Eating 100% localishPosted: October 8, 2011
So I decided to challenge myself and eat 100 per cent local this month. If it wasn’t grown in Nova Scotia, I wouldn’t eat it. Everything had to be from a local farmer or producer, or something I had foraged on my own. Simple enough. But four days in, as I sit here hungry and cranky, I feel the need to re-evaluate.
First off, let me say that the province produces a cornucopia of edible delights. I can spend hours at the farmers’ market checking out the variety of foods and ingredients on offer. And since signing on with a CSA I’ve had great meals that have been pretty close to 100 per cent local.
But going totally local means no coffee, lemon, olive oil, chocolate or rice — all foods that I crave or rely on as key ingredients. I can’t find a local producer of grains, so pasta and bread is out. In fact, pretty much anything that comes packaged is out because there are usually some ingredients that I can’t track. Logistically, it means planning meals two or three days ahead and scouring the city and countryside for edible things that can keep me alive. And one more thing: It means doing this on my own because Tom refuses to give up coffee.
Right from the start I knew I was in for an ass-kicking. I didn’t plan properly and found myself without eggs or meat. I had homemade applesauce and strawberries for breakfast and a dressing-free mixed greens salad for lunch. I sucked back hot water (tap water, of course) with honey all day. I was in a haze the whole time.
Dinner was a lot better. We had roasted potatoes and chicken thighs that I had taken out of the freezer that morning. The tricky thing was cooking without oil and salt and pepper. The potatoes were rather bland and dry, even with a sprinkling of thyme. But the chicken turned out great thanks to a good dose of rosemary.
We squeezed a lot out of that chicken. We used the fat drippings to make a salad dressing with roasted red peppers and garlic, and parsley. I had leftover chicken for the next two lunches, along with a new-and-improved salad.
We also boiled several eggs that first night, which made the next couple of breakfasts far more filling and nutritious.
But let me be clear: At no point was I truly enjoying it. I was spending more time thinking about food (or rather about being hungry) than actually preparing and eating it. I found substitutes for some things, like a pricey maple sugar for cane sugar, and I was learning to live without coffee and chocolate. But cheese? I wasn’t touching the delicious caerphilly from Knoydart Farm in the fridge. It was certified organic but contained salt and herbs, and I didn’t know where they were from. And wine and charcuterie meats? I was avoiding those too for the same reason.
Something cracked in me on Day 3. I was at Obladee Wine Bar, which proudly serves local wine, cheese and meats. I decided then to loosen up and eat something. I wasn’t going to scrutinize the list of ingredients so much. Rather, I would enjoy the food that local farmers and growers were labouring to produce. I stuck with the meats and cheeses from Nova Scotia and ignored everything else, including the bread and olives. I had a glass of wine from the Gaspereau Valley. It was glorious.
Tonight we had a tasty haddock from Alyssa Foods. It was poached in Nova Scotia wine, with farm-fresh zucchini, onions, garlic, tomato and thyme. We reduced the poaching liquid after the fish was cooked and made a beurre blanc sauce. We had beans and steamed broccoli on the side. Tom had an Italian beer and I didn’t beg for a sip.
It feels like I know what I’m doing now. Yes, it was a tough start, but I have meals planned for the week and a better idea of where I’m headed. Progress!