Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dark Days Challenge 2012 -guest writer Steph

I have a confession to make. I know that I have all the motivation, resources, and opportunities to eat local here in Halifax. Even in the winter. Even on a student budget.

Yet I don’t.

It’s hard not to feel a little foolish, admitting it like this. I do value local food and local farmers. I enjoy cooking with fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables. I value my health. I enjoy bringing people together around a table of homemade food. But I’m not incredibly consistent in my pursuit of these values.

This divide between value and action unsettles me. I know I can make excuses for myself, having a busy student schedule, working, being involved in other activities, etc. etc. As a fourth-year student who is staring down the barrel of what to do after graduation, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the only things worth doing right now are the activities you can measure on a transcript or application. And that’s a system that doesn’t reward us for eating local, or have anything to do with taking care of ourselves, or engaging in community.

I suppose that the absence of these unmeasurable things might affect our ability to learn and study and work. But too often I find myself prioritizing school and grades ahead of food, sleep, and relationships, and then wonder why I have straight A’s but I’m still stressed out and dissatisfied.

Yep, that was me a few weeks ago. Every once in a while it takes a minor breakdown to remind me that what I do should not become who I am.

But back to my most recent local food experience. Last Thursday night, to celebrate an end to the week’s midterms and assignments, and perhaps inspired by the EAC’s recent food blog post, I had a few friends over for homemade gnocchi. When I do get around to cooking with fresh, in-season, local ingredients, it’s nice to spend the time on both food and friends. I always make better conversation in the kitchen than at the dinner table anyway.

Ah gnocchi – satisfying, tactile, messy, and very, very time consuming. Local? Unfortunately not as much as I would like.

Atlantic Superstore kindly furnished the bag of potatoes. (I admit I could just as easily have bought these from Local Source around the corner, or at the Seaport Market. But that Student Tuesday Discount is just so tempting!) The way I make gnocchi is ridiculously easy. I just keep adding flour until the “dough” is the right amount of stretchy and sticky. I used Speerville spelt flour, because I prefer the heartier taste to gnocchi made with white flour, although I think it doesn’t work as well due to the lower gluten content.

And now my one triumphant local food moment: adding some chopped oven roasted-tomatoes that I made in September and threw in the freezer. I can’t take credit for this wonderful and practical idea – it’s all due to advice from Laureen. These tomatoes are a gigantic sweet mouthful of summer, especially since I roasted them in a little bit of balsamic vinegar. Mmmm. I love them.

To go with the gnocchi, I made a quick white sauce with onions (Superstore), milk (Farmers), bacon (truly a guilty pleasure, but at least it was the kind without additives), and some pesto cubes from my freezer. Pesto cubes are another brilliant idea from the EAC food blog! With some homemade bread and butter, and a simple salad of lettuce and grated beets, it was a feast.

It would appear that the localness of my edibles is currently dependent upon the contents of my freezer. For tastiness and convenience, it was definitely worth the careful planning and dedicated afternoons of cooking back in September.

I will probably revisit this subject many times over the remaining winter months, as I empty my freezer of the summers’ bounty and seek fresh ingredients at local markets. For all of my philosophical concern and complaint about eating local food as a student, I am satisfied with my current balance of time and resources, and look forward to exploring and eating more local food as life permits!!

Thank you Steph! It takes courage to the wife of the Director of the School of Sustainability, where local food is shoved down your throat academically, to confess to being not so local, to give those of us smugly eating local a valid, alternate point of view, and even more to confess to examine oneself.....Student Tuesday hmmm, maybe that's an action that needs to be pointed out to the market folks. But not by you, you will graduate with full brass bands playing.

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