I became a locavore quite by accident. I had known about the locavore movement, but didn't put much thought into it. I shopped at a grocery chain that made it a point to use as much semi-local produce as possible, where I checked origins and made it a point to skip over anything non-US grown and avoided anything that deviated from the Southeastern area. For a time, that was enough. Then I discovered the gems that are my local Farmer's Markets. THAT'S when I was converted. A sunny, summer afternoon spent people-watching, chatting up vendors, and buying some of the most beautiful tomatoes and Muscadine grapes I had ever laid my eyes on, all the while snacking on beautifully made artisan bread still warm from a vendor that gave it to us for free, in exchange for a smile and a hug from my outgoing and bubbly toddler.
That afternoon got me hooked on the soul-food that is interacting with the community in a small yet impacting manner, as well. As my daughter played at my feet and I watched the busy goings-on of the downtown market, I saw many beautiful things. Families still smudged with dirt, vending from the tailgates of beat-up 20 year old pickups laughed and played together between customers. Mothers brought their children and fed them directly from the stands they just purchased their foods from. Indigent residents came and bartered and haggled to afford vital fresh veggies and fruits that otherwise wouldn't be available to them, that provided them with the nourishment necessary to keep them going just that much longer. Students, professionals, young, old, fashionable, scene, hippy... you name the demographic, it was represented. It was and is a breathtakingly beautiful melding of our community, all gathered together to laugh and play. Smiles are abundant between strangers, which we all know is a rarity in today's society.
These markets are so much more than food markets. Locally made crafts, clothes and gift items, vocal advocacy for political and social issues, musicians, dancers, artists... they all gather to ply their wares, stances and performances. There's something that appeals to every sense.
It's markets like these that truly feed us as a society. Not just by providing nourishment for our bodies, but economic nourishment, social nourishment, and soul nourishment in the form of hope. In today's society where so many are isolated by choice and by chance, these markets provide us with the opportunity to come together for a common purpose. It provides the necessary soul-ular (get it? Soul-ular instead of cellular? I'm punny =P) vitamins of smiles, kindness, laughs and camaraderie. It helps to rebuild our faith in our fellow man, if only for a few hours each week.
I didn't become a locavore to spit in the face of Big Agriculture, nor to perpetuate a socio-political movement or simply because my friends were doing it and it was trendy. I became a locavore because I realized that by feeding my family the (literal) fruits of my neighbors' labor, I was feeding their families as well as my soul and our communities.
This year I plan to take my locavore-ism to the next step, with a garden that should produce enough to feed my family comfortably, as well as allow me to reach out individually to someone who is in need, since there will undoubtedly be more than enough to share. I've said in jest that even in the worst-case scenario, I would have enough extra to set up my own vendor's stall at the market, but that goes against what it feels right in my heart to do. The profit I'm looking for isn't monetary - I want to give back the good feeling I've been blessed to receive that comes with knowing that someone cares about me and my family, and is willing to share their good fortunes with me. That, in my opinion, is the key motivator behind home-base locavoreism.
So that you gain more than just my rhetoric from this post, I'm going to leave you with links to finding out how to become locavores in your own communities and a recipe. Happy Nurturing!
***Please note: All measurements are approximate. I'm a firm believer that cooking is based more on feeling and heart than measurements and calculations, but I acknowledge that not everyone cooks that way, which is why I provided the estimates. :)
- 5 large tomatoes (two cans of diced tomatoes can be substituted, or you can mix fresh and canned. I often make this substitution, simply because tomatoes get eaten like apples in my house and I never have enough left.)
- 4 mid-size crookneck/yellow squash
- 4 mid-size zucchini
- 2 large onions
- 1 TBSP minced garlic
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Fresh ground sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
At this point, cover your pot and simmer on low. The idea is to cook the tomatoes well along with cooking the onions to translucency, while steaming the squash and zucchini.
After ten minutes of simmering, mix to combine the squash and zucchini with the tomato-onion-garlic mixture. Cover and simmer until squash and zucchini are tender to taste. (We like them very mushy, so it's usually another 20 minutes or so for us. YMMV.)
When veggies are fork-done to taste, add ground pepper and the salt of your choice, mixing to incorporate. Cover for another five minutes to let flavors mingle. Remove from heat and serve over white or brown rice, or egg noodles.
I generally serve this over white rice with stew beef marinaded in a honey-sesame teriyaki sauce. It's a very flexible dish, though, so experiment and enjoy!