for local food? Do you have a food co-op nearby? A small, independent grocery that buys from local farms?

Again, if all this homework for one lousy meal seems overwhelming, pick just one dish that can easily be made from local ingredients, and take pride in your contribution. One local dish is more than none, after all. Or say what! If it’s a potluck, what if everyone brought something L-O-C-A-L?

Then cut yourself some slack. Most parts of the country, for example, are far far away from cranberry bogs, but I doubt that’s going to stop anyone from whipping up a batch of sauce. (I must gloat, for one minute, however; I found white cranberries at my local market here in Seattle!)

For a little assist in the inspiration department, check out the newly launched Thanksgiving Local and Organic Food Challenge, a collaboration of Consumers Union and Eat Well Guide. Joining them in their efforts are chefs Dan Barber, Mario Batali and Alice Waters, who have all contributed seasonal recipes to get the local eats party started. You’re invited to submit your favorite, too, as long as it takes advantage of either locally or organically grown ingredients. At last glance, the list is growing by the day; yesterday I submitted one of my Thanksgiving favorites – apple and Brussels sprouts slaw, which uses at least five local ingredients.

The Challenge folks have also created a Facebook page, a hearty helping of virtual cheer and encouragement; go here for Eat Well's local, sustainable eating guides to 20-some cities nationwide and here for Local Harvest's Thanksgiving shopping list.

For more on the trend of counting your food miles, read my story, 100-Mile Meal , from the Post Food section in 2006.

Chat Day! Join me at 1 ET for What's Cooking.

By Kim ODonnel |  November 18, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Eat Local Challenge , Thanksgiving
Previous: Meatless Monday: Crazy for Kale Pesto | Next: Thanksgiving Chat Hotline, Week Two


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I'll have a new addition to my Thanksgiving menu. I saw some beautiful beets (and turnips) at the farmer's market last weekend. I tried a variation on a salad that called for using the wilted beet greens, "roasted" beets on top, and then topped with feta cheese. I used chevre instead.

The beats are cooked by putting them in a dish, adding 1" of water, covered and baked in a hot oven for an hour. The skins come off under running water (they're hot!), and then the beets can be sliced or cubed.

Unfortunately, I chose to use some greens I bought as a base. When tossed with balsamic and olive oil, they were quite bitter. So, those were skipped. However, the combination of the beets and chevre was so compelling, I'm going with that for my table. I'm not sure if I'll go local for the cheese, but definitely for the roots.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 18, 2008 4:01 PM

Since I'm down here in Cajun country, I'm going to provide a crawfish quiche for the workplace Thanksgiving gathering. I don't think there will be a problem finding local crawfish.

Posted by: davemarks | November 18, 2008 4:50 PM

I'm in charge of pies this year: apples, sugar pumpkins, heavy cream and butter (for the crusts and crumb topping) will be local. Unfortunately, Minces aren't native to the area, so they'll be of the jarred variety.

Posted by: CentreofNowhere | November 18, 2008 5:00 PM

Rather than a single dish, I try to use local ingredients in many dishes. South Mountain Dairy cheeses, Stahmann Farms pecans, Eagle Ranch pistachio nuts, local pumpkins and eggs from friends' private farms, goat milk from my own barn (and homemade cajeta from the milk) will all grace our holiday table.

And, although I won't drink it myself (allergies), there are many New Mexico wines to choose from.

Our local apple orchard got burned out from a spring wildfire, so I'm going to be on the hunt for apples, but I'm still hopeful. I make chutney from apples and Mesilla Valley onions.

Wow, I'm hungry already.

Happy holiday!! Linda

Posted by: lsgc | November 18, 2008 6:38 PM

Hmmm... either my MIL or SIL is hosting this year, but I'm always in charge of the dressing. So if I can get to the farmer's market Saturday, I can get all the veggies and assorted ingredients for my very popular dressing. But I'm worried about the croutons. I've never tried to make my own.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | November 18, 2008 6:39 PM

Great idea, ArlingtonGay! I've been picking up local apples for weeks, but didn't using them as a dish.

OK, Kim. You've thrown down the gauntlet. It's probably a bit late to find a local NoVa turkey, but I'm going to make this as much a locavore feast as I can. I'll be posting on the plans.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 18, 2008 8:18 PM

FairlingtonBlade, I include a couple apples in my diced-super-tiny veggies in my dressing. Something I learned from Kim last Thanksgiving. Super-diced-tiny. Our 6 year old niece had no idea how many veggies she was eating. Her mom was impressed.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | November 18, 2008 8:25 PM

FairlingtonBlade -- it may not be too late to get a Nova turkey. Smithfresh Meats, which raises turkeys and sells them at Arlington Courthouse, Dupont, Columbia Pike and Takoma markets, may have a few extra. I recommend that you give them a call and find out. If they don't answer, it means they're processing birds, but they'll get back to you.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 18, 2008 8:42 PM

Thanks, Kim! I drop by the Courthouse market occasionally (Del Rey is a little closer to home) and will give them a call.

ArlingtonGay - Thanks for the tip. One of my (almost) 3 year old twins rejects veggies on principle, but scarfs down a few dishes where the veggies have been minced or pureed.


Paul (The Fairlington Blade)

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 18, 2008 9:04 PM

Paul, i think they also have a stand at Del Ray so let them know that's closest to you.
P.S. Are you coming to the Mighty App-Celebritology happy hour on Dec 4?

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 18, 2008 10:21 PM

Kim - I am now! Where can I find details?



Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 18, 2008 10:54 PM

Paul (and anyone in DC area who wants to go): Celebritology blogger Liz Kelly and I are co-hosting a happy hour for our readers. Join us Dec 4, 6-8 at M Bar, at the Renaissance M Street Hotel. Venue and event details can be found here:

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 19, 2008 12:32 AM

GAFF, Here's the scoop on croutons (easier than you think): Cut your bread into cubes, place on a baking tray and toast in oven at about 250 degrees. While croutes are toasting, get your seasoning fixins together. Salt, pepper, herbs, parm, whatever floats your boat -- plus some kind of fat. You can do melted butter or you can do olive oil. Remove croutes from oven, combine seasonings with fat and toss to coat croutes in bowl. You may need to return to oven to let them "dry" for a few more minutes. There you go, you've got croutes.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 19, 2008 12:38 AM

Linda, I'm imagining your table. Sounds grand! Will you make pie with those pecans?

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 19, 2008 12:41 AM

Alright, Dave! I wanna hear more about this quiche.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 19, 2008 12:42 AM

Thanks, Kim! I want to know more about the quiche, myself. I figure I'll modify my standard quiche recipe:
Two 10" quiches
11 eggs
1 quart half and half
10 oz gruyere or swiss
1 pack frozen chopped spinach
1 lb bacon cooked
white pepper, nutmeg, salt
pastry dough for the two 10" pans

Roll out dough, line pans, bake about 10 minutes in hot oven. Spread grated cheese, bacon, spinach. Beat eggs, mix in half & half and salt, nutmeg, pepper. Pour into quiche pans. Bake 350 until the center puffs up, about an hour.

I figure I'll reduce the amount of bacon and substitute a pound of crawfish tails between the two quiches. I think this will work.

An interesting side note about buying local: You have to be careful that the crawfish really is from Louisiana. There are a lot of packages that look Cajun with script that says "Marie Boudreaux" over a map of Louisiana, but upon closer inspection one finds the small lettering: Product of China.

Posted by: davemarks | November 19, 2008 7:08 AM

Fairlington, glad my tip on hiding veggies is useful. I think I even threw in a few brussel sprouts last year. The niece loved the dressing but didn't have a clue it was (mostly) good for her.

And Kim, once again thanks for another useful tip. I'll likely get a loaf of bread at the Courthouse market and use that for the croutons.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | November 19, 2008 10:11 AM

Hey Kim - Yes, pie with pecans, but also I put them into stuffing, and sprinkle them atop mashed sweet potatoes.

Also, Stahmann Farms has an extensive gift catalog, with candies, pralines, and various salted/chile roasted, etc. things. I always put these out for munchies.

I have been buying pecans from them since I was in college in Las Cruces in the early seventies. I used to ride over to their store on horseback. My customer number is 87!!! (No joke.) L

Posted by: lsgc | November 19, 2008 10:31 AM

Dave, that is more and more the case with seafood. So important to read the labels or find yourself a local fisherman/shrimper you can develop a relationship with and buy directly. Keep me posted. You can use those shells to make stock, by the way.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 19, 2008 11:20 AM

Rats - the 4th is a Thursday (bowling league night). I'll have to see if my team can find a sub for me.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 19, 2008 6:34 PM

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