As a St. Lawrence College student, enrolled in the culinary program, I got a small taste of the local food movement in Kingston.
After graduation I could see that local food was tentatively establishing its place in the restaurants around town.
Now I`m a Mum to an almost one year old, and as I steamed and pureed green beans and carrots from the market for her first foods I realized that this is where the local food movement needs to gain traction.
I grew up eating most days from cardboard boxes that were hauled out of our freezer. Occasionally my mother cooked something from scratch. She was a great cook, some of my favorite recipes today that I use the most often are based on those sporadic home cooked meals of my childhood.
The ugly truth is that I had to go to culinary school to learn how to cook real food. After I graduated I still wasn`t prepared for managing the culinary aspect of a household. I was great at cooking special dinners once in a while, but the everyday, getting dinner on the table, habits just weren`t there.
I see signs of local food becoming the `special`dinners, the occasion, instead of the habit. Chefs, both local and celebrity, give demonstrations on how to cook up a strange, foreign looking tuber, and we file it away in the back of our minds for a special valentines dinner.
Eating local isn`t easy when you don`t know how. It requires a skill set most of us were not raised with. You need to know what produce to expect to be available, how to recognize poor quality, how to store it at home, how long it will keep, how to prepare it, how to cook it, what to eat it with, and how to freeze or can it for the winter. These are not things that we can learn from a 20 minute cooking demonstration.
We`re lucky to be living in a city that has so many dedicated local food providers that are doing everything they can to make a transition to eating local as easy for us as possible. Local meats, cheeses, produce, baked goods, prepared foods, and dairy can be delivered to your door as easily as pizza. Stores are starting to address the need for value-added foods, because no matter how dedicated we are some days we just aren`t up to, or able to, cook from scratch.
This isn`t the days of horse and buggy, local food in our century involves online ordering, hydroponic greenhouses, and google. The clamor and bustle of the farmers`market is still here, and the smell of freshly picked, vine ripened tomatoes remains the same.
Learning a new food system for your everyday life takes time, and failures. In return it gives us health benefits, connection to our community, cooking skills, and best yet, it means our children will grow up knowing everything we don`t and the culture they will live in can be one where local food is the norm and not saved for special occasions.
I want to help make this happen. By sharing practical local food information, the lessons I`ve learned, and the failures I will make I hope to show others just how feasible it is to make eating local as ordinary a part of your day as your morning coffee.