This article was published in the April 2006 issue of Harrowsmith Country Life. Unfortunately, the cutline under the photo does not correctly identify the Saskatoon Farmer's Market, without which I would be completly lost!
It has been said that every journey begins with one step, but my culinary journey began with one bite – a bite of chives to be exact. It was the first tiny chives of spring growing in my garden in Saskatoon, sprinkled on a warm potato salad and served with weisswurst from the farmers’ market. From that moment, I pledged to serve nothing but local foods at my own dinner table for one year. No asparagus in fall, no zucchini in spring. No imported soup to foreign nuts.
I asked my husband, "What should I call this culinary adventure?"
"Austerity," he offered. "Monotony. Privation."
He could be forgiven for thinking so. We are so accustomed to buying what we want, when we want it, that it seems almost naive to think we could wean ourselves off the "power grid" of global food distribution. Yet I find it ironic, living in the "Bread Basket of Canada" populated in large part by the descendents of pioneer farmers, that it’s almost impossible to find the label "Made in Saskatchewan" in a local grocery store.
No doubt, those pioneers would be amazed at the variety of foods produced today in our northern climate. Thanks to ingenuity and science, we are growing foods never thought possible one hundred year ago. They would not be amazed, though, at the concept of eating locally – to them it was survival; to me it is revival. It’s turning the clock back and forward at the same time, following ancient custom in order to create a healthier world.
There are good reasons to eat locally. Local produce is usually picked just before it’s sold so it’s fresher, tastes better and the nutrients are not depleted. It is less likely to have been treated with pharmaceuticals, preservatives and other agents to maintain the appearance of freshness. It’s good for the environment. Imagine how much fuel is burned trucking food across continents, covering thousand of kilometres from the farm to our fork.
It builds a sense of community as we meet farmers and gardeners face-to-face and circulate our food dollars in the local economy. And it wrests a fraction of control – albeit a small fraction – from the handful of powerful corporations that determine what is in our grocery stores, what it looks like, where it’s from and how it’s produced around the world.
My skeptical husband has been pleasantly surprised, and so have I. We have discovered that every food group (except chocolate!) is grown or raised locally. We are eating better and feeling better about it. Whether it’s one meal – or a lifetime of meals – choosing to eat locally is a philosophy that transcends place and brings you closer to home with every bite.