Moving toward local eating: Deprivation and delight

Choosing vegetablesPart of the “Moving toward local eating” series

Let’s face it.  You can only combine rice, beans, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, beets, kale, onions, and beef or pork so many ways.  The vegetables, especially, really get to me, because there are only so many things that store well through a Michigan winter.  I’m not about to expand my repertoire to include canned green beans. *blech*

Dealing with repetition take a lot of adjustment.  We are accustomed to change – new restaurants, new ingredients, 40,000 different items at the grocery store.  So stripping that back is a mental challenge, and I do worry a little about nutrition.  Especially when I’m sick and my appetite’s off anyway.  My first reaction to deprivation was just to buy one of the other 39,970 items at the grocery store, which works quite nicely (helloooooo chocolate coconut-milk ice cream!).

But I also realized the benefit of spices and of canning items I had previously thought of as “frivolous” – a variety of fruits, jams, chutneys, pickles, and such.  A variety of condiments can really make a difference.  What’s the difference between pea soup  and mung daal? Turmeric and garam masala.   And nothing – nothing – feels like summer love in a jar more than home-canned peaches.  More of a treat than ice cream, they are to me.

So now I feel like I’m at the point – three or four years after I started my serious “locavore” pus – where I’m feeling pretty comfortable sourcing the bulk of our staple foods from very close by.  And now the “treats,” like peaches and such, don’t seem optional – they seem just as necessary as the staple goods.

See, I don’t believe that eating locally is all about restriction and deprivation.  It’s not just about making sure we can survive when the rising price of oil literally takes the food off the shelves.  It’s about thriving, right here, right now.  Food is a major delight for me, and I don’t want to get to the point where I perceive all the “fun” food as coming from far away, and possibly cut by forces outside of my control.  So this year, I’m going to be paying a lot more attention to regionally-sourced treats.

What’s your favorite local treat food?



  1. shortystylee said,

    February 5, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    It’s not very Ann Arbor local, but my husband went to Michigan Tech so we are often up in that area of the UP. There is a monastery in the Keewenaw Peninsula that supports themselves by selling jam and baked goods – they have an awesome thimbleberry jam. All the berries are grown on their property 🙂 I’ve never even seen a thimbleberry bush in the LP so I stock up on that (and lots of other kinds) when we happen to be there.


  2. Momster said,

    February 5, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    In the off-season, I buy Trader Joe frozen haricot vert. They are slim, tender and loose in the bag so it’s easy to throw a handful into a pot of something!

  3. aimee said,

    February 5, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    don’t forget, you may be able to buy local products out of season… for example, a guy here is advertising locally grown frozen organic blueberries for $1.50 a pound. The knee jerk reaction is “oh, they’re out of season!” but think a minute – they have never been trucked anywhere. If I had picked them with my own hands, I’d have frozen them in my freezer – the only difference here is they were frozen five miles down the road and someone else has been paying the electricity. Go for it!

    • Emily said,

      February 5, 2011 at 8:35 pm

      Ok, who’s selling blueberries for $1.50? I can’t buy FRESH organic blueberries for that, and I have to drive to Grass Lake to get them!

      • Emily said,

        February 5, 2011 at 8:36 pm

        Oh, wait…of course. You don’t live near Ann Arbor. *sheepish*

  4. Cynthia said,

    February 5, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    I love canned green beens….they are SO MUCH BETTER THAN FROZEN.

    • Anonymous said,

      February 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm

      Are home-canned green beans vastly better than commercial ones? I can’t stand the PBS from the store – I’d rather not have any beans at all!

  5. varmentrout said,

    February 6, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Latest guilty (but not too) pleasure: smoked whitefish from the Thumb – got it at Lunasa. Makes great salad for sandwiches or spread, whatever doesn’t get eaten cleaning it off the bones.

    Pickles really do help with blandish foods. And you left off winter squash from your list. Mine (stored in my garage) is still good.

    Of course hoophouse greens are also helpful, if not “seasonal”.

    I froze green beans last year but gave up on them this year – not very good.

    I’m getting good mileage from my chicken CSA – frozen last summer and fall. Roasted chicken is followed by various soups and stews from the leftovers.

  6. jake said,

    February 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    My stash of local berries…saskatoon berries – jam & frozen (pies, cobblers, crisps, muffins), chokecherry syrup, sour cherries for scones, cheesecake and coffee cakes, raspberries…all either grown or gathered by me. Rhubarb too.

    Grilled Cheese w/ aged local cheddar and a side of homemade bread and butter pickles.

    Tea from the spearmint I dried in bunches – it’s better than green tea, and the leaves look like fresh when they’ve steeped. I’ve also dried chamomile and dandelion root (dark roasted makes an interesting latte).

    Beef barley soup with lots of diced rutabagas.

    Roasted spears of parsnips with chile ketchup.

    Warm buttermilk biscuits w/ butter and strawberry jam – nothing better. I don’t think the baking powder is local tho’…

    crabapple wine.

  7. Matriarchy said,

    February 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Pretzels. They are traditional in Pennsylvania German areas. The flour comes from local wheat. There is a small 100-year-old brick oven pretzel bakery that turns out crunchy sticks that I love. Flour, lard, malt, soda, salt.

    Apricot jam, if no late frost killed the blossoms. A thinner “peach sauce” to put in yogurt. Bags of frozen blueberries for pancakes. Pumpkin-apple bread. Hard cider.

    Just looking in my freezer full of roasted pork stock, brilliant pumpkin puree, bagged fruit, local spelt flour, broccoli chunks, roasted corn cut from cobs.

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