My first township council meeting

As my sweetie and I were eating at our favorite local restaurant tonight, the manager came by. Last time I was in, I’d asked if he might look into getting grass-fed beef for their burgers, if nothing else. He sounded very interested and promised to look into it…but really, what else was he going to say? So I nudged him again this week, and was able to point out to him that Eat Local Eat Natural, which I first heard about a couple days ago, would be moving in right across the street and could supply them with locally-raised grass-fed beef. His eyes lit up and he said, “Across the street? Then we wouldn’t have to pay for shipping!”

This reminded me that the township’s Planning Council meeting, where they were discussing rezoning a parcel of land for Eat Local Eat Natural, would be meeting tonight. And that I wanted to go and voice my support, because no one spoke up for it at the last meeting. (A friend who’s up on this sort of thing tells me no one ever says anything unless it’s to complain, so that’s not much of a surprise.)

So I quickly rescheduled my evening and attended my first township meeting. What’s it like to speak to the council? What’s the quickest way to make friends in a business that you’re passionate about? Read on… Read the rest of this entry »

Local food depot in Ann Arbor!

According to this news article, a new enterprise called “Eat Local Eat Natural” will be opening on the west side of Ann Arbor. Explicitly inspired by The Omnivore’s Dilemma, it will serve as a warehouse and distribution center for local, natural foods – making it easier to get local meat and produce into local restaurants. They will also have a cafe and market. Hooray! The missing link in the chain from farm to restaurant – not to mention much easier local shopping – will soon be here!

The Rooms at Grayfield, Jonesville, Michigan

Rooms at Grayfield logo.Depot in Jonesville, Michigan.

I just had a lovely belated Mother’s Day dinner with my mom, and I’m so excited by what she’s doing I had to share.

Mom and Dad run a bed and breakfast in Jonesville, Michigan, called the Rooms at Grayfield. The building is the 100+ year old Lakeshore and Michigan Southern railroad station that I grew up in – it was converted to a home in the mid-70s and the garage and most of the station converted to a B&B in 2005.

Mom cooks the gourmet breakfasts and also caters private parties. I have to brag a little about my mom…bragging and the local food connection after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Hiller’s Market: Most Sustainable Fish in Ann Arbor?

I almost never look at circulars, but this week I happened to flip through the pages of coupons that came in the mail this weekend. I found an ad for Hiller’s Market, and the fish section caught my eye. Every fish on the page was clearly labeled with specific type of fish and country of origin. No “Fresh salmon, $6.99/lb” here – no, instead they list “Wild caught Alaskan Red Sockeye Salmon Filets, $8.99/lb.”

Comparing these to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, we find the following: Read the rest of this entry »

Apple Schram: Michigan Sausage and Bacon…and Apples, Too!

Pig in OrchardPork and apples go together like…pork and apples! Pork chops and applesauce, pork loin and baked apples, roast pork and sauteed apples, potatoes and cabbage stir fried with ham and tart green apples. But a local organic apple orchard is re-discovering an even older pairing: hogs and apple orchards.

Apple Schram orchards (sorry, no web site that I can find…), run by Jane Bush near Charlotte, Michigan, has long supplied SE Michigan with organic apples and cider. In 2003, they started raising hogs, too, in a very impressive bit of orchard ecology. I spoke with Jane on the phone this morning – I hope you’ll be as impressed with her setup as I am.

Details of hogs, apples, and phenomenal sausage after the cut… Read the rest of this entry »

Pastabilities: SE Michigan-made pasta

This week I tried a new locally-made fresh pasta from a company called Pastabilities. Their label says that their pasta is made in SE Michigan from “grain from the Midwest”…but I don’t know what they consider to be “the Midwest.” Some folks would include the Dakotas in the Midwest, though I wouldn’t. I’ve not been able to find contact info except for an address, so no details on that just yet. They make several varieties, including stuffed shapes, and I bought these at Arbor Farms.

The pasta itself is quite good. I bought the large, square sheets and used them to make lasagna. Two sheets exactly covered one layer of a 9″x13″ baking dish. There were 9 sheets in the package, so we had one left over. I cut it into strips and boiled it and it made a very nice tagliatelli noodle.

The lasagna was great! This is the first no-boil lasagna noodle I’ve been really happy with. I used a quart of homemade tomato sauce with it, and could easily have used another pint or even two, but it still turned out well.

In another local triumph, we made paella this weekend with some imported Spanish chorizo. The Joy of Cooking tells us to be sure to use Spanish, not Mexican, chorizo, and I finally found some so we could “do it right.” Well…turns out we like it better “wrong.” :) There’s a new Mexican grocery in downtown Ypsilanti (I’m blanking on the name at the moment…) that has a great meat counter, and they make their own chorizo. Can’t be beat!

Theoretically local Asian-style cabbage salad

Nappa cabbageI call this salad “theoretically local” because in theory, nappa cabbage, mung bean sprouts, carrots, and scallions could all be grown and bought in SE Michigan. As late as November, I could have bought them at the market – and all of these things keep pretty well into this part of the winter, so if I’d had my act together, I could have made it from local ingredients last night. However, being far from a perfect locavore, I’m guessing all of these ingredients actually came from California. I’m not such a fanatic that I refuse to let trucked-in produce pass my lips.

In fact, I think there is great value in theoretically local foods. Eating things that could grow in your area and could be gotten out of storage this time of year helps you change your tastes. It helps you explore the idea of local/seasonal food without the overhead and commitment of tracking down food sources or growing your own. In short, it teaches me that this salad is the kind of salad to be eating in late January, instead of a romaine-tomato-cucumber type of salad.

As an added bonus, it keeps for a week in the fridge, and if you shred extra ingredients, you’ve practically made kimchee. :)

Recipe for Asian-style cabbage salad after the break…

Read the rest of this entry »

Why I’m not a raw foodist

Tropical FruitThe short version is, I’m not into raw foods because I live in Michigan, and raw foods are not available in Michigan year-round. This is not just a locavorian soapbox; I’m not just rooting for the home-grown team, as it were. Here’s my chain of logic:

  • Many people – scientists, sociologists, nutritionists, travelers – have noted that cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other chronic “Western” conditions are essentially nonexistent in traditional cultures that eat the way their ancestors have eaten for thousands of years. The Masai who eat blood, milk, and meat; the Inuit who eat seal blubber and lichen; the Indians who eat dal, greens, and ghee; the SE Asians who eat vegetables, tropical fruits, and rice – all are healthy despite widely varied diets.
  • Traditional foodways are based on the foods that grow in the climate where that culture exists.
  • Shipping foods – especially foods that were bred to stand up well to shipping – reduces their nutritional value.
  • Therefore, local foods are the ideal foods for people living in that climate.

This though first came to me when I noticed several people who eat a strict raw food diet – based largely on summer-harvested foods (zucchini, tomatoes) and a lot of tropical fruits and nuts – say they can’t handle cold winters anymore. Is it any surprise that people who eat a tropical diet develop tropically-adapted bodies? Just in terms of calories, could you imagine eating enough mangoes to keep your body functioning in the Arctic? Not a chance. Up north, you eat blubber because because you’re a mammal, and it takes a huge number of calories just to keep your core body temperature up, and blubber is the most concentrated food you can get. (And ok, you’re probably eating that blubber raw…hmmm…)

If you look at what is available on the landlocked 45th parallel this time of year, it’s a lot of root vegetables, hard squash, grains, meat, and dried and pickled foods. These things store well all winter, and many need to be cooked to be eaten. (Certainly they need to be cooked to be enjoyed, and some foods yield more – or different – nutrition when eaten cooked.) So, while raw foods certainly have their place in my diet, I’m not going to knock myself out trying to eat only raw foods, especially in the winter. I’m certainly not going to base my diet on noni fruit and zucchini.

I know I’m speculating here, but it rings true to me. Eat what you find in your habitat, and you’ll be equipped to survive in that habitat. This also helps me answer the question, “What food tradition should I try to follow?” Do I go with that of my blood ancestors, or that of the people who used to live where I now live? How long ago…a hundred years ago, or a thousand?

I think if I look at the foods that grow – and store – naturally here are the foods to eat, and for preparation, I can look to the way different cultures prepare those foods. So, corn grows well here. Does it matter if I eat it as tortillas or polenta or hominy or straight off the cob?

Local Burger: Lawrence, Kansas

Local Burger logo.Also on the list next time I’m in Kansas: Local Burger in Lawrence. Read the story at Ethicurean.com and see their web site! Anyone for a pastured elkburger with a side of homemade cinnamon applesauce? And if you have a wee one, they’ll blend their organic peas and carrots side into a baby-friendly puree and serve it at the table.

Anyone in the area – especially who’s made a resolution lately to try new restaurants – should totally check it out…and bring me a pack of their homemade veggie burgers… :)

Justus Drugstore

Next time I’m in the Kansas City, MO area, I want to eat at Justus Drugstore. Check out this review over at the Eat Local Challenge!

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