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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.