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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.