Okay, I’ll just come right out and say it: The 2008 Local Food Challenge was not the transcendent experience I anticipated. Suddenly confronted with surviving on mostly starches and dairy, I gained five pounds the first week and promptly developed chronic indigestion. Chocolate and avocados haunted my dreams. Was it enlightening? You bet. Was it fun? No way.
On the positive side, the Challenge provided an ideal opportunity for The Perfect Man to master his techniques for making butter and cheese. And, in the absence of spinach or broccoli, we discovered that fresh-picked kale makes a very respectable quiche. But drawbacks included large amounts of gasoline required to round up a very limited variety of veggies… and large amounts of time required to prepare basic ingredients.
I have enormous admiration for the brave souls who shepherded their entire families through the long month of local-only menus. Ang Jordan at Gulf Coast Local Food is at the top of that list, because she’s right here in south Alabama, where sustainability is a new and exotic concept. (Ask someone in Mobile if they support CSA, and they’re likely to assume you mean the Confederate States of America.) Then there’s Cafe Mama, who writes about her local food quest in prose as spare and sweet as poetry. And Sarah Beam makes it all sound easy at Recipes for a Postmodern Planet.
Call me a curmudgeon, but my mood soured by the middle of the second week — around the time that I ran out of innovative ways to cook sweet potatoes. When I turned to my fellow bloggers for inspiration, their posts sounded so…so… chipper. Was it possible that I was the only cranky Challenge participant, a vegetarian doing without vegetables, grumpily counting the days until the local-only pledge would finally end?
Well, bad attitude and all, I may have actually whittled away at the old carbon footprint much more than I thought — just by being a longtime herbivore. According to a study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, raising animals for food results in more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined. Yikes. But here’s the good news: even a modest reduction in meat consumption takes a big bite out of fossil energy use.
On Saturday, I accompanied The Perfect Man to a last-chance plant sale at Mobile Botanical Gardens. All the unsold plants left over from their annual autumn sale were offered at bargain prices. Fun! We brought home two big Bengal Tiger cannas, a new Louisiana iris for the water garden, a pot full of pineapple sage and a tiny container of the whimsical succulent my grandmother calls “hen and chicks.” Our loot is pictured below, but excuse the camera strap dangling in the upper right corner. It was early, and I needed some coffee.