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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Why Eat Local?

Lots of reasons! Several good ones are laid out here and here. This factoid particularly inspired Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, founders of the 100 Mile Diet: 'When the average North American sits down to eat, each ingredient has typically travelled at least 1,500 miles.' When you think about it, that's a staggering amount of fossil fuel spent to schlep food that usually doesn't taste so hot once it gets to you.

At a potluck back in midwinter, several of my sustainable-agriculture-savvy friends suggested it would be fun to try eating only local foods as part of the Vermont Localvore Challenge. My husband Gahlord and I decided to give it a go, partly because we love food and people, and the idea of mixing food and community on a daily basis was pretty appealing.

The challenge runs for the month of August, and the goal is to eat only foods grown and prepared within 100 miles of our home in Burlington. To make this a tad easier and taste-tempting, folks can opt for the "Marco Polo" exception, which allows for salt and any dried seasoning a sailor could have carried in his pockets for 6 months or more. Our group of about 15 friends is taking the "Modern Marco Polo" exception, which means we're planning to use dried spices and salt, plus yeast, baking soda and baking powder. We're also continuing to use olive oil. Other modifications some people are allowing are "Caffeinated" and "Drunken" Marco Polos, which account for (you guessed it!) coffee/tea and beer/wine. The main point is to choose a plan and stick with it.

More than a hundred folks have signed up to participate as part of the Champlain Valley localvore group, and there are two or three other VT localvore groups formally organized in the Mad River Valley, the Upper Connecticut Valley, and the Brattleboro area. There may be more, I'm not sure. If you know of any, large or small, please e-mail me or leave a comment. I'd also love to hear from (and link to) any other Vermont localvores who are blogging about their August experience.

I hope to season whatever it is that I'm eating this month with thoughts about why local is good. The Daily Digest will be a 31-day record of where I found stuff, tasty recipes I've made or heard about, and new culinary tricks I've acquired.

I've already learned how to make cider vinegar from apple cider, and I'm looking forward to some of the communal cooking events and recipe swaps planned for this month.


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