We are actually three days into the Eat Local Month of May, hosted by Locavore and Jen of Life begins at 30. Although this is the first mention of it on the blog, I've actually been testing the process since the first of May. Well, the second really: we were travelling on the first of the month and so it's hard to say what was local. We brought sausages back from England; I'm counting them as local because they were brought over in transportation that would have made the trip regardless.
I'm glad I'm participating in this effort already, because it's made me aware after only two days exactly how difficult it is to eat locally. I've always thought I that I'm particularly spoiled for choice, living here in Paris. And it's true that we get great produce. At the markets, the origin of produce is always labelled and I've always delighted in watching each fruit make its way up in the labels marked "Maroc", then "Espagne", then "Provence" and finally - if you are lucky - "Ile de France". But I hadn't noticed how the supermarkets just label the country of origin, not the region. And I certainly hadn't noticed that the small organic section of my local Monoprix is mostly stocked with fruit and veg from South America, South Africa and Israel.
I hadn't thought about the fact that the super-cheap drinkable wine I buy doesn't even have a proper designation, giving its origin. It has a label saying "bottled in F32725" or some such postal code, which is apparently somewhere in the Pyrenee mountains. Decent Loire wines or a nice Chablis are going to cost us at least twice as much but they will also be twice as tasty so I guess I can't complain.
On that note, last night I bought an experimental Loire rose that was not spectacular. The Critic took one taste and said "This wine is too sweet. You can drink this bottle but I'm having the white." When I explained that I had bought it so I could participate in the Eat Local Challenge, he said "But do I have to??!?"
Well he didn't: I was stuck drinking the sweet pink wine and he had the dry white.
I have had to make some exceptions of course. Well, not of course, but I'm not a freak and I have work, this blog and a very active 16 month old in my life (not to mention a somewhat needy husband) so I'm doing what's practical. Read on to find out more about my personal goals...
1. What's your definition of local for this challenge?
Ideally 200km, but I'll settle for France when necessary. I'm thinking of rating each recipe on a scale of one to ten on how well I've succeeded in keeping to the radius. This should allow me fish from the Atlantic, wine from the Loire or north end of Burgundy and chickens from Loue, which is actually known for its great poultry.
2. What exemptions will you claim?
Things that are already in my kitchen will be exempted: I'm not going to ignore them or let them go bad. I have not stocked up on difficult items before the challenge and I'm going to be hoarding that small piece of remaining ginger. I have already been avoiding exotic fruits such as mango and pineapple and bananas for a while and will probably continue. I might have to break down on Spanish lemons as I love them and only have one and a half left. I will also be exempting food consumed at someone else's table, be it a restaurant or friends. We don't eat out that much these days but I know that we are invited to a few dinners in May.
3. What is your personal goal for the month?
My goal is twofold: Firstly to learn more about the food I'm eating - I tend to pay attention when the source is mentioned but don't ask questions when it's not. And secondly to see how far I can carry the principle while factoring a busy life of work, family and blog.
A note on the photo: the best local food is the stuff I grow myself. Last year was a middling year in terms of vegetables and May is certainly too early for vegetables anyway. But I'll be including lots of locally grown (i.e. less than two metres from the kitchen) sage, bay leaves, thyme and rosemary. Unfortunately, the three baby lemons on my lemon tree won't be ripe for a few months.