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It’s the end of One Local Summer, the 10-week Eat local challenge put out there by Liz at Pocket Farm and answered by many. I am thinking of taking the September 2007 Eat Local Challenge too. I hould hurry: it’s September already!

  • Last meal

Our last OLS meal was spaghetti bolognese, with only the organic, whole wheat pasta and the salt and pepper non-local. All the other ingredients were from the Farmer’s Market or Drumlin Farm, none of which are more than 100 miles away (tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, carrots, onions, garlic – lots! – squash, ground beef) and my herb garden at 0 miles (rosemary, thyme, oregano).

No photographs, though! It was a big pot, but we had friends over for dinner and then we enjoyed it for another lunch and dinner, and then, then it was all gone! And I had forgotten to snap a picture…

I want to mention one very special thing, though, about this pasta sauce: Amie ate it! Granted, she ate the beefy chunks, but she didn’t mind (so much) a piece of carrot or pepper sticking to it. Must make it again, even more of it, and freeze it.

  • Local eating all summer round

Almost as soon as we took it on, the OLS challenge changed our entire week’s food habits, not just for the one agreed upon meal.

Yesterday at dinner at a friends’ place, we had avocado in our salads. It was such an intense, exceptional experience. As I voiced this to our hosts, I realized that since we took the OLS challenge, we haven’t had any of the impossible-to-be-local fare that we used to eat: avocado, banana, kiwi, oranges… And we hadn’t missed them!

I think we could keep on doing this for September, and I want to make a go of it into October, but I’m afraid we won’t be able to keep it up much longer after that. Living in a small space, with a little top-of-the-fridge freezer, I wasn’t able to preserve or freeze any of the local summer food.

I’m curious to see when the turning point comes, who will notice first…

We’ve been away on several trips, one after the other, and have had numerous Local Summer meals en route and when staying with friends. None of which I was able to photograph (well enough), and few of which I remember in detail (as in ingredients, let alone mileage!).

I do have a picture of today’s mostly local meal, though (cooked, finally, at home):

One Local Summer meal (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  • All organic and local (within 100 miles):
  1. Corn
  2. Sicilian roasted pepper and eggplant salad (recipe from Silk Road Cooking): green pepper, eggplant, garlic, goat cheese
  3. Mushroom dish: squash, leek, onions, garlic
  • Homegrown (within 3 feet):
  1. Cilantro in eggplant salad 
  2. Oregano, dill and basil in mushroom dish
  • Not local:
  1. Mushrooms
  2. Spices: salt, pepper, cumin powder, paprika, cayenne, sugar
  3. Olive oil
  4. Organge juice (an ingredient in the Sicilian pepper and eggplant dish)
  5. Grains and rice (Near East Whole Grain – roasted pecan and garlic: our favorite quickie, but I’m on the lookout for a homemade and potentially more local alternative)
  • This week’s lesson

There’s nothing like being back home and cooking in one’s own kitchen (however much of a mess it is)!

So many “exotic” recipes – like the ones I am trying from the wonderful travel adventure, food history and cook book by Najmieh Batmanglij, Silk Road Cooking - can be made locally. The ingredients are often readily available (around here, at least), only the spices can pose a problem (see above). Still, those spices can be the something precious, luxurious and special that makes us dream of far away places and that puts our “local” meal, and place, into perspective…

Enough ruminating: dessert!

  • Dessert

Local peaches and blueberries

DH is away to give a talk and I’m alone with Amie, who caught a stomach bug on Thursday and is still not recovered – the hot and humid weather isn’t helping much. When she’s not sleeping she is glued to me, so I haven’t managed and probably won’t manage to prepare a OLS meal this week.

Amie’s stubborn bug and my hard work on The Potboiler have thrown off my blogging. I have so many drafts of entries lined up, but I can’t seem to finish them.

I spent too many, many hours putting together A Story of our Friendship photo album for our best friend and maid-of-honor and godmother to Amie, in Shutterfly (a very clumsy program, to say the least – no undo button! – and I am curious to see the printed end result).

I’m also reading too many books at the same time:  all the reserach for The Potboiler plus Home Ground (Barry Lopez, editor) and Lucila Perillo’ s I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing, among others, for reviewing for Suite101. I received my first Mother Earth issue in the mail, which gave me a wonderful feeling of connection with a community. Lovely. Soon the new Orion will arrive in the mail as well, and it will have to be devoured instantly, each and every letter of it! And of course I am still working on Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – though I shouldn’t call what I am doing with it “working” without immediately explaining that “work” for me means fun and enrichment. What a book! More on all that later…

Later, later…

Let’s first recover from the stomach bug and the heat and humidity and because of that a yucky, smelly basement (i.e., our house). I might cave and buy a dehumidifier. Ugh.

  • Oh Potato!

There were potatoes at the Farmer’s Market this week, at just one of the dozen Farm stands but I got to them before they sold out. M-mm!

So we had, all grilled (on charcoal grill) by DH:

dinner OLS no.4 -(c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  1. potatoes from Middle Earth Farm from Amesbury, Mass (50 miles as the truck drives)
  2. summer squash and zucchini from Enterprise Farm, in Whately, Mass (111 miles, as the truck drives – less than 100 miles as the crow flies)
  3. NY sirloin from River Rock Farm in Brimfield, MA (63 miles)
  4. salt, pepper, olive oil: not local
  • Oh Peaches!

The Farmer’s Market also featured two buckets of peaches. Two! I didn’t show up half an hour before “the bell” for nothing!

I never buy the organic blueberries – they’re too pricey – but Kimball’s Fruit Farm is a Low Pesticide Spray farm.

So dessert was:

photo dessert blueberries peaches (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  1. peaches from Dick’s Market Garden in Lunenburg, Mass (50.9 miles as their truck drives)
  2. blueberries from the Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, Mass (47 miles)
  • Attentive eating

I don’t think I’ve ever eaten better in my life. “Better” in the sense of healthier and tastier, but also in the sense of “with more taste,” on my part, that is. I mean, I eat with more attention and appreciation. The potatoes and the peaches were so special because I have been doing without for so long.

Thanks, Liz, for this initiative! Without One Local Summer I never would have appreciated the exceptional quality of local food in season!

Ah, my apologies for being late! Due to unforeseen but lovely circumstances, we went out to dinner with friends the last couple of days, so I had to postpone our One Local Summer dinner until today. It was worth the wait, though (for us at least).

  • Simply salad

photo of salad for Onel Local Summer # 3 - (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Very simple:

  1. lettuce purchased at Drumlin Farm (where I will soon be working as an agricultural volunteer!), in Lincoln, Mass (17.9 miles as my car drives)
  2. tomatoes bought at Brookline Farmer’s Market (a 5-minute walk) from Dick’s Market Garden in Lunenburg, Mass (50.9 miles as their truck drives)
  3. garlic and herb goat cheese bought at Brookline Farmer’s Market from Capri from Westfield Farm in Hubbardston, Mass (64 miles as their truck drives)
  • Sirloin steak

photo of NY sirloin steak (cooked) for One Local Summer #3 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

The steak this time was again excellent and excellently cooked too, by DH. We get small pieces, this one was a little under a quarter of a pound, for the two of us. It’s all we need, really, or rather: a luxury even in such a “small” portion (“small” by American standards). We appreciate it all the more because it doesn’t seem to go on endlessly, like it does in many restaurants. It’s also darn expensive.

  1. NY sirloin bought at the Farmer’s Market from River Rock Farm in Brimfield, MA (63 miles)
  2. salt, pepper: not local
  3. butter was bought at Whole Foods but still local – though not in-state: it was Kate’s Butter from Old Orchard Beach in Maine (still only 100 miles away!)
  • Side dish: squash and bell pepper

Photo of squash and bell pepper dish for One Local Summer, #3 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

This was simple again but lovely and very refreshing on this hoy and humid summer’s day.

  1. bell peppers from Drumlin Farm (where I will soon be working as an agricultural volunteer!), in Lincoln, Mass (17.9 miles as my car drives)
  2. summer squash from the same place
  3. garlic bought at Farmer’s Market and were trucked there from the fields of the Enterprise Farm, in Whately, Mass (111 miles, as the truck drives – less than 100 miles as the crow flies)
  4. red onions bought at Brookline Farmer’s Market from Dick’s Market Garden in Lunenburg, Mass (50.9 miles as their truck drives)
  5. salt, pepper not local
  6. butter: Kate’s (100 miles)
  • Side dish: Swiss chard with tomatoes

photo of chard and tomatoes for One Local Summer #3 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Another simple and quickly prepared dish. 

  1. tomatoes from Farmer’s Market from Dick’s Market Garden in Lunenburg, Mass (50.9 miles as their truck drives)
  2. red onions bought at Farmer’s Market from Dick’s Market Garden in Lunenburg, Mass (50.9 miles as their truck drives)
  3. garlic at Farmer’s Market from Enterprise Farm, in Whately, Mass (111 miles, as the truck drives)
  4. salt, pepper not local
  5. butter: Kate’s (100 miles)
  • Dessert

I guess you can see a pattern now, with the desserts: they are always just one or two ingredients. The fruits in summer are just so fresh and sweet, I don’t think they need any elaboration with sugars or flours.  Also, as you may have guessed, I am not much of a baker. I’m going to do something about that soon. But for now:

photo of blueberries for One Local Summer #3 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  1. Blueberries bought at our Farmer’s Market from Enterprise Farm, in Whately, Mass (111 miles, as the truck drives)
  • How is it going?

Good, great! We’re not starving, quite the contrary. But I can’t wait for the potato harvest! I try to stick to the local eating more of the week, and potatoes – my staple, my favorite, the only thing I can cook in so many different and all of them delicious ways – is one of the crops I’ve avoided buying non-locally. I guess because they are so heavy and take up so much space on the trucks/trains/planes that would have to cart them over to my local store.

I popped by the Blue Heron Organic Farm in Lincoln (right around the corner from Drumlin) and they promised potatoes next week! At all the farmstands at the Farmer’s Market, however, the farmers laughed at my impatience and said I’ll have to wait another month, if not longer. That’s interesting. I’ll be sure to go by Blue Heron and check out their harvest!

color photograph of dinner OLS 2 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

It’s only week 2 of One Local Summer – which now has its own website! – and I already feel the impact of seasonal eating: no more asparagus, and no potatoes and onions yet. But there are still heaps of leafy greens in their prime, juicy young garlic and garlic scapes, and the newly arrived raspberries.

This week’s local dinner consisted of:

  • Salad: squash, tomato, cucumber and goat cheese

color photograph of cucumber-tomatoe-squash salad (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  1. the cucumber, squash and garlic scapes were bought at the Brookline Farmer’s Market (walked there) and were trucked there from the fields of the Enterprise Farm, in Whately, Mass (111 miles, as the truck drives – less than 100 miles as the crow flies)
  2. cilantro from my potted herb garden (0 miles)
  3. garlic and herb goat cheese are Capri from Westfield Farm in Hubbardston, Mass (64 miles as the truck drives)
  • Staple: focaccia

color photograph of focacio (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

The focaccia was bought at the Farmer’s Market from Clear Flour Bread, but it was made with non-local ingredients.

  •  Veggies: collard, kale and zucchini

color photograph of collard, kale, zucchini (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  1. the kale, collard greens, zucchini, garlic and garlic scapes were also bought at my Farmer’s Market and also at the farmstand (my favorite) of Enterprise Farm, in Whately, Mass (111 truck miles)
  2. the tomatoes are hydroponics bought at Whole Foods, but nevertheless local: from Water Fresh Harvest in Hopkinton, Mass (33 miles)
  3. herbs (oregano, cilantro, dill) from the herb garden (0 miles)
  4. butter was bought at Whole Foods but still local – though not in-state: it was Kate’s Butter from Old Orchard Beach in Maine (still only 100 miles away!)
  5. salt and pepper not local
  •  Meat: chuck eye steak

color photograph of steak (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Yes, there was meat, and I ate it! Though my husband cooked it, really well too. It is naturally raised and 12-28 days aged beef. Wow, was it good.

It was my first meat in over a year. I thought hard about my reasons for not eating meat, and I decided that humanely, naturally and locally raised meat falls outside of those reasons. I’ll write more about this later.

  1. steak bought at the Farmer’s Market from River Rock Farm in Brimfield, MA (63 miles)
  2. butter: Kate’s (100 miles)
  3. salt and pepper not local
  • Dessert: strawberries and raspberries

color photograph of strawberries and raspberries (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  1. the strawberries were bought at Allandale Farm (3.5 miles from my house – we drove) and are “very local,” though the shopkeeper couldn’t quite say wherefrom exactly
  2. raspberries are from Enterprise Farm in Whately (111 miles)
  •  How did I do?

I did better than last week, if I may say so myself!

I broke out of my old Farmer’s Market mold, which used to cover only veggies, fruits and herbs. This time I also got meat and goat cheese, two food items I will now no longer buy at Whole Foods. Did I tell you how very very good that goat cheese was? Wait, let me show you again:

color photograph of goat cheese cucumber squash tomato salad (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Over the weekend we visited Allandale Farm – the even more local alternative to the Farmer’s Market – but their offering isn’t very large yet. Will go back there later, though.

I bought some ingredients for this meal at Whole Foods. I am not against shopping there – indeed, it’s a necessity for many non-food and dry-foods items – and I made sure I got their local produce and butter. Still, another point of eating locally (for me) is to buy as directly as possible from the farmer, so that he/she gets the biggest share of the food-dollar. Our Farmer’s Market doesn’t offer butter, but I could investigate a more direct local source of it. As for the tomatoes: they’ll be at the Market soon.

  • Grains, pasta, rice, corn, and beans?

I’ve been following other One Local Summer participants and grains, pasta, rice, corn and beans seem to be the Achilles heel of Local Eating in many parts of the States.

I was happy to see, in Liz’s posting about her garden, that she is growing corn, for cornmeal. But what about bread, and pasta? Is it possible for a homesteader to grow enough wheat, let’s say, for his/her family? I haven’t seen (m)any online homesteaders do it…

And what about beans and rice, here in the North East?

  • Next week

Yoghurt! I’m going to “grow” my own yoghurt!

  • Food Photography

It’s an art! Who knew? The shopping and the cooking and the eating were fun – that is one of the rules of One Local Summer - but the photographing not so.

  • Dinner 

 This was our dinner tonight, for the first edition of One Local Summer:

our dinner for One Local Summer - first edition (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

I’m a vegetarian and since I was the one cooking, it was a vegetarian meal.

We’re in Brookline, Mass, a suburb of Boston, and we have a fantastic Farmer’s Market on Thursdays. Which I duly visited to purchase tonight’s ingredients:

I usually buy from the same farm stand, a small organic farm near Northhampton, Mass, which is 101 miles away – yes: exaclty 101 miles! Less as the crow flies, but then we’re counting truck miles, not crow miles… From them I got:

  1. Swiss chard
  2. Asparagus
  3. Garlic
  4. Garlic scapes

From another stand, a Low Spray farm, the location of which I didn’t find out, but it’s within Massachusetts – let’s say, also 101 miles:

  1. Tomatoes (greenhouse)

From my potted herb garden, that is, 0 – zilch – nada miles:

  1. Herbs (sage, taragon, Italian basil, thyme, oregano)

And from the Clear Flour Bread in Allston, which is 2 miles away (I’ll call them tomorrow to ask where they get their flour from – cf. UPDATE below):

  1. A buckwheat walnut loaf

The great unknowns but almost certainly not local are:

  1. Butter: I cooked everything in butter, thinking our usual olive oil probably comes from even further away!
  2. Salt
  3. Pepper

To my horror, I found out that certain ingredients that are very common in my kitchen – potatoes, onions, and mushrooms – aren’t in season yet, or simply not available. This turned out to be a blessing, really, because the chard tasted much nicer without the onions. I am very grateful for the juicy and oh so soft new garlic, though!

  • Dessert

strawberries for dessert for One Local Summer first edition

These also came from the organic farm near Northhampton in Mass – 101 miles away. They were so deliciously sweet and juicy that I bought two pounds of them: $5 a pound because they were closing up and they were the last ones: a bit bruised, but no less tasty!

At first I was thinking of making a cake or some such with them (with King Arthur Flour) and some local eggs, and butter and sugar… sigh. I just needed to pop one into my mouth to realize they are delicious by themselves! So that’s how we had them.

  • How did I do?

So how did I do, as a “locavore” (Liz’s and Kingsolver’s word)?

Not so well, in my opinion. I still don’t know where many of my ingredients come from, and at the Market itself wasn’t assertive or present enough to ask. 

Finding out that that organic farm, that I get 90% of my groceries from at the Market, is 101 miles away was a shocker.  (Is it fair to count those 101 only once for the produce I got from there? They all came in one and the same truck….)

The point being, we have many farms much more local, many of which offer CSA’s. More importantly, Brookline itself – my own town – has a farm: Allandale Farm, which calls itself “Boston’s Last Working Farm,” whose crops are Certified Naturally Grown using organic methods. They have their own farm stand – a beautiful one, too.

For our next One Local Summer meal, I’ll go shopping there. Need to get those miles down!

  • A word of thanks 

For Matt (Fat Guy on a Little Bike) for letting us late-comers join in anyway!

  •  UPDATE

I called Clear Flour Bread the ingredients of their lovely buckwheat walnut are for the most part from the midwest. Only the organic buckwheat is somewhat local: it is milled and grown in Westport, NY (about 200 miles from here).