Imported binge/Challenge your default cooking habits

31 Aug

From Rachel:

We were discussing a bit in the office the past few days whether we should binge on the obviously non-local foods that we will do our best to avoid starting MIDNIGHT tonight!  I, somewhat randomly, did not have my morning coffee on Monday, and decided maybe I should take a day off from the imported wake-up juice.  Then yesterday I also avoided it, just to see.  I was planning on treating myself to some after a doctor’s appointment, but then it seemed the wrong time.  This morning I woke up and decided I was already off the coffee (since I was getting a withdraw headache).  Thus, the decision was made that I have given up coffee for as long into September as seems logical.  Not going to lie, I might go back especially given the wonderful local roasters we have, and given the long car trips that I’ll be taking to some field days mid-month.  Lea was mentioning how she felt like she should inhale some greasy Asian take-out food tonight (but I’d be surprised if she really did given the wonderful food she has stocked up on).  Interestingly, you could make local ingredients into the same food, minus the rice, but that take-out food is just magically comforting the way it is.  Stephanie, our Administrative Assistant, is tearing up a little at the thought that avocados will never be local (and we all agree there; perhaps we need to endorse a very cold-hardy avocado breeding program).  Kate, our Executive Director, treated us to some of our favorite cookies from a Rochester restaurant.  They’re curry and chocolate–one of my personal favorite flavor combinations.  I am planning to avoid chocolate, but I’m still debating spices.  So I indulged in some obvious no-no-for-September cookies, but I know that the bad/good thing about our imported food system is that I can always go BACK to eating curry and chocolate.  But once the fall is over, it’s going to be a lot harder to find thai basil (current location: 1.5 miles from my apartment, and also on my counter) from my garden or eggplant straight off the tables at our area farmers’ markets (under 50 miles, often less).  Sure, spices enhance those ingredients, but why not (ahem) challenge your culinary defaults?  You know you cooking tastes good with the spices and imported characters, but how good can you make that recipe without local ingredients?  For example, last night I made amazing and 100%-local veggie burgers with thai basil, chili pepper, NY soy sauce and veggies and soybean pulp leftover from my soymilk brewing (more on that later).  It didn’t really need the ginger, cumin, thai curry paste from a jar, etc. that I might normally throw in by default–they were left out and that food still tasted interesting, flavorful and a little exotic (man, I just love that musky, anise-y flavor of thai basil).

We already have so many wonderful ingredients hanging around, it might take more effort to binge on non-local foods than to just glide gently into a mostly-local habit anyways!  I know I’m not going 100% 250-miles-or-less all month.  I’ve written about my justifications and my cheats before (I’m nuts over nuts, for example).  However, I’m going to push myself to highlight what’s locally available first and recognize my cooking defaults.  I’m giving them a little vacation back on those exotic islands and cloud-forest hillsides whence they came.  Instead of starting cooking dinner by going to the spice cabinet, I’ll go to my garden, my market basket or my counter tops which always have jars of herbs this time of year.  I’ll see if I can maximize those flavors to the point that I don’t need that extra dash of curry powder and cumin.  And I probably won’t binge tonight, since that would be giving too much attention to the things I’m (not really) going to miss this month.  I’m starting my local-foods binge early.  My bread, local nut butter and jam, and all the veggies I want to eat (haven’t bought from a store in who knows how long).  Dessert = peach-apple sauce.  That’s foodie heaven, no visitors from foreign lands, and all I really need tonight.  But check in with me on a week on that coffee promise.

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