Local Omnivore

I learned a new word yesterday. A”locavore” is someone who only eats food that has been produced and procured locally, typically within a 100 mile radius. The idea is that food transported over great distances is lower in quality and stamps a larger carbon footprint than the locally grown, fermented, concocted or processed version; locavores vote with their forks by supporting local producers (all the rage) and contributing less to the causes of global warming.

Though I can’t find the word in the dictionary, there are apparently varying degrees of such an eater: a “strict locavore” is someone who won’t touch oil or vinegar with a 10-foot pole if it doesn’t fit the criteria, and the “wild card locavore”, who will make concessions for things like sugar and coffee and other far flung, foreign luxuries. Regardless of the degree of locavore, it is such a romantic and impractical idea. Who would honestly cut sugar and coffee from their diet if it wasn’t grown locally? You can’t tell me those people aren’t cheating. Plus, a locavore living in an area that actually cannot produce things like “fruit” or “vegetables” would have rather a hard time trying to make a go of it. The idea irks me because it seems like one more thing or practice that is available only to a lucky few, like driving a Prius. I find it hard to give those drivers, and locavores, too much credit for doing their part because their contributions are luxuries, not necessities. If truly inspired by the need to limit the effects of global warming, wouldn’t a locavore’s efforts be better applied to petitioning a mass transit system to go hybrid or convincing their employer and co-workers to reduce electricity consumption? That a locavore would be lauded as a crusader against the production of greenhouse gases is laughable.

At any rate, it got me to thinking about our most recent meals and how close they come to being locavorous (now I’m inventing words). Almost all the food we buy is local by default because it’s California and there is almost nothing that won’t grow here. However, even with these exceptional circumstances on our side, we do not qualify as locavores.

First, there is the Crab, Mango and Avocado Salad with Citrus Dressing. cimg6806-320.jpgBecause we can’t afford to pay $35/lb for fresh lumps of crab meat, we bought some canned stuff from India. The mango came from Mexico. The honey came from Austria and the olive oil is strangely somehow a “product of California and Tunisia”. (what?) Everything else – which is just the veg – was locally grown. Incidentally, though this sounds like it would be nothing but delicious, it was kind of bland.

Second, there is the Spicy Sesame Noodle Salad with Chopped Peanuts and Thai Basil. cimg6811-320.jpgSesame oil from Taiwan, soy sauce brewed in Wisconsin, kosher salt from Minneapolis, balsamic from Italy, and vegetable oil from Nebraska. I can’t figure out where the sugar came from and the Chinese noodles were actually made fresh by the Berkeley Bowl. Had I not made a point of looking for this information, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. And yet, look how far all this stuff came just for me to make a salad! It’s actually pretty impressive. The salad itself made a great lunch but next time we’ll make it spicier.

Last, there is Green Herb Risotto to which we added grilled shrimp with marjoram and fresh tarragon. cimg6817-320.jpgExcept for the organic, free-range chicken broth (Oregon), the rice (Argentina) and the olive oil (California and Tunisia), it was made with local ingredients. Lucky for us, our kitchen is practically in the ocean and is next door to Napa valley; this meal would have been far more foreign had we made it in Calgary. The improvised shrimp was the best part.

Now that I’ve actually taken the time to find out where my food comes from, it becomes clear that it would take considerable effort (relative to the amount of greenhouse gases that would not be produced) to become a locavore, even in the food-heaven of the Bay area. I will not be drawn into this romantic trend. And I will never give up coffee.

For the record, lately we have been walking more and driving so little that we’ve used less than half a tank of gas in six weeks. Does that make us less culpable in the battle against global warming? Possibly- but you can be sure we’d be driving alot more if we weren’t lucky enough to be in a position to have the option not to.

One Response to “Local Omnivore”

  1. Mom Says:

    next time I cook – this is what it’s going to be. Needless to say, it won’t be local