Food is love, as far as I’m concerned. There is no better way to show your love for family, friends, community, your community and the planet than through what you buy, cook and eat.
As a fish-eating vegetarian, I’ve always preferred fresh and local food. Until recently, however, I put much more attention on the fresh than the local side of things. I sought out fresh foods with as little processing or additives as possible because I assumed they were tastier and healthier than cooking canned and frozen foods. As long as it looked fresh, it went in my shopping cart, regardless of whether it came from Cambridge, California, or Cartagena.
But the more I learn about the benefits of eating locally-grown food, the more time and money I’m willing to invest in supporting it. By seeking out local foods from conscientious growers and producers, I’m supporting the local economy, helping workers earn a living wage, eating eggs that are less likely to be contaminated with salmonella, and swooning when I eat a fresh peach. What’s not to like?
So I’ve joined the Heavens Harvest Farm Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and the Cape Ann Fresh Catch Community-Supported Fishery (CSF) and volunteer at the Community Servings Farmers’ Market. And I’m growing a few herbs and vegetables in my front yard–still waiting to see if I can harvest my potato crop.
Even so, I still find that eating locally can be challenging. When I go to the supermarket, for example, the signs often do not tell me where the food is from, and the store is less likely to sell artisanal products from local companies. When I go to most restaurants—except for the ones that specialize in local foods–the menu seldom tells me whether the fish is wild or farmed, and where it was caught. When I can, I try to support the places that support local food and provide the information I need without having to ask.
I’m happy to report that the consumer demand for fresh and local products is beginning to force even the food chains and the supermarkets to provide more local options. Just because the food is sourced locally, however, doesn’t mean that the benefits go to the farmers or their workers. The only sure way to know you’re supporting your values with your dollars is to know your farmer—and fishers, and cheesemakers, and… In short, be an informed consumer!
Which brings me to my final point: The Sustainable Business Network is holding Boston’s first ever Local Food Festival on Saturday, October 2, from 11am-6pm at the Boston Waterfront at Fort Point Channel. The fest will be a chance for you to meet local producers and learn about local foods while you attend cooking demos by some of your favorite local chefs, sample delicious local beers, and enjoy some music from local bands.
And—specially for “us” pescovegetarians—there’ll be a mini seafood festival featuring fresh, locally-caught delights. For those of you who love watching Iron Chef and Chopped, two chefs will compete in a cooking “Throwdown” competition, featuring a mystery seafood ingredient.
Free food, fun, and the chance to learn more about eating local—sounds like a love fest for food lovers to me!