Friday, April 4, 2008

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge Final Update

In reading the last recap of the participating Dark Days Challenge folks on Urban Hennery I realized that we were at the end of the challenge period. This caught me by surprise because I don't think I ever really paid attention to the timeframe. I've just focused on finding ways to increase the relative proportion of local foods in our meals and not really paid attention to the details.

Unfortunately, I don't have a huge report to make for this last summary. A good portion of the time since the last wrap- up, I have been out of town or using up various things around the house. We did have a lovely, and not as traditional as usual, Easter dinner that included quite a bit of locally grown or sourced foods. The main course was a salmon fillet that our good friend Jeff prepared with soy sauce, fresh ginger and lemon. I made a cranberry bean gratin from The Art of Simple Food with local beans and vegetables. I also cooked nice local small red potatoes with chard. And Jeff braised some brussel sprouts in a way that caused me to re-evaluate my dislike of brussel sprouts. The one fairly traditional item on the menu that day was dessert. I made a white cake (1-2-3-4 Cake from The Art of Simple Food again) with an orange curd filling and frosting and decorated with coconut and jelly beans. Some traditions are better not to be messed with. Not many local ingredients in the Easter cake, though.

On some of our other meals while we were here at home, I was using up foods in the cupboard or freezer. One night, I made clam chowder using Grady's mom's old recipe. The clams were canned Atlantic clams, but all the remaning ingredients were local. And another night, I used some of the fish we have in the freezer which is, unfortunately, of unknown origin (sigh, long story). But, I was able to serve it with vegetables from the Co-op.

Then, right after Easter, I spent a couple days at the coast and then Grady and I flew to Southern California to see the kids. (more on that in the next post.) So, during that time, I had less control over the origins of what we were eating. Here in Portland, I have a pretty good list of restaurants which support area farmers. But, I haven't made an effort to always look for those when we are travelling.

So, it continues to be a challenge for me - breaking old habits of convenience, finding local sources for the variety of foods I like to cook and eat, and trying new kinds of vegetables that had not been in my repertoire. In the time since I signed on with the Dark Days Challenge in early November, I have made pretty good progress in finding local foods. I'd say it still is just about 2-3 meals/week that are significantly local at our house, but, that's been pretty steady and a big difference from previous practice of paying no attention whatsoever to the origins of what we were eating. I made regular trips to the Farmer's market in the fall and did my best to get to the year-round markets in the winter months. But, in reading the blogs of the other challenge participants and observing what is available during the winter months, it has become apparent to me that the best way to get through this next year will be to get back to some more preserving of fruits and vegetables when they are readily available in the summer and fall. So, more on those efforts in future posts.

I am very grateful to Laura (Urban Hennery) who started this challenge and to the other participants. They have been most gracious to include my small efforts in the regular reports from the group. And more important, I have learned a great deal in reading their blogs. After 30+ years in education, there are a lot of things I know and am good at doing. But, food responsibility and writing and not really among them. So, it has been a terrific learning experience so far and that is exactly what I was looking for as I moved into my semi-retirement. I am looking forward to getting better at this, at least the locavore efforts. (Not sure I have the patience to work on the craft of writing to show any improvement in that area.)


Laura said...

Joan, so glad that you participated and that you were able to catch the last round-up. Look forward to reading your blog all summer, and catching up with you in the fall!

Jean Ann said...

Hi Joan,
I am a Portland local, too...I am developing a relationship with a local cafe who will be buying my produce...I mean, you can't get any more information about the origins of your food if you are able to see it from seed to plate! Let me know what you think...