“These foods can work the small daily miracle of exciting our passions. Not all of them, for all of us but each of them for some of us. They have been made and honed over generations and they are still with us because enough of us – sometimes only just enough of us – love them.” Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
I apply this quote to New England foods that excite my passion for all that is local. I suspect, whichever region or country you are from, you have an affinity for traditional food, locally grown and made into such things as artisanal breads, delicate jams and jellies, and properly processed meats and veggies. I think this can be attributed to the essence of the land and people that is infused into local food production.
I decided to take a look at which Maine foods I have available and how well I might survive with only locally produced foods.
To not be overwhelmed, I focused on what I consider basics — meat, vegetables, and breads. Meats were fairly straightforward. I buy my meats from local producers who raise their animals on local lands. For instance, my pork is forest raised, primarily on blueberries and nuts. My freezer is laden with locally raised fish, beef, lamb and chicken. I realize we don’t all choose to eat meat, but food choices are not the same for us all, but “each of them are for some of us”. I love my local meats and fish and I say thank you, thank you, and thank you for them being readily available.
Sage, rosemary, and thyme are more than song lyrics. They are herb basics I grow to enhance my dishes and while they don’t come under the heading of vegetables, meat and bread, at this point, I feel I have to mention them, because when you’re down to just a few selections in March, they will keep you a little happier eating what you have available. You may be thinking “Herbs are fine and dandy, but what about salt?” As far as flavor goes, I can live without salt. However, non-bleached salt, with most of its minerals intact is good for you. I would rely on Maine sea salt. I’ve bought some mighty fine, smoky, Blue Hill sea salt, as well as dulse seaweed that tastes like the ocean on a sunny day! Grind up with herbs, sprinkle on your food and come March you will forget you are down to just a few vegetable choices.
Vegetables. Focusing only on August offerings, I would have ample selections from my garden or someone else’s, assuming a blessed growing season. By March, however, memories of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce would be a distant memory as my stores would no doubt be down to the slim picking remains of what I had canned, otherwise stored or hopefully, from the farmer down the road. Those selections will most likely, in this area of New England, be limited to carrots, beans and potatoes. See why you need the herbs and salt?
Bread, like nothing else, can fill you when the larder is running empty. I love bread fresh from a hot oven, slathered in homemade butter and the rustic flavor of jam! Lucky, I am to live where fruits are readily grown and turned into jams and jellies; storing the remembrance of warm, sun-laden days. Wait! Bread requires yeast and flour!
There are options for making non-yeast bread, such as with sour milk or cream or opt for unleavened versions. Maine Grain Alliance produces fabulous flours or you can grind your own from nuts and grains. Local honey steps up to the plate for the occasional need of a sweetener for your baking or coffee. Coffee?
I feel fortunate to have stepped up to this challenge. I could survive pleasingly well. Some key points:
- Know how to grow the foods you need, have a lot of friends who know or support your local farmers.
- Know how to cook or someone who will cook for you.
- Beware, some local foods are really not that good. Know where to find the good stuff.
- Sticking to local food gives you options control, emphasizing the importance of growing your own or supporting those who grow.
- You can’t depend on a supermarket to supply locally grown. You’ll find hardly any local options, so again, support your farmer.
- Overall, you will come to know and appreciate better tasting, healthier food options.
- If you are a coffee lover like me, you will have to learn to go without. (Gasp!)
I have a tough time understanding how anyone cannot revel in the power of food to change your everyday life, transforming the earth in a positive way. I respect food beyond an allotment of calories and wish everyone would. I care about food flavor, provenance, and sustainability. If we were to all care in this manner and support those growers who do, this challenge wouldn’t be much of a challenge.