Lately, I’ve been thinking about the push for local and sustainable food.  I realize that this isn’t the type of things that many of my friends think about, but you’ll just have to indulge me for a bit.  I’ve been reading praise and critiques of local, sustainable, slow food and while I more often then not will find myself on the side of praise, I do have a few concerns with what I see and hear.

The foundation of my critique comes from the location of the praise.  Let me put it this way.  More often then not, the examples of restaurants and homes that are pushing the local food movement come from people who are able to grow food 9-10 months of the year.  In Fort Collins, we are lucky if we can push 7 months.  It is much more realistic for people that can have a nearly year-round supply of local food to be advocating the consumption of it.  However, it is much harder for me to consume a local-only diet.   If there are going to be cookbooks that are intended to promote local foods, wouldn’t there need to be highly regional cookbooks?  I have tremendous respect for Alice Waters and what she is doing with Che Panisse, but the reality of it is, her local foods can be worlds apart from the things that are local to me.  So where are the chefs from Denver talking about a seasonal menu?  Where is there praise for root crops?  And what should we be doing about a seasonal dessert?  This is not a topic of discussion within the local food movement, but I believe it must be if it is to be more than a posh trend.

The second thought that consumes me has to do with the economics of local, sustainable, slow food.  I’m no economist, but I have a basic understanding of supply and demand curves.  So here’s my issue, if we are promoting local seasonal foods as something that we should all be using, then we should be showing people what to do with the local and seasonal foods.  Here’s an example of a common menu item praised for it’s seasonality: Lagier Ranches goose: grilled breast, leg confit, and sausage with chestnuts and wild mushrooms; with Chino Ranch savoy cabbage and other winter vegetables.  But is this the type of menu that appeals to the majority of people?  If we are going to create a demand (in reality we showing honest benefits of the local movement, rather than turning it into a consumer-driven marketing product.) for honest, local food then we should be showing people what to do with it.  I believe that the majority of people don’t have any confidence in the kitchen; if you were going to suggest for people to start using root vegetables over the winter season, they wouldn’t know what to do with them or even what they are.

So these are the things I think about.  When I think about “what I want to be when I grow up,” these are the things that I think might be involved.

What I’d like to know is, what do you think about these things?  Cuyler, I know you don’t care much for all these types of food conversations, but I’d really like your input.  Shannon, you too.  Maria, any more recent thoughts about Tomato Theology?  Josh, what about things up in your neck-of-the-woods?

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