Banqueting Local Style.

So the Eat Local Challenge is going well so we decided to turn it up a notch.  It would be easier to undertake this challenge by lying low and eating the same old local food each day and squeeze past the month without too much discomfort, but the thing is despite being  the kind of gal that likes an easy life, I find myself creating situations for myself that add twists, turns and complications.  Just being in this challenge is a twist from the ordinary.

The most fabulous company
The most fabulous company

So while we were easily able to create the most incredible beef chilli the other night from local beef and veggies, herbs and spices from the garden, with the only extra ingredients for the 5% being salt, pepper and cumin – we felt we could be doing more.  So we threw a dinner party.

We invited the friends of ours that were most likely to embrace the Eat Local concept or would contribute to the discussion that would of course have to be had.  So we ended up with four wonderful couples and quite a few kids from urban, lifestyle and farm existences and who are not afraid to supplement their diets with all manner of home grown food, from veggies, cheese, and eggs to bacon, lamb and beef.

This tomato salsa didn't last long
This tomato salsa didn’t last long

When we invited them we stipulated that they needed to contribute to the meal and it all had to be local.  If we couldn’t eat it, then neither could they.  And our wonderful friends embraced it and arrived bearing a wonderful array of incredible dishes that fell within our zone of localness.  They had even gone to the trouble of finding wine.  So it wasn’t a lot different from one of our normal parties with great food, great drink and great company.

Neither did these cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped chiliies!
Neither did these cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped chiliies!

We provided a roast lamb and roast veggies, but as vinegar wasn’t local I thought instead of mint sauce I’d make an apple based mint jelly, which in theory would have worked perfectly well had I not over boiled it and turned it into a sticky toffee like substance.  We only discovered the problem with it when our guests struggled to scoop it out of the dish.   Opps!

mint apple jelly toffee
Yeah … well… umm…. I tried?!

I also made zucchini and beetroot crisps by dipping thinly sliced veggies in a salty, chilli solution and then popping them in my dehydrator.  It worked a treat.  So delicious, crunchy and moreish.   For dessert I made a rhubarb and quince crumble.  It is such a great thing to have a garden where you can experiment with the fruit and veggies and come up with something yummy.

Zucchini and beetroot chips
Zucchini and beetroot chips

The guests also bought great food.  One of my dear friends had even gone to the trouble of collecting stinging nettles for a really nice soup. It had a very lovely flavour.  I’d definitely eat it again.  It was great to see the effort everyone had gone to.  I am wondering now what else we could make our friends do.  Perhaps the next dinner party should be fancy dress?

Eventually the topic of conversation turned to the local challenge and several interesting points were raised.  Namely that as a country our main income comes from exports.  We are a producing nation and as most of our food produced ends up with air miles.  So if we fully embraced local as nation then we would be hypocritical to continue exporting so it isn’t a realistic thing to do.

This is the most amazing nettle soup!
This is the most amazing nettle soup!

On the other extreme it was discussed that communities need to be able to be proactive in providing for their needs as, in a disaster such as the Christchurch  earthquake, communities can be cut off from the food supply chain and  if it was locally produced and available it would be easier to pick up the pieces.

Between the extremes, general consensus was reached that while completely unrealistic as a nation going forward, it is a great exercise in awareness. A happy medium would be to support local manufacturing, even though some ingredients may be from miles away, they provide a good quality product.  In return the community will benefit from keeping the money in the local community.

Dinners ready...
Dinner’s ready…

Having said that the local products are often more expensive and therefore out of reach of many and so we are often torn between simply feeding our families and feeding them quality food.

The conversation then drifted away and the evening was soon over and everyone went home with full bellies, warm memories of a great night and an awareness of food origins that will probably make them check packets next time they are in the supermarket – even if it is just out of curiosity.

dessert, rhubarb and quince crumble and feijoas
Dessert was also a feast, but at this time of year feijoas are pretty much compulsory in almost every meal – for those who love them and can’t get enough in their short season

Come again soon – I’ve been so busy in so many ways.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

This week’s gardening tour is probably less garden and more talk, to try to disguise the fact I hadn’t done much in the garden, but it is still quite interesting so please check it out.


8 thoughts on “Banqueting Local Style.

  1. Great post! The local food movement is huge in Canada right now and we seem to face many of the same questions – but as the movement grows and more restaurants and grocery store advertise the local ingredients and their sources (even if it is only parts of the whole) awareness seems to be spreading and catching on!

    1. Hi There. It is really good to see more local suppliers and producers however I definitely think the key is awareness as it would be economically impossible for nations to go local. Having said that, they pretty much used to be completely local in the olden days. Besides I’d miss chocolate too much! Cheers Sarah : o)

  2. Lovely looking food! Any chance you could post more details on how to make the veggie chips? They look so good.

    1. Hi Ann. The veggie chips were just thinly sliced and dipped into a solution of salt, a dash of vinegar and a pinch of ground dried smoked chilli. Then I lay them in the dehydrator for a few hours and they were all crispy. If I did them again I would probably make then a little thicker – maybe 1/2 cm and oil the dehydrator tray as they were so thin they stuck to the tray. I would vary the flavours too – maybe chicken stock or lemon juice and pepper. The possibilities are endless. I hope you try them – it was quite simple and everyone loved them. Cheers Sarah : o )

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