October is Eat Local Challenge month, and we should have made a big deal about it before. However, we have all been pretty swamped — the road to blogging hell is paved with good post intentions. And truth is, all of us treat every month as an eat-local challenge, and mistakenly or not, we kind of assume regular readers of the Ethicurean do, too. Buying mostly, if not entirely, from farmers and ranchers within our foodshed seems second nature at this point. Or do I have that wrong?
(A humble note of apology: This post is NOT meant as a “nyah nyah” to the rest of you folks who do not live in states quite as agriculturally blessed as California. Please don’t hate us. Remember we pay insanely high prices for such privilege and we’ll probably all get wiped off the face of the earth in an earthquake any minute.)
Still, going to the Berkeley farmers market yesterday reminded me that I belong to the luckiest damn group of eaters in America. It was my first visit to the Saturday market in more than a month — I was away for two weeks, and then just somehow too stressed, depressed, and/or busy. While kind friends, my husband, and my sister have done some shopping for me, lately my diet has relied on grilled-cheese-and-chutney sandwiches and tinned sardines to an embarrassing extent. It was so nice to stroll through the hordes in the crisp fall air, towing my little Hook ‘n’ Go (please don’t harass me about the couple of plastic bags you see, I do my best OK?), saying hello to people I know, and gathering up all the late-summer bounty you see above.
I purchased: tomatoes (including some organic but “cosmetically challenged” ones for $1/lb), apples, plums, pluots, 3 pints strawberries, butternut squash, green beans, peppers, scallions, onions, red and purple potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, summer squash, and assorted greens (kale, bok choi, purslane, 3 heads of lettuce), and a pound of dates. On the prepared foods side, I picked up local butter and cowsmilk cheddar, raw goat feta and a new kefir product from my favorite goat dairy, apple cider, pancetta (Fatted Calf was out of bacon, boo), two packages of egg fettucine, and two loaves of whole wheat bread, one of them made with local flour from Full Belly. (By the way — and this may be the equivalent of teaching your grandmother to suck eggs — but I only recently discovered that if you store freshly baked bread in a paper bag inside a tightly closed plastic bag in the fridge, it stays soft and sliceable for a week or more. I thus no longer buy “sandwich” bread.) Now, some of the above did come from more than 100 miles away, but…man, I love those dates. Nature’s crack.
Total cost: $125. Augmented with meat I have in the freezer from the local farm for which I work about 20 hours a month on the barter system, plus the canned salmon, tuna, and sardines I either buy from local sources or order from Vital Choice Wild Seafood, this should be enough to make most of my husband’s and my meals for about 7-10 days. And my satisfaction level afterward? Priceless.