When the Edible Baja Arizona editorial team first hatched the idea of documenting the process of someone eating only locally sourced foods for a month, my first thought was, “Oh, yes, someone should totally do that!” Meaning, of course, someone absolutely not me.
While I love reading about, writing about, talking about, and of course eating food, I don’t actually know much about eating local. I split a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share with a friend for a while; I love seeing locally sourced foods on a menu; and I dutifully select my produce from the shelves at the grocery store marked “Locally Grown” when I can, but that’s about as far as I’ve gone. I’m also somewhat timid when it comes to venturing outside my cooking comfort zone. Last week I had to ask Google if the fat purple-white root brooding on my cutting board was, in fact, a rutabaga or a parsnip. Prior to starting work as Edible Baja Arizona’s digital content manager, I did not know who our local food producers were, and I have yet to make it to a single farmers’ market.
It isn’t that I lack the motivation—I love the idea of lessening my environmental impact and supporting the Arizona economy through eating local. It’s just that, like so many people, I’m busy. I manage to squeeze a 25-hour workweek and the occasional freelance project around the schedule of my deceptively adorable 10-month-old daughter, who ruthlessly demands such time-intensive attention and activities as Being Read To and Standing With Help (multiple times a day, no less, the tiny dictator). There are a couple of days a week when she goes and hangs out with her grandparents so I can go into the office (thanks Mom and Dad!), and my husband, Chad, tag-teams parenting duties when he’s not working his 9-to-5 job and attending classes. Even so, I spend most of my evenings falling asleep in front of my keyboard, because after the baby is asleep is usually the only time I can get Real Work done.
Still, it was only a matter of time (the length of a conversation at this year’s staff retreat, as a matter of fact) until I reconsidered my initial response and ended up volunteering to eat local food, and only local food, for 30 days. Why? I’ve been wanting to localize our eating habits—maybe a little incredibly public accountability is exactly what I need. And yet, I’m fairly nervous about trying to feed our family entirely on food produced within the Baja Arizona region. I’ve started looking at the labels of the food I buy at the grocery store, marking with some despair the pile of staples that are going to be off limits. Tillamook extra sharp cheddar cheese from Oregon? Off the list. Bananas from Ecuador for our morning smoothies? Nope, not so much. At first, I feared eating local might mean giving up bread, but managing editor Megan Kimble assures me there are indeed farmers growing wheat in Arizona. And thankfully, we won’t be without salt, as soon as I find somewhere that sells salt harvested from the Sea of Cortez.
What makes me most anxious is the time involved. I suspect it’s going to require some serious planning for our family to successfully go local. We live on Tucson’s eastside–I can’t just make a quick run to the Food Conspiracy Co-Op when we run out of something. The closest farmers’ market happens on Friday mornings at Trail Dust Town; if the baby takes a nap at 9 a.m. and the farmers’ market closes at noon, will I have enough time to buy what we need for a weekend of cooking? Not to mention the temptation of grabbing (nonlocal) fast-food and takeout when we get too busy to cook during the week. Of course, it wouldn’t be a challenge without some specific goals in place. So, in addition to sourcing our regular meals from local ingredients, we will also try to stay within our monthly food budget, host a locally sourced dinner party for friends, and attempt to eat an entirely locally sourced meal at a restaurant.
I’ve started to arm myself with the resources I’ll need to make this happen. We will be rejoining the Tucson CSA, and with some help from Shelby Thompson’s column on the Edible Baja Arizona blog and other CSA-inspired recipes, we should be able to tackle the produce hodgepodge that results. I’m reading both Gary Paul Nabhan’s Coming Home to Eat and Megan Kimble’s Unprocessed, and will be using their experiences as a guidebook for my own adventure. I’m scouting out where the farmers’ markets are; where to find basic ingredients like flour, eggs, and cheese; what stuff I can find in my nearby grocery stores and what I can’t. I’ve also set up a Tumblr blog at localgirlgoeslocal.tumblr.com, where I will post daily videos, observations, and useful tips and tricks I come across along the way, in addition to posting weekly updates on the Edible Baja Arizona blog.
And so, biting my nails, eyeing the calendar, and with one last longing glance toward the fresh Hawaiian pineapple that would taste so good grilled and served atop a locally sourced burger (but hey, no cheating!), I’m ready to begin. ✜
Follow Kate’s adventures in the world of local food with her Local Girl Goes Local Tumblr: LocalGirlGoesLocal.tumblr.com
Keep up to date on Kate’s progress with her weekly Monday updates on the Edible Baja Arizona blog: EdibleBajaArizona.com/blog