Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around food. My Grammie Neily made the best homemade donuts. I loved her baked beans and I am still trying to recreate her recipe. I loved any food that my Gram Smith cooked - home cooking served with love. Every year my dad labored long and hard in our veggie garden and I couldn't wait for the pea pods to get plump. Don't even bother cooking them - just eat them fresh off the vine. And then there were the cherry tomatoes. Tomatoes eaten fresh out of the garden taste just like sunshine. When I was about eight years old, I laid in the garden in between all of the tomato plants and just kept popping those cherry tomatoes into my mouth - oh, heaven. I couldn't stop. The hives I developed later that day were a small price to pay for having eaten my way through the tomato plants.
As an adult I have had veggie gardens here and there. I enjoy the process but the reality is that to create a successful garden it takes hard work and long hours - sometimes these are rare commodities in life. I always enjoyed gardening with my children, for many reasons. But they are all grown and out on their own so...if I have a garden it will be my responsibility. I made the decision to plant a garden so that I can once again taste the sunshine.
I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking lately about food. Specifically I have focused on the source of the food we consume. How far did that cuke have to travel? Should I be eating watermelon in January? There is so much information and a great deal to consider as I process all of this 'new' info. I am trying to make educated baby steps which will allow me to be successful. I planted the garden, joined a CSA, and... I decided to attempt the Eat Local Challenge which is officially called the 'One Local Summer'. This challenge asks participants to cook one meal a week which consists totally of local foods. Local is defined as within a 100 mile radius from one's home. How hard could that be?
Well, let's suffice it to say that at one point I was almost having an anxiety attack as I tried to figure out what type of meal I would prepare for my family. Could I serve them rhubarb soup or a salad of chard and sprouts? My garden is at the beginning stages and has nothing to offer yet. The CSA starts on June 14th so...what to do? I called my daughters who are better informed about the whole idea of eating local. I prayed that they would be able to direct me to some local food goods.
Sure enough, they led me to a local food Co-op only twenty miles away. I should be embarrassed to say that I usually have only shopped at the big grocery stores but I am not. It is what it is and I am now trying to eat healthier. And that's a good thing. I entered the Co-op with some trepidation. I find it intimidating to shop in a new store especially when I don't know what I am looking for - all I had written on my list was 'Local' - where to begin?
The first thing that I noticed when I entered the store were the smells. It was a mixture of lavendar and some unknown scent. Whatever it was I found it calming. My blood pressure started to drop as I searched for my local dinner. Everything looked organic BUT how would I idrentify it as local? My stomach churned.
And then...I happened to look up and I saw the chalkboard. The Co-op had a list written on a chalkboard of all the local produce! Sweet! Chard, spinach, bok choy...my brain began to create a recipe. I found local organic eggs, cheese from a nearby town - visions of a frittata danced around in my head. I also bought some turkey cutlets which were raised two towns away - just imagine!
So I purchased all of the necessary ingredients plus some organic bananas and some wicked huge chocolate chip cookies that were still warm from the oven. I don't know if they were local or organic but they were yummy!
Frittatas are easy to create and forgiving. You can be creative and serve a healthy meal in a relatively short amount of time. So...all of the anxiety was a waste of energy. I did it. I created a nutritious, tasty meal for my family using only local produce. The 'One Local Summer' challenge is turning out to be a true learning adventure for me. That's okay - bring it on. I encourage you to challenge yourself and try eating some homecooked meals full of sunshine this summer.
Below is the meal I served my family as part of the One Local Summer challenge. The ingredients were local organic eggs, spinach, chard, swiss cheese and organic milk. Turkey cutlets were broiled - and were plump and juicy. I served this meal with pride and felt healthier as we enjoyed each bite. Each week I am supposed to post about the local meal which I create. I can already feel the anxiety level dropping and my confidence rising as I plan my next local dining adventure! Creative cooking with a local flair!