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Eating Local: Bringing the 100-mile diet closer to home

Marilyn Gleason
Staff Photo |

A few years back a local library chose for its community read a book called “Plenty.” It was written by a couple who made a brave and crazy decision: for one year, to commit to eating only food they could source within 100 miles of their home in Vancouver, B.C.

You had to admire them. They went hard core.

A magical meal born of necessity in the wilds of northern British Columbia inspired them. Stranded at a remote summer cottage with no supermarket nearby (or town or road), guests to feed and just one not-very-fresh cabbage on hand, they got creative. They gleaned garlic and potatoes from an untended garden, foraged for wild mushrooms in the forest, picked fruit and berries from trees and bushes on the homestead. A visitor reeled in a big fish from the river. They chopped and heated and stirred it into a memorable, mouth-watering feast.



Then they went home to the city.

Concerned about climate change, peak oil and environmental Armageddon, they began to examine their own lives and responsibility. “Each time we sat down to eat, we were consuming products that had traveled the equivalent of the distance of a drive from Toronto, Ontario, to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, or from New York City to Denver, Colorado. We were living on an SUV diet.”



Here at Colby Farm, by diligently seeking out local food producers, markets and farmers, by gardening and gleaning, by avoiding the supermarket and by cooking at home, it’s remarkable how much of every home-cooked meal comes from my own backyard.

Any good day starts with breakfast. We have backyard chickens, and I recommend them. Two soft-boiled eggs salted and served with thick slices of tomatoes from the garden are armor against your demanding day.

Our 3-year-old chickens recently went on strike in protest of winter. I was probably the last to notice the shocking jump in egg prices due to the fear of avian flu at factory farms. Now those $5 eggs from the barnyard down the road are an even better deal.

When it comes to food trends, two words spring to mind: local and bacon. If there is a local source for bacon, I haven’t found it yet. Still, for lunch I like a BLT, occasionally. All things in moderation, especially bacon. I slather the bread with mayonnaise and layer it with garden tomatoes and cucumbers and lettuce from Osage Gardens. But the secret ingredient that stands in counterpoint to the rest is Blazin’ K sweet zucchini relish. Laura Kolecki grows the squash and cans it in Silt. You simply must try it.

At Potato Day I bought some dried shiitake mushrooms from the man who grew them in alder logs and rushing water. I minced a firm Colorado onion and boiled it with the mushrooms in my own lamb stock, added Red McClure potatoes — a local heirloom — and sliced carrots from the garden, and finished it with raw milk and cream I get weekly from an undisclosed location. Except for the salt and roux, this cream of mushroom soup had real local cred.

Tomatoes from the vine or farmers market beg for Mediterranean treatment. I scald them, slip off the skins and dump them into a big saucepan prepared with olive oil and lots of minced Sunshine Farm garlic. Smash them, salt them and simmer them until the marinara is thick enough to finish with capers and Kalamata olives or, even better, intensely aromatic basil leaves plucked from the plant and coarsely chopped. With real tomatoes at its base, the flavor is sublime.

Before the freeze, I pull up the remaining basil plants and toss all the leaves into the blender with more garlic, olive oil and salt as well as homegrown walnuts. The rich pesto keeps in the freezer and brings back the garden all winter long.

Fettuccine and linguini comes from Pappardelle’s in Denver, an old company that’s found new owners and new life at Colorado farmers markets. The quality, flavor and variety justify the price of their pasta. Seek it out.

Let’s not skip dessert. My best pie was a felicitous September marriage of honeycrisp apples and those sweet-tart Italian plums common in Garfield County yards and brambles, sweetened with honey.

The weekend means Sunday brunch, right? I baked a series of heavenly coffeecakes, switching the rhubarb called for in the recipe with more purple Italian plums. Ed is strict with his healthy diet, but he’s weak, too. I had him begging for mercy.

The point is not briefly meeting the challenge of the 100-mile diet. It’s millions of people making hundreds of little daily choices that bring the 100-mile diet closer to home — or not.

As the authors of “Plenty” remind us, “It isn’t only that our food is traveling great distances to reach us; we, too, have moved great distances from our food. This most intimate of nourishment, this stuff of life — where does it come from? Who produces it? How do they treat their soil, crops, animals? How do their choices — my choices — affect my neighbors and the air, land, water that surround us? If I knew where my food and drink came from, would I still want to eat it?”

“Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally,” by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon inspired Marilyn Gleason along her journey into local eating. You can send her your comments, suggestions and recipes at mg.news2@yahoo.com.


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