The Experimental Year of Local Food

December 5, 2009 § Leave a comment

Well, here goes… something, i hope. In an effort to eat and live more consciously (and deliciously), I’ve decided to take the whole of 2010 and make it an experiment. Is it possible, for a young woman living in a city, on a nonprofit worker budget, who loves food more than anything, to eat completely locally and sustainably, and still maintain her rather high quality of life?

Well, I think so… but I’m about to find out.

I know I’m not the first to take on such an experiment (Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was life-changing for me)… but for each of the books and stories i read, there was this nagging voice in my head that said “oh sure, of course they can do this. they are writers by profession and sit at home all day thinking about what local food they can have for lunch and then wax poetic about. i’m lucky if I can remember to grab a pop tart while i’m running out the door to the Metro every morning, much less where that pop tart came from, what its made of, is it healthy, real food, who made it and were they paid fair wages and how is this pop tart affecting my local economy and surrounding farming community and are these even real strawberries and if so how did they get here it’s the middle of December and does this pop tart have a bigger carbon footprint than my morning metro ride and will it actually fill me up me until lunch, oh i wonder whats for lunch at work today….”

I live in urban Washington, DC, in an apartment, with a roommate and a dog, and work full time at a local nonprofit.  I have a pretty crazy busy life (like most people), so I have no advantages there, and am fairly awful at time management.  While my job is extremely fulfilling, it also keeps me on a tight budget at home. Food and entertainment are one and the same for me, so those categories get merged. But my rent is ridiculously high (like half my paycheck), so believe me when i tell you… my budget is probably not higher than yours, or if it is, not by much.  I am also not great at sticking to plans, so this is a serious test of will for me.  I’ve never stuck to a diet for any longer than the time between meals, so a full year of successfully being hyper-conscious of everything i put into my body may take an act of God… but i’ve taken this challenge and I’m determined to stick with it. I’m hoping the structure of writing this blog will help.

So yeah. Conscious living in the midst of chaos hasn’t been my strong suit. Until now. (I hope?)

Some simple rules for this experiment:

– All food eaten must come from local sources. This means I am giving up avocados for the entirety of this year.  Which was the one realization that made me seriously reconsider this whole thing.

– As much as possible, i should directly know and trust the people growing my food.  I’m lucky to already know a few folks at my farmer’s market, but I’m going to need a lot more farmer friends if i’m going to survive this year.

– I’m not allowed to eat anything that I couldn’t plausibly make in my home kitchen (If there is an excessive amount of work involved to get the food from ground to mouth, chances are it’s not longer food.)

– In the spirit of Barbara Kingsolver’s year of food life… I am allowing myself a couple of exceptions. Like coffee. If i stopped drinking coffee you really, REALLY wouldn’t want me to write this blog. I’ve tried. It’s not pretty. But the few exceptions i do have all must come from local businesses and originally from sustainable and fair-trade sources (I’ll be fully switching to Santa Lucia Estate Coffee… i know, such a hardship. I just discovered it and it’s AMAZING. And such a great company. But more on that later…)

– I’ll be trying to stick to traditional foods as much as possible, and cutting out corn and soy products.  This means grass fed meats, pastured chickens and eggs, cheeses from grass fed animals, and if I can find it on the black market… raw milk.

I’m sure more things will come up as I’m writing and discovering new things, but for now, those are the main goals. Oh, and I’ll also be documenting my health along the way.  I am really curious to see if eating this way, which is contrary to pretty much everything the USDA nutrition guidelines tell you, is actually better for your health.  I’ve read accounts of dramatic changes… but i’ll have to see for myself.  Will eating more butter and bacon grease really be good for me?  I’m (very) wiling to find out.

At the end of the day, i just want to eat great food. Grown and raised by great people, people who deserve more recognition than they get.  I want to be able to highlight farmer heroes, and chefs that care about food and where it comes from, and local businesses that take the harder road and use local food and sustainable practices.  I want to give the people living in my foodshed a resource to find and support these people and places.  I want this real food movement to grow and become standard.  I’m hungry for change in my community using delicious, healthy food as a way to get us there…

And right now, I’m really hungry for breakfast.  And more coffee.

xoxo Erin


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