Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Local Food Tastes Better

As I was making a salad dressing this morning and gushing to myself about how awesome Romanian red garlic from the farmer’s market is, I realized I really have a passion for local food and the best way to share your love of a certain type of food is to share that food! Since I can’t feed you through the screen, I’ll settle for talking about it.

*Steps on soapbox. Clears throat. Mi mi mi mi mi mi miiiiiiii.*

Why I Believe in Local Food

I was so blessed to grow up with parents who regularly prepared healthy food for us and lived a healthy lifestyle as a good example for their growing kids. Of course, some things changed in college and I fell for the propaganda telling young women that 100-calorie packs and Diet Coke are good for you.

Thankfully shortly after graduation I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and it’s not an exaggeration to say that it changed my life. I went from counting calories to counting on local, seasonal flavors for nutrition and satisfaction. If you’re looking to add health to your life but don’t want to go on a restrictive diet, I can’t recommend this book enough. My copy is dog-eared, highlighted, and well-loved. The book is a novel of sorts-- it documents a year in the life of the author’s family in which they move to the Appalachian foothills and spend a year, as the author says, “deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air.”

One thing that stood out to me was that American food culture seems to be centered around fad diets and fast food. As Kingsolver says,
together they’ve helped us form powerfully negative associations with the very act of eating… (but other countries) hold to their food customs because of the positives: comfort, nourishment, heavenly aromas. A sturdy food tradition even calls to outsiders; plenty of red-blooded Americans will happily eat Italian, French, Thai, Chinese, you name it. But try the reverse: hand the Atkins menu to a French person, and run for your life.
But there is hope for us yet. As Kingsolver says, “The halcyon postwar promise of ‘better living through chemistry’ has fallen from grace. ‘No additives’ is now often considered a plus rather than the minus that, technically, it is.”

No longer is local food for the ‘hippie’ and ‘crunchy’ among us. It is a reality that our country needs to embrace that can quite literally change the nation’s fate. Kingsolver cites research stating:

if every US citizen ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week… Small changes in buying habits can make a BIG DIFFERENCE.

But the book isn’t all political propaganda. My favorite chapters are ones in which the author reunites with the miracle that turns a tiny seed into a flourishing plant and rejoices in the taste of a fresh tomato while mourning all the “wasted” meals in which she ate cottage cheese and overly-processed soup.

After finishing the book, I made a beeline for the first farmer’s market I could find and haven’t looked back. I love seasonal eating for so many reasons and hopefully I can convince you to give your local farmer’s market a try. I literally schedule my work around Friday nights at Badseed (my favorite market in Kansas City)!

End-of-Summer Salad Salute

Some people are excitedly gravitating toward the butternut squash and pumpkin spice lattes already. No harm in that, but summer is my favorite season and I haven’t quite had my fill of it yet. At the farmer’s market this past Friday, I greedily grabbed the following:

2 bags of kale


onions and cucumbers


heirloom cherry tomatoes (after trying them, I’ve become one of those annoying 
people who say they could eat these things like candy. They’re that good.)



and amazing purple Viking potatoes

When I got home, I set about making a kale salad. I was peeling open a head of Romanian red garlic to put in the salad dressing and was pleasantly surprised to find that this variety had 2 huge, buttery cloves instead of the ‘standard’ 6-8 cloves per head of garlic. This constant surprise and variety is one of my favorite things about local food. In a good climate, seasonal eating is anything but homogenized!

For this salad, I used 1 bunch of kale (de-stemmed), a handful of cherry tomatoes (I ate the rest), 1 large cucumber (seeded and chopped), and 1 medium red onion (chopped).

Simply prepare the veggies by rinsing and cutting as necessary, and toss in a large bowl. Then coat with dressing and allow it to sit for a few hours. Kale is one tough leaf and it’s more palate-friendly once it has ‘marinated.’

I think nut-based dressings taste best on kale, especially if you’re new to this veggie. The first time I met a kale salad I liked, it was at Whole Foods and had a cashew-ginger dressing similar to this one.

For today’s salad, I used the Lemon Tahini dressing from Angela at Oh She Glows. Her Better than Bottled Balsamic dressing is what got me on a make-your-own dressing kick in the first place. I prefer that on lettuce salad though, and I usually use something thicker on kale salads. I also highly recommend reading her blog if you’re looking to add some delicious recipes to your life. She’s alternately a fan of veggies and desserts, which makes me think we could be great friends if we lived in the same country!

If you’re looking for something different, Gena from Choosing Raw has so many great salad dressing creations it’s hard to choose one.

And finally, Sarah from Peas and Thank You has an amazing Mmmm Sauce recipe and variations that are pretty much good on anything.

But remember that the dressing is only meant to play a supporting role when seasonal vegetables are the star of the show. Support beyond-organic farmers like Dan and Brooke from Kansas City and buy local food! 

*Steps off of soapbox. Smoothes hair.*

So, what do you think of the local food movement?

1 comment:

  1. You just inspired me to go look up the East Texas farmer's market to go to while we're here. Thanks Therese!