The Joys of Eating Local

By Carla Robertson

I sometimes play a game at dinner. I say to my husband, “Guess what? The fish is local.” I pause. Then, “The tomatoes too!” Pause. “And the sweet potatoes.” And then it comes out in a rush – “The butter’s local, the salad greens, the squash – Honey, this whole meal is local! And we can have local ice cream with local strawberries and local rum drizzled on top for dessert!”

I get an incredible sense of pleasure and accomplishment shopping for and choosing local foods, and now it’s easier than ever. I love stocking up during a weekly trip to the farmers’ market or supermarkets that also showcase local deliciousness. It’s one of the perks of living in a place with plenty of rain and a long growing season.

It wasn’t always as easy or as obvious to choose local food. When I first moved to New Orleans twenty years ago, I just went to the grocery store and bought whatever suited my fancy. I remembered farmers’ markets in eras past stocking mostly flowers, jams, chocolates and pastries with far fewer staple items.

Now I embrace the challenge of finding and choosing local delicacies first, then filling in whatever else I need to make delicious meals. I enjoy choosing fruits and veggies in season. Summer squash in the summer. Beets and satsumas in the winter. Strawberries in the spring. Asian pears in the fall. And if I want to enjoy strawberries in September, I can always freeze them. I haven’t tried canning tomatoes yet, but you never know – our local Creoles are so delicious!

I love interacting with the people who grow my produce – it’s part of the fun! Economically, eating local makes sense. I can fill my bag with a weeks worth of eggs, fruits, veggies, cheese and fish with a couple of special treats for around $40. And those dollars all stay in the community, going straight from me to the vendor who grew or caught the goods.

Personally, I don’t worry as much about organic when I buy locally. I’d prefer to purchase milk that’s hormone-free but not officially organic from local places like Kleinpeter’s, Smith’s, Brown’s or Ryal’s than buy organic milk that has to be driven across the country in a refrigerated truck.

And then there’s the best local of all – something you’ve grown yourself! Almost everyone has room to grow some herbs or lettuce, and there’s nothing better than a sun-warmed tomato eaten right in the front yard.

If you haven’t indulged in hunting for local foods to fill your plate, summer is the perfect time to start. Peaches. Blueberries. Leeks. Potatoes. Tomatoes. Corn. Fresh herbs. Squash and melon. Kale. Plus beautiful shrimp, crab, drum, eggs, goat cheese and so much more.

Step up to the challenge of eating locally and try these two recipes I made recently, using leeks, potatoes, peaches and blueberries from the Farmers’ Market and fresh rosemary from the yard.

Silky Potato Leek Soup
(adapted from The Great American Detox Diet by Alex Jamieson)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large soup pot. Add 2 leeks, washed and sliced into about 1/4 inch slices, 2 medium yellow onions, chopped, and a half teaspoon of sea salt. Saute for about five minutes, stirring often, until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic, stir, and cook a little longer. Add 4 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed, and one 16 oz container of vegetable broth. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Then ladle the soup one cup at a time into a blender (be careful with the hot soup!) and blend with two sprigs of fresh rosemary (leaves pulled off the stems) until the soup is silky and smooth. Transfer the blended soup back to the original soup pot and warm over low heat. Serve hot with crispy bread or crackers and a salad featuring local veggies.

Peach and Blueberry Gallete
(adapted from Real Simple magazine)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll a refrigerated pie crust (or make your own!) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Leaving a 1.5 inch border, top with two thinly sliced peaches and about a half cup of blueberries. Sprinkle with two tablespoons of turbinado sugar and two tablespoons of cut up unsalted butter. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center, overlapping slightly and partially covering the fruit. Brush the dough with two teaspoons of water and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar. Bake until bubbly and golden, about 35- 40 minutes.

Carla Robertson is a teacher and life coach who specializes in helping overwhelmed people come back to living their wild and precious lives. She lives in New Orleans where every day feels like vacation, and she loves to help others figure out how they can live lighter and happier. In 2009 she thru-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, and she revisits the woods whenever she can, taking willing and curious souls with her.
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