Walking the walk looks great on paper. But in real life, it can be akin to navigating a gnarled, overgrown hiking trail in stilettos. Take buying local food, for example. There are countless people in our community who do it daily with ease, patronizing CSAs (community-supported agriculture) and growers’ markets, simultaneously helping our local economy and farmers stay afloat, coddling Mother Nature, and showing off enlightened culinary flair at mealtime.
Then there’s me—a former caterer and cooking instructor, food writer, passionate cook and (in another lifetime) an able gardener. You’d think I’d have a CSA membership, a fridge and pantry crammed with organic non-junk food, a navigation system programmed with a half-dozen farmers’ market addresses, and something to pull out of the garden every day.
But here’s the reality: five kids, two dogs, two cats, a full-time job and lots of time spent playing chauffeur. Hence the sound bite I’ve coined to justify my spending/shopping habits: the convenience years.
Simply put, I shop where I can. Depending on the day’s course, that includes Acme, FoodSource, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Carlino’s and Ardmore Farmers Market. CVS, Rite Aid and Target are never out of the question, either.
Of course, I wanted to join a CSA this year, but that meant planning ahead. And every week, I intend to hit Oakmont Farmers Market in Havertown, but my schedule and their hours aren’t always in sync.
Until I started my research for this month’s Dining Guide and met some of the faces behind our local food chain, all of the above seemed like a valid defense. But now I know it’s one thing to be on the bandwagon, and another to live it.
It might be easy to dismiss “locavorism” as a fad. But with gas prices on a one-way trail north, outbreaks of foodborne illness becoming more common and concern growing about the world’s food supply, eating is becoming an exercise in safety and ethics.
But that’s the cynical view. The bright side of this elevated consciousness is increased access to the region’s small artisan purveyors and farmers, pristine ingredients and heirloom varieties, and the chance to meet the people responsible for putting food on our tables.
Granted, you might not crave such intimacy—or be all that compelled by the farm-to-table relationship. But after seeing Pete Demchur dote on baby goats like they were his children, following savvy businessman/nature lover Dan Heckler as he nibbled his way through his garden, and watching a newborn calf take its first steps while touring the farm where Sue Miller makes her cheese, my guess is that you’d be a convert as well. From the moment I held my 9-year-old son’s hand as we cautiously reached out to touch the calf, and saw the smile on Miller’s face as she realized we “got it,” knowing my “food routes” was suddenly as important as knowing what happens when the ingredients reach the kitchen.