Friday, March 26, 2010

Can We Live Locally?

Yesterday put hair on my chest.

I finished The Omnivore's Dilemma last night, and it has had a real impact on our eating. We started buying our milk and beef locally over a year ago, though finding a reliable dairy source has been spotty. About three months ago, we found a local woman who makes the three-hour trip to the best dairy I've found: Stryk's Dairy. We buy from her when we can't get out there ourselves.

For beef, we have used Law Ranch in the past, but they only produce beef. Georgia's Ranch meat is available to us, but they are very expensive, I think even more so than Law or Jolie Vue, the only other local meat source of which I know. Yesterday I signed us up for JV's every-other-month meat delivery program, and I'm excited to get our first shipment in April.

Reading TOD opened my eyes to just how spoiled and ignorant I am about food. I did not know meats were seasonal. I still don't know which fruits and vegetables are in season at what times, but I'm starting to educate myself.

And I'm getting really fired up to live only locally. That means living according to the seasons, learning to cook a lot of food that I previously wouldn't deign to cook, much less eat, and learning to be creative in the face of seasonal limits. We eat tomatoes year round; therefore, I will spend the better part of tomato season canning and putting away all forms of tomatoes for all the months that I can't buy them locally. This also means living locally in other ways, too: shopping family owned for office supplies, clothes, and other basics fits right into the same value system.

Yesterday I wanted to serve fish for dinner, so I found a local fish market and bought a pound of beheaded, deveined shrimp for dinner. I supported a local merchant and ate locally. Win!

Meanwhile, kale and leeks are in season, and I have wild mustards growing in the back yard. I wanted to saute these together in olive oil and finish them with white wine. Obviously, olive oil isn't local. However, just 20 or so miles from here, in Santa Fe, Texas, Haak Winery produces a very tasty, very palatable range of wines. I picked up a bottle of white table wine and a bottle of their Syrah. I think that's the first time I've ever volunteered for a second glass of white wine. I haven't tried the Syrah yet. Again, I supported a local merchant (family-owned, Houston-based liquour store Spec's) and a local grower (the winery), and I ate delicious local food.

So I came home with my bounty; Mark picked the mustards, and I washed them and the kale together. I used my new pasta machine to make fettucine (new lesson: if you think it's thin enough, think again), and I chopped the leeks and sauteed them in olive oil, then deglazed the pot with a splash of wine. With the water still clinging to their leaves, I tore in the kale and mustards, poured in the remainder of a cup of wine, then left them to simmer for a few minutes. Simplest, most delicious greens routine EVER.

During a few down moments, I'd chopped a bell pepper with some onion and garlic, and I sauteed these together with the half-pound of shrimp Mark had just finished peeling. I added a couple of cups of chopped tomatoes and a handful of fresh basil and oregano from Mark's garden.

I threw the pasta into a pot full of boiling water, and I let everything meld together for five or six minutes. Finally, I mixed the cooked pasta with the tomato-shrimp saute and served it next to the brilliant, sweet, sharp kale and mustards for the most local meal I've ever made. We washed it down with Haak's excellent white, sweet table wine, and Burgundy pronounced it one of the best meals I've ever made.

Can you tell I'm just beaming with pride?


  1. If you liked Ominvore's Dilemma then you should read
    "Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally" by JB MacKinnon. Really great read!

  2. Everyone keeps talking about that book. I have to read it - it gets such great reviews!!

    Good for you for doing the hard word. Eating this way can be such a challenge, but so rewarding. You get such a feeling of satisfaction when you look at your table and realize that by buying locally and eating in-season you are impacting your local economy, the environment and your family's health for the better!!

  3. i am a fan of Micheal Pollan myself. Hey I didn't see a email in your profile but you entered my KidPub 1 yr. membership giveaway awhile back and I wanted to let you know you won!! so if you could email me at with your name and email so I can pass it along to the company that would be great. Have a wonderful weekend. :)

  4. I'm on the baby step path to better health and better wealth. We're in NW Houston so thanks for the tips on local farms! I was trying to figure out if I had the space/$ for 1/4 cow from but the monthly delivery might be more practical for us. Either way I might need to do a split with some neighbors or something. Also I'd love to learn to can and my need to if my garden wins over the hornworms this year. Maybe I can assist/apprentice when you get into the swing of things.
    Now I'll have to be on the lookout for you and your daugter at GS programs as I'm a active volunteer with the science programs. Actually the astronomy interest group would probably love to learn what you do at NASA so let me know if you want to volunteer in all your spare time. :-D
    PS-Good luck on your daughters room re-do. Fresh starts are wonderful.