It's officially winter now. The first real snow is coming down outside, and all I can think about is farm-fresh vegetables.
It's hard to eat locally in New England in December.
Hard, but not impossible. I've been thinking more and more about what it would take to eat completely locally for, say, one year. Various people in the eat-local movement have done this. Many of them are, admittedly, located in much warmer and more hospitable places, but some are not.
I don't think I can engage in this experiment quite yet, though I think I might at some points. I think anyone attempting this in New England would need the following things:
A deep freeze
A "cool, dry place," aka, a root cellar
A car, for taking trips to farms
I have the first and could easily manage the second, but I don't have the third or fourth and likely won't for another two years or so. But with all four, I think it would be possible.
In the summer, of course, there would be no problem with vegetables and fruits. In the winter, I could still have root-cellared potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, beets, carrot, cabbage, winter squash, celery, collards, apples and pears; frozen green beans, peas, corn, broccoli, blueberries and peaches; various pickles and relishes; and dried and canned tomatoes, assuming I start in the summer and plan ahead.
Local meat is easy to come by, of course, and local dairy is available at the regular grocery store. There are quite a few local producers of cider, which I prefer to beer, so that's no sacrifice. There are some local wines, though the quality of most is questionable. There are some providers of local mushrooms, or I could grow my own. There's even local sea salt.
Sugar would be a problem. I am sure it would be good for my health to replace all the white sugar in my diet with local honey and maple syrup, but it wouldn't be easy. I have been able to find no commerical growers of nuts in New England, so I couldn't even make maple walnut ice cream.
I haven't been able to hunt down many producers of local grains. Gray's Grist Mill grows and grinds Rhode Island flint corn, the proper basis for jonnycakes. Littleton Grist Mill stone-grinds organic grain, some of which comes from Vermont, but the rest supplied from South Dakota. There is a farmer in Aroostock County who is growing grain for a Maine bakery (interesting article here) who could perhaps be persuaded to sell some grain to an idealistic blogger, although Northern Maine is pushing the outer boundaries of "local."
Anyway, it would be an interesting project, but not really possible for me at the moment. Until it is, however, I intend to try to deepen my commitment to local food. Rather than just eating the food I normally would, but trying to find local versions, I want to make an effort to choose local foods whenever possible and plan my meals accordingly. So instead of picking up wine for dinner, I'll buy cider and enjoy what was once the most popular drink in New England. I'll try to use more maple syrup and honey and less white sugar. I'll buy smoked seafood as a treat, rather than pate. I'll order some of that cornmeal and eat more cornbread and less rolls.
Maybe I should make this an early New Year's resolution.
Oh, and there are new links up for local farmers' markets, maple syrup, honey, and specialty food providers. I'm working on lists of farms and CSA programs, but obviously that's a much bigger project and is going to take a while.