Making Room for Local on the Thanksgiving Menu
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.
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