Midwestern locavore meets reality

As an aspiring foodie, I am satisfying my recent scholarly craving with a few books I received for Christmas from folks who know me well. Last week I devoured Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and have promptly moved on to An Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I was first introduced to these authors in Thailand and since then, these books have been at the top of my must-read list.

Both authors, through very different writing styles, approach similar food themes like eating fresh, local, organic produce while challenging the industrial food system, animal feedlots, and high fructose corn syrup. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enchanting account of one family’s attempt to live intentionally as locavores for one year, consuming foods they’ve grown themselves or purchased locally within a 100-mile radius. Why? Because of their desire to reduce the amount of fossil fuels they “use” when purchasing produce out of season, which must be shipped from places like California or beyond. Their approach is extreme: they relocate to a family farm in Virginia, grow their own produce, raise their own poultry, and make their own bread. While I certainly don’t have the time, money, or resources to attempt such a lifestyle, I am inspired to incorporate aspects of their year-long experiment into my own life.

Perhaps beginning a locavore project in Michigan during the month of February isn’t the best idea (in Cherokee, “February” translates to “hungry month”) for obvious reasons. According to a Michigan Farm Fresh Produce Availability Calendar, my local food options are apples, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes. Supplementing this produce with other local foods, my diet could also include cheese, greenhouse-grown plants, herbs, honey, jams, jellies, and maple syrup. Hm. This may prove to be hungry month indeed.

And how far should I take the project? Do I also want to consume not just locally-produced foods, but also organic? What about my oatmeal, flour, butter, eggs, and other staples I readily use? Should I ensure that my spices, coffee, and tea (though not produced locally) are Fair Trade, shade-grown, organic, etc? I say yes…then reality hits. I am definitely not in a financial situation to embark on such a time- and money-consuming endeavor. But maybe I could find ways to begin, and become a more active consumer of local produce by thinking twice before grabbing a bunch of bananas that were shipped up to the frozen North from somewhere in the hot South. I mean, they don’t even taste all that delicious to me anyways, after eating fresh ones by the bunch in Thailand for a year.

I think the key to this locavore project, if I decide to give it a go, is flexibility and a healthy dose of perspective. It may not be realistic to eat only locally-grown foods right now but it is quite feasible to fill my cart with bags of Michigan-grown apples instead of pineapples, buy fresh-baked bread at Avalon, and find a local farmer who sells organic, free-range eggs. The healthy dose of perspective will be useful to make sure I am not isolating myself from family and friends who may not buy into this whole locavore mindset. I think there is a fine line between having principles about personal eating habits and having those principles affect relationships with the loved ones in my life. What I do not want from this project is the risk of seeming judgmental or dogmatic in my approach to eating locally.

So no, I will not be turning down delicious home-cooked meals any time soon, even if they include avocados from Mexico.

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