A week of eating locally


Sunday 9 p.m. &

Thin-sliced filets of fresh eggplant and zucchini, covered in thick mozzarella, made from the milk of nearby goats, and deep red, pepper and onion marinara sauce, the product of home-grown produce that only hours ago was still growing in the garden. All of its ingredients &

except for the salt and olive oil &

were raised right in my back yard.

That, a glass of carrot juice, and a slice of homemade bread was my inaugural meal in the annual Ashland-area Eat Local challenge. For the next seven days I am challenging myself, with some cajoling from my newsroom cohorts, to maintain the diet of a localvore.

A localvore is someone whose food comes from local sources. As I discovered on my first meal of the challenge, even here in the ever-fertile area around Ashland, it is near-impossible to derive one's entire diet from the Rogue Valley. Localism, therefore, is more broadly understood as the attempt to eat from within a given foodshed.

My goal is to limit my gastronomical boundaries to the rural road I live on outside of Ashland. Others are choosing the Rogue Valley, Oregon, the Pacific Northwest, or wherever their foodshed may be. The Eat Local Challenge is happening all over the country, and has even been attempted in New York City.

Because the local food movement is a grass roots reaction to the fear that diminishing oil reserves will make the current system of food distribution exorbitantly expensive or impossible, it's more of a social statement than a hard and fast benchmark. For some it may mean goat milk, rather than cow cream. For others, it may mean Omar's, rather than the Outback.

Think of it as organics for the economy. The idea is to give the money you spend on food to your neighbor rather than a corporate food conglomeration, where businessmen &

not farmers &

reap the lion's share of the profits.

Though mine may be a fruitless objective, if you'll pardon the pun, it's not as far a stretch as the average American food consumer may suspect. We grow &

and put up &

fruits and vegetables, have neighbors who raise and trade beef and eggs, and participate in work/trade relationships with nearby goat dairy farmers.

Even with all these advantages, my girlfriend Julie and I still can't bake a loaf of bread without violating the parameters of our foodshed. Yeast is much easier to buy than to brew at home, and flour is a commodity not yet conveniently available in the boutique food market. A grower from the Shasta region used to sell bulk organic, whole-grain wheat at the Ashland Food Co-op, but has recently ceased. Butte Creek Mill, in Eagle Point, sells individual loaf-sized bread ingredients at several area markets, but one package costs more than a bakery-fresh loaf of specialty bread.

Shopping at the Ashland Food Co-op

Monday 2 p.m. &

I was wrong; the Ashland Food Co-op still sells locally grown flour. Despite what I said in my last post, Gary Black, of Black Ranch in Scott Valley, California, still delivers his organic, whole wheat flour to the food co-op in Ashland. You can even buy the flour in berry form, which is the edible part of wheat before it is ground into flour.

A popular way to celebrate Eat Local Week is to participate in what is known as the 100-mile diet, a diet consisting of foods from a radius of 100-miles. Because this is the boundary the Co-op uses for a local diet, Black Ranch flour qualifies.

Coffee or local, you can't do both

Tuesday 6:30 a.m. &

If there is one item in my diet that I can't do without, and can't obtain locally, it's coffee. That's right, I am one of the literally hundreds of millions of Americans who, cumulatively, spend tens of billions of dollars on coffee annually. In 1999, a research firm estimated that the average coffee-consuming American spends about $164 a year on coffee. That actually sounds pretty cheap compared to my addiction; if someone bought a cup of coffee every day for a year from a coffee shop, he or she would have to shell out almost a thousand dollars.

Far-flung farmers and CSAs

Tuesday 12:30 p.m. &

The Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market, which meets every Tuesday of the season at the new Ashland Armory on East Main Street, is undoubtedly the best and biggest collection of local food in Ashland. Shoppers can find everything from local fruits and vegetables, to home-made bakery and lunch items.

However, of the approximately 40 farmers who have booths at Ashland's lone farmer's market, only Eagle Mill Farm is from the Ashland area &

right outside of town on Eagle Mill Road. The next closest farm to frequent the market is Fry Family Farm, which is on Wagner Creek Road.

Eating our neighbor

Wednesday 7:15 a.m. &

Like so many a meal for the localvore, today's lunch was no easy affair. In fact, Julie and I spent nearly an entire Saturday cooking the pot roast that I will today eat as leftovers for what seems the umpteenth time.

A neighbor of ours buys his beef by the side, right from a nearby farmer. When he heard about my eat local assignment, he offered to donate a roast to the cause. A roast is a thick cut of beef that always seems to be the last one to be eaten. Not necessarily because of its taste, but more because of its rigorous preparation requirements. To cook such a thick cut all the way through, it's got to bake all day.

Having a lot of garden chores to attend to, and with a baseball game on the radio, we decided to roast our roast in a cast iron pot on the backyard hibachi.

The Tidings tomato taste-off

Thursday 1:45 p.m. &

As far as my taste buds are concerned, the best part of Eat Local Week &

and eating local in general &

is fresh, garden-grown tomatoes. They are among my favorite things in life.

If I do say so myself, we grow a pretty tasty tomato &

ours won the Tastiest Tomato at last year's Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market annual competition. Therefore, I thought Eat Local Week was the perfect opportunity to show off our award-winning, vine-ripened beauties to my co-workers.

Everyone in the newsroom had their own favorite &

some preferred the Purple Cherokee, while others liked the Black Russian better &

but the one thing we all agreed on is that heirlooms are far and away more tasty than are the genetically modified, store-bought tomatoes most of us grew up eating.

I think I may have won a few converts. Though I can't tell; they might have just been being polite.

The home stretch

Friday 7:45 a.m. &

With something like 48 hours left in my Eat Local Week, tonight will be my biggest challenge. Ever since I was a child, I have always maintained a tradition of ordering pizza on Friday night. Tonight Julie and I will make our own pizza, which is delicious in its own way but not &

by any stretch of the imagination &

the same greasy pleasure that pizza parlor pizza is.

All things being equal, there are delightful and difficult aspects to eating locally. Because there is nothing more important than the food we eat, it makes a lot of sense to devote a large portion of our lives to our diets, and it is very satisfying to do so. On the other hand, I sure did want to eat a bag of potato chips while watching a Jack Black movie last night.

Instead I had home-made plum fruit bars. It felt a little bit like drinking red wine with fish.

Speaking of wine, tonight I will celebrate making it this far with some local libations. Alcohol, it seems, is one of the easiest items to attain locally. A friend is supposed to set me up with some of his friend's home brew, and if that falls through I'll either grab a six pack of Caldera or stop into Standing Stone for a few pints.

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