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New month, new challenge

I want to assure my eating populace that I do, in fact, often eat food without thinking about it. My pants size? Proof of that fact.

That being said, welcome to October, which is the month of the Eat Local Challenge. And because I clearly can’t resist a good challenge, I’m in.

I heard about the challenge back in the day in Iowa—I believe the 2006 challenge was the first I heard about—but I decided in 2006 and 2007 that it was just too much to try to take on. I give myself a pass for both years: in 2006, I was just getting my locavore feet wet. In 2007, I had a lot going on.

But then I moved to Northern California, which is basically Mecca for foodies like me. And then I actually started hanging out with Jen, who edits the Eat Local Challenge site, and to be honest, I’m just Catholic enough that I can’t face her through October without at least giving this a whirl. The guilt would kill me.

And really? October in Northern California? Jen might as well have wrapped up all the food I like in a big ol’ basket with a lovely cellophane wrapper and a big ribbon and called it a Present. Heirloom tomatoes are still showing up at the market, and there are lovely winter squash that haven’t overplayed their hand yet, and it’s California, so there hasn’t been a frost yet and, in some parts (like the part where I live), THERE WON’T BE BWA HA HA, and I live 50 miles from Napa and 8 miles from a Really Good Maker of Gin, so I don’t even have to give up drinking.

So, see? See how easy this is going to be? There will be no complaining this month. Just discoveries, and conversations with producers, and all that jazz.

Plus, in this challenge, everyone gets to make their own rules. In my case, I’m shooting to eat food during the month from growers and producers who are within 100 miles of my Oakland apartment. I recognize that may mean I’m going to buy products (like marmalade made within 100 miles of here) that are made from ingredients not grown/born/fostered/whatever within 100 miles of here, but I’m figuring that if someone’s trying to make something artisinal or just plain delicious within 100 miles of here, I should support him or her without being militant.

(Ha ha! Militant People, don’t take that personally…remember, I’m an Eat Local Challenge VIRGIN.)

Also, I get exemptions, because exemptions are awesome. So here are mine:

  1. I will use spices in my spice cabinet. Things like yeast, baking powder and soda, cornstarch and Penzey’s Bold Taco Seasoning count as spices.
  2. I will probably use some condiments that I already have, but I will not go out and buy anything else that isn’t a local condiment. I promise.
  3. I will use the flour and sugar that I already have in my house until I run out of it. Then I’ll either find locally milled flour or will just buy locally-made bread (Hello, Acme.). I will go buy sugar at a local store, because really…they don’t grow that here.
  4. I will go to restaurants who claim to source locally, and I will believe them, and I will order whatever I want there without fear of lightning striking me.
  5. I will eat things that friends make for me, and I will go out to eat with friends on occasion during the month, and if those friends don’t want to go to one of the restaurants that I strongly urge (because those restaurants source locally) them to patronize, I’m not going to be a jerk about it. I will eat what I can (and by that I mean what I can get from my plate [of whatever I was forced by those non-locavore friends/coworkers/hotel-employees to order] to my gullet), and maybe will ask the waiter or waitress a question about where they source from, and they will roll their eyes, and we’ll all know what kind of DINER I AM. Yeah, that’s right. Also, on work functions (meals, travel, etc.), I will do what I can, but I will not be a saint, and sometimes will have to eat whatever is presented in banquet format. (I think this is the rule that the lawyer would read really, really fast at the end of the commercial, because it doesn’t make much sense if it’s read slowly.)
  6. I will drink coffee, but I will make sure it’s locally roasted and fair trade beans. Unless I’m on a business trip (See Item 5).
  7. I will drink the tea at work. It’s free, and it’s good (Stash rather than Lipton), and I am not going to fight a battle at the office coffeepot over locally roasted coffee vs. the perfectly good Peet’s beans the office buys.
  8. I will also eat food products that I have at home that friends have made for me. I’m thinking, in particular, of a jar of not-yet-opened applesauce I brought home from Iowa after an August brunch with Maggie and Heal, and a jug of maple syrup made by family friend Doug that I’m still working through.

So…here goes. I’m looking forward to learning about new producers I have not yet met/discovered, learning a bit more about the region in which I live, and telling you all about it along the way. In fact, you can follow along meal-by-meal using a handy-dandy spreadsheet I am maintaining for my own amusement.  Now, pardon me while I go eat my sandwich made from home-baked bread, Happy Boy Farms arugula and dry-farmed tomatoes, and roast chicken (raised in Petaluma). Yeah, that’s right.

12 Comments on “New month, new challenge”

  1. #1 Ayse
    on Oct 1st, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    I hate to break it to you, but you will get a frost eventually. Not a FREEZE, mind you, and this is not to imply that our winters are anything to compare to Iowa, but it does frost a few times a year in Oakland. A couple of years ago we had a week of frosts that took out many very fine delicate ornamentals in gardens all around the area.

  2. #2 Tom
    on Oct 1st, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    This might be a good time for you to can some local things for the coming California version of winter. You are missing a bumper apple and tomato crop in eastern Iowa. I have 28 quarts of applesauce canned and counting.

  3. #3 inadvertentgardener
    on Oct 1st, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Ayse, aack. AACK. Although, now that I don’t have a garden, it’s less of a problem. No matter…it’s still not going to be four and a half feet of snow, and for that? I’m grateful.

    Tom, I’m still a little wary of canning — need to get over that, but have not yet figured out how to do it. I need someone to give me canning lessons!

  4. #4 Karen
    on Oct 1st, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    So here’s my thought with your challenge. The folks who might need a delicious meal or snack prepared locally but can’t afford it or make it themselves because they don’t have a kitchen would love it if you shared some of the local bounty. You know when I show up at the local park with goodies for people it’s a little weird for me because I’m a fairly noticeable single female and I don’t fit in but nobody has ever done anything to scare me other than ask for a kiss and I just said no. Everyone is, however, very thankful for the kindness and I get a lot more thank you than when I take a group of well fed kids or adults treats.

  5. #5 inadvertentgardener
    on Oct 1st, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Kären, that’s a great idea — I’m going to see how I can work on this idea and see if I can fit it into the month.

  6. #6 sam
    on Oct 1st, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    I think I will be making use of point #5! Good Luck Ms Virgin Locavore!

  7. #7 inadvertentgardener
    on Oct 2nd, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Sam, thanks! After the Hunger Challenge, I decided I couldn’t be too perfectionist about this…but so far, so good!

  8. #8 Sean
    on Oct 2nd, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I’ve just had to hunker down and swallow the guilt of not following the ELC. It’s not that I don’t want to, or couldn’t if I really put my mind to it … it’s more that I simply cannot take on any new challenges right now. :) But I’ll do my best to stay close to the source, I promise!

  9. #9 inadvertentgardener
    on Oct 2nd, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Well, I’d say you’ve had your plate full lately, Sean, so I think you get a pass! And yes — you’re known for staying close to the source, so I’m not worried about you not doing your part. :-)

  10. #10 themanicgardener
    on Oct 3rd, 2008 at 10:03 am

    This is inspiring. Thanks. I read every hunger challenge post, first word to last, avidly. I’m thinking I might set up an automatic donation to my local food bank, since eratic contributions are one of the things that make their work so difficult.
    –Kate

  11. #11 inadvertentgardener
    on Oct 3rd, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    Kate, that’s definitely the case, from what I understand. Even if they know you have a pledge in place for the same amount every year for, say, five years, I think that’s way more helpful for planning than just random donations. That being said…they’ll take everything they can get! Glad you’re helping out.

  12. #12 The quest for locally-roasted joe – The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Oct 15th, 2008 at 8:05 am

    [...] Challenge, that built-in break, which I quite enjoy, has fallen by the wayside. Although I did make an exception for locally-roasted coffee, Starbucks, um, does not provide that as an option. There is a deli not far away that serves [...]

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