Daily Challenge: Make a Locavore Shopping List
Food of the Day: Eggplant
Day 2 of the NOFA-NY Locavore Challenge was the anti-meat day. Following Pig Island and all that yummy pork, I didn’t even consciously choose a vegetarian day. My body just wasn’t looking to eat meat. Things may have been different had my timing been less off. Once again I was heading to work in Manhattan at the crack of dawn. At 9:30 a.m. I had finished my load-in for Governors Island, and I contemplated my Daily Challenge: Make a Locavore Shopping List. I don’t really make lists for groceries; I think this is something done in the suburbs when you have cars and big box stores. I have a small refrigerator in a small apartment with almost no storage space; I buy my groceries every couple of days to supplement my CSA that I get every Saturday. However, knowing that my challenge was to make a list, I thought I would start at the New Amsterdam Market. This is one of my favorite markets—all local—but it doesn’t open until 11 a.m. Thus, instead of sampling all sorts of delectables there, I went back to Brooklyn, hitting up the small market stand that pops up every Sunday next to my building. I bought local bread, locally roasted coffee, and—later in the day—local yogurt, cheese, walnuts, and—yes—meat for this week.
Which brings me to a serious point: What does it mean to be a locavore? I have been a locavore for at least three years, with the turning point being when I moved to New York City (you can read about my locavore evolution here). However, there are certain items I will probably (hedging my bets with an adverb) never give up that are not local. Cat food, for example, or for as long as I have a cat. Soap (you can make your own). Toiletries. Olive oil and lemons. Beer, because I love craft beer from all over the globe, although for the Challenge I’ll be sticking to my island (or at least my state). Which brings up another point: Is it more local for me to buy from upstate New York (roughly 300 miles) than from Connecticut (40 miles) or New Jersey (less than 10 miles… although closer to 60 to get to the farms)? What about mom and pop shops or local bodegas that are being forced out by greedy landlords and gentrification? Do I owe it to them to buy from them in order to keep a locally owned business in my neighborhood? Should I worship locally? Spend time at the local park even though there are nicer ones a couple subway transfers away? Is locavorism as much a state of mind as it is a state of being?
I would say, “Yes,” to most of the above. While I do occasionally buy cat food from Kmart or Petco, I typically pay the extra and buy from the locally owned grocery down the street from where I live. Same goes for toiletries; I could buy cheaper online but I try to support the local pharmacy and buy from them. NOFA-NY seems to understand that we are all on a continuum. I can ask these deeper questions because being a locavore when it comes to food I eat (and my kids eat, as well) is not new to us; we’ve walked this walk for a long enough time that even my kids will choose the grass-fed burger place over fast food (and my grown daughter pretty much only eats fast food from Chipotle, which serves only sustainable meat). It’s important to grow as a locavore, as a community, as an activist. Wherever you are on that path, just take one more step forward. It’s all good.
Where I Soared: Got the food of the day from my garden spot (yes, I am growing eggplant in my community garden plot). I roasted it with garlic from my CSA and made a kind of bruschetta on olive loaf from Wave Hill Bread (they sell at that little market outside my building). I sliced up some cucumber with dill and onion (all from my CSA), mixing in yogurt from Meadow Creek Farm (Interlaken, NY). Finally, I added some local goat’s milk cheese and walnuts harvested at Tierra Farm (and packed only two weeks ago! they also are at the Sunday market), which I sprinkled over CSA arugula. Had a bit of wine from a Long Island vineyard. Nice vegetarian dinner.
Where I Sunk: Olive oil is going to be like lemons for me; it’s my go-to fat and you cannot grow olives in NY. There’s a Daily Challenge on the calendar later in the month to try local oil. This is going to take a bit of effort on my part. I’m pretty sure there’s a group that flavors and packages olive oils to sell at New Amsterdam. Perhaps next Sunday I’ll time my visit to check them out. Otherwise, Frankies Sputino puts out its own brand of olive oil (sourced from Sicily, of course). Maybe that’s as good as I can do.
My Grade: Since I did go shopping conscientiously and harvested my eggplant, I’ll let the olive oil slide and give myself an A.