For the month of June, I am only buying food that has never left a 100-mile radius of my house and, for the most part, it has been pretty great. The produce tastes delicious, I constantly meet people passionate about food, and I am stepping out of my comfort zone as a cook. Yet, there are times when being a locavore is a complete pain.
Yes, it is frustrating not to be able to go out to eat and to have to grill each farmer to pinpoint where everything was grown, but I never anticipated the biggest challenges. As a committed and happy chocoholic, I enjoy a daily morsel of chocolate. The word "no" seems to leave my vocabulary whenever chocolate is offered, but I have been forced to give up my habit, as cacao is not grown commercially in the continental United States -- and certainly not in California.
Not only has any and all chocolate been cut from my diet, but sugar cane is also not grown anywhere nearby; honey is the only readily available, local sweetener. I have been trying to take a "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" approach to this limited dessert option, but I find myself counting down the days to when I can buy another chocolate bar.
The other big difficulty is the amount of planning that now goes into dinner. My fridge or pantry is often lacking an item that I need, so running out to the store in the middle of a recipe was a fairly common occurrence. I go to the market at least every other day to grab a carton of milk or pick up some apples that were on sale.
Now I am limited to the surrounding farmers markets, which means shopping only once or twice a week, and I am stuck if I forget something. Before shopping this week, I made a meal plan for seven days of lunches and dinners to ensure I didn't run out of food or overlook a crucial ingredient, but I soon deviated from this organized approach.
I sent out a pasta machine search party (meaning my dad, who has uncanny finding abilities) and dug through my pantry to find something else for dinner. I had local, dried fava beans that should have been left to soak overnight, but I quickly threw them onto the stove top to boil anyway, hoping they would be ready before midnight.
At 6 p.m., the beans were still rock-hard and the pasta machine was nowhere to be found. Normally, I would have jaunted over to the store, bought a chicken or some vegetables, and whipped up a quick dinner. Now, however, I was at the mercy of an unforgiving pot of beans.
In the end, everything was fine — the beans eventually cooked through and by 9:30 we devoured a late dinner of fava and beet green soup — but I realized how much I always relied on a safety net of conveniently available food. If I misplace a gadget or if a recipe is bunk, there are endless options at the grocery store down the block, a convenience that disappears when eating locally.
For my monthlong experiment, I went cold turkey to examine local eating, but, in reality, a local-only diet is difficult to sustain. A focus on local food is important for a long list of reasons, but who wants to live without chocolate?