The local food movement has been growing in popularity for the last several years. The term locavore was coined in 2005 to describe someone who prefers that their food come from places closer to home. In addition to farmer’s markets, there are many ways to support the local food movement. For those of us in the colder climates, one great idea is the concept of preserving local food for the winter months. This is a creative way to work around seasonal constraints. Even though I love to can tomatoes, I never thought of it as a way to continue supporting local food. The article “Nine Ways to Support your Local Food Community” by Food Tank’s Bonnie Averbuch, gives this and other great tips on how you can be part of movement to keep things local. Even incorporating one or two tips is a great start to becoming a locavore. We had the most delicious lunch at Local Foods in Chicago. www.localfoods.com They are a 17,000-square-foot space the houses a public market, meat mecca The Butcher & Larder, seasonal staple Stock cafe and a lineup of cooking classes and workshops. If you are in the area we highly recommend checking them out!
What ideas do you have for keeping things local?
In the spring, I talked about some great ways to grow food in small spaces. Now that it is late July and my gardens are starting to get into full swing, I was reminded of a day late last summer when the vegetables were in full production. After one of my kids spent a full day hanging out at a friend’s house, the friend’s mom had sent home two cucumbers from her garden. I remember how much I appreciated her simple gift. If she had bought them at the store and sent them home to me, I probably wouldn’t have thought much of the gesture. But, because she grew and nurtured them in her own garden and then passed them on to me, I felt loved! It’s funny how a couple of irrelevant cucumbers can pack such a message! But, food does have meaning; in many ways, it tells a story. That’s why so many of our holidays and traditions are centered around food. Food brings us together and we create meaning and memories through food. Sometimes, I think about what I am saying to others through food. One day last winter while we were grocery shopping, my youngest wanted a muskmelon. I remember thinking “$3.50 for a muskmelon, are you kidding me?” In the middle of summer, I wouldn’t pay more than a buck or two for a muskmelon. I remember catching myself just as that two letter word was about to roll off my lips and I remember thinking; “well, it’s not the middle of July, it’s the middle of January.” I’m sure I’ve spent $3.50 on many other things that were not nearly as healthy as this” (chips, ice-cream, other miscellaneous snacks). But, for whatever reason, these purchases seemed to be OK because I wasn’t paying more for them than what I thought they were worth. I don’t usually buy fruit or vegetables that aren’t in season, but before I said no, I thought about what I was saying to my child by not getting the overpriced fruit. So, instead, I said “sure, I could go for a muskmelon in the middle of January”. We ate it later that cold January night, and it was truly one of the best muskmelons I remember eating. I have worked pretty hard to teach my kids the value of a dollar over the years, but I think this needs to be balanced with teaching them the value of a good memory as well. Again, I’m referring to something as simple as a fruit or a vegetable, but those simple foods do play a bigger part in our lives than we often realize, they can create memories; they can tell a story.
Food like everything has trends; they come and go. I love every part of food; from reading recipes and grocery shopping to cooking, and best of all eating!
In the last ten years some fads turned into bona fide trends. Moving from $.50 diner coffee to a $5.00 venti nonfat Caramel Macchiato’s and the rise of organic and sustainable foods. More recently we have seen an increase in whole grain and gluten free products. The advent of the “Food Truck” is one of my favorite trends. To be able to get a gourmet Cabrito Butter Burger with Roasted Tomatoes, Charred Onions and Sweet Pickles from the Andrew Zimmern’s food truck is an incredible treat on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. We have learned to love quinoa, kale, gluten free and Sriracha (or have we!).
One of my favorite new trends in the food industry is the use of fresh herbs. Today’s cooks use them regularly to add flavor and freshness to any dish. Although classic herb gardens have thyme, basil, mint and chives my favorite is Cilantro. Cilantro is easy to grow and can be used in a variety dishes. One key to successful cilantro is to prune the flowers when it begins to grow. If you don’t, the stems become woody and the flavor changes. The Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis uses it in their chorizo stuffed peppadew pepper and the Barriro Tequila Bar on Hennepin uses a cilantro-lime vinaigrette in their mixed green salad and also in their barbecued pork torta. One of my personal favorites is Southwestern Spiced Sweet potato fries with chili-cilantro sour cream. Another is Cilantro sugar which can be used to dip watermelon or rim cocktail glasses. One other noteworthy item: Each 100-g serving of raw cilantro leaves provides over 521 mg. of potassium. Cilantro adds a unique and subtle flavor to many dishes.
One thing I know for sure is that overall the trends have been focused on delicious, healthy, and flavorful foods. Herbs play a key role in enhancing both savory and sweet dishes. I am a true foodie at heart. My education and early experience was in food science/R&D and now as a CPG recruiter I just can’t get enough of what the food industry has to offer. I look forward to seeing what the next ten years bring.