Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday, August 23: Day 23

We are still reporting on our eating adventures from two locations. Scott's Massachusetts musings follow my Madison meanderings.

Today life conspired to make our day a busy one. The rain that has devastated farmers also crept into my parents' basement so we worked to get that cleaned up and ate was at hand for lunch (yummy french toast by the way). Breakfast had been dryish bread because our electricity was out and we couldn't toast. Dinner was wonderful calzones made with dough I actually made! (Scott's recipe of course.) They came out really well. Mine had broccoli inside, Evie has her broccoli on the side. Tomorrow will be our one "eating out" adventure this month, Fridays are always crazy and tomorrow will be no exception. We will be picking a restaurant from the Buy Fresh, Buy Local list. Not all the ingredients in our meal will be from within 100 miles but we will be making a choice to support a local business who is buying local food. None of this is about 100% compliance to a dogma 100% of the time. It is about thinking about where your food comes from and keeping it close to home.

Eating locally: hard to start, but easy to do.

As we’ve noted elsewhere, once you track down your sources and get into a routine, getting even a large proportion of your food locally is not that difficult. For the past week I’ve been out of town, visiting my mother in Massachusetts. It’s been a struggle to locate many local resources in the short period of time I’ve been here. There are several farmstands nearby that have fruits and vegetables, but eggs, meat, and dairy are more difficult. The state department of agriculture does maintain a website to help locate local products, but most of the providers are in a different part of the state. If we lived here, it would not be a difficult decision to make a trip a couple of times a year and stock up on things that will keep. And there is a local chicken producer, but they are sold out for the year. To me, that demonstrates that the interest is there.

Yesterday I went to an outpost of a large national chain specializing in natural and organic foods, hoping they might have some local meat. Despite the fact that our checkout cashier was sporting a “buy local” pin, most of the veggies were from California and all of the meat came from “the middle of the country”, and to top it off, the beef was corn-fed. Very disappointing.

New England is a small region. A 100 mile radius from where I am could blast you right through New Hampshire and deep into Maine, so boundaries are not a good tool for determining what is local. And while eastern Massachusetts is getting very urban, there is still a lot of agriculture in the western part of the state, and plenty to choose from in the northern part of the region. If you do your homework and are willing to learn where the stuff is, there is a lot to choose from.

But the fact remains that if you breeze in for a short while, it is hard to just slip into local eating. It takes a good amount of research and a fair bit of legwork to track it all down in a new place. Our way of life (that's the big "our") is just not set up to make this easy. And you don't want to spend all your travel time chasing down food. Or maybe you do—could this be a new kind of tourism?

A highlight: we did have dinner at a great restaurant called Stone Hearth Pizza. The menu is mostly pizzas, both classics and interesting new combinations. They take a lot of pride in sourcing ingredients locally, and in fact have a sheet that names their key suppliers and even spotlights one on a rotating basis. There are lots of local beers to choose from, but it looked to me like most of the wines were from elsewhere. All in all, it was a great experience: good local food prepared well and enjoyed in the company of friends.

Tasty pizza:

And a view of the open prep area and the gas-fired oven:

If you find yourself in the Boston area, give Stone Hearth Pizza a try: they have 3 locations to choose from. And either way, visit them on the web to learn about what they are doing. Producer profiles are under the "Community" tab.