Monthly Archives: December 2011
What have I learned from the Eat Local Challenge? Well, it’s just that: a challenge. I found that keeping a positive attitude helped me get through the week, even when I was feeling discouraged. I learned that, even in a place like Burlington, which seems to have a lot of alternative food choices, not everyone can afford to eat locally (both for money reasons and access reasons, as well as time reasons). From an on campus perspective, eating locally proved to have its challenges, but, for me, it really had more benefits than setbacks.
For once in my life I felt like my food choices were directly benefiting my health as well as the local economy and environment. The challenge also introduced me to new foods, caused me to be more creative with the meals I was eating, and made me actually think about what I was consuming. If nothing else, the challenge acted as an eye-opener to my eating habits. You know when there are things you really want to try, but never actually do, or maybe it just takes a little push to get you to try it? Eating locally was like that for me. I found the Eat Local Challenge gave me the little push I needed to experience eating completely locally and because I’ve now experienced it, I’ll always incorporate some aspect of eating locally into my diet.
Since doing this project, I’ve caught myself reading food packages more often to find out where it was produced. The other day, I noticed the Marketplace in the Davis Center sells Madhouse Munchies, which are made right in South Burlington. I also realized that Alice’s Café sells the equivalent of Madhouse Munchies but they’re from Texas. Because I eat more regularly from Alice’s, I decided to buy extra bags of Madhouse Munchies from the Marketplace so I could bring them to Alice’s and eat them with my sandwich, thereby preventing myself from buying the chips from Texas. I think it’s the little things like this that really showcase the benefits of finally taking the plunge and trying to eat locally. If more people were more aware of where their food comes from, I think they would be more likely to choose the more local product, just like I did.
Okay, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that about 99% of all college students have irregular eating patterns. With classes everyday and hours of homework and studying to get done outside of class, we just aren’t able to eat exactly the way we want or should be eating. Taking on the Eat Local Challenge has made me well aware of this. In a perfect world, I would eat locally all the time, but with my tight schedule, I’ve found that time is the biggest factor keeping me from becoming a full-time locavore. For instance, the two cons I have for eating locally are both time-related; I didn’t have time to prepare meals everyday and I didn’t have time to go shopping more than once during the week.
While I normally depend on outside sources to provide me with quick and easy food choices to keep me going between classes and on study breaks, I quickly learned that eating locally focused a lot of that dependence on myself. Getting up just in time to make it to class suddenly didn’t cut it anymore; what was I going to eat for lunch? Or snack on between classes? If I didn’t make the time to pack meals for myself, I suddenly was stuck going all day with no food. Maybe in the perfect world I mentioned before, there would be convenient places to buy local foods and help sustain a local diet.
Although I definitely depended on myself a lot more for meals, I also depended on City Market to provide the local foods I needed. With a limited amount of time in my schedule to go shopping downtown, I was only able to shop once, which limited the foods I ate significantly. By midweek I started getting sick of eating granola and applesauce for breakfast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Had I enough time to fit in a trip downtown, I could have stocked up on more fresh produce and looked for a greater variety of foods to eat. As my food supply dwindled as the week wore on, I found myself either skipping out on meals or significantly cutting down on my food intake; sometimes only eating an apple for dinner!
With these drastic cuts in my diet and changes in my schedule, I can’t help but wonder if maybe eating locally is just not sustainable.
My Eat Local week started out very strong; with shelves full of local foods, I don’t think I’ve had so much delicious and nutritious food options right in my dorm room. Because I didn’t have any consistent access to a kitchen, I planned my meals around foods that didn’t involve a whole lot of cooking. Luckily, my friend Hannah gave me access to the fully stocked kitchen in her dorm building for the cooking I did have to do. In particular, baking the pumpkin I had picked up.
Prior to my Eat Local week, I had only ever seen my mom bake pumpkin; I hadn’t actually done it myself. I decided to give her a call and use her as a reference. She told me to cut the pumpkin in half, take out all the insides, and bake it on a cookie sheet at 350˚ for approximately 30 to 45 minutes or until the pumpkin starts to sink in. I prepared the pumpkin, added pumpkin seeds to the tray, and baked it just as my mom had instructed. The results? Great pumpkin filling that could be eaten with other foods or on its own, along with a ton of crispy pumpkin seeds that provided me with a snack throughout the week. I found that adding some honey to the pumpkin gave it a little added sweetness and the mixture worked well in making sandwiches out of the bagels I bought.
Another food that required some cooking was the wheatberries. I had never tried them before, so I searched the internet for some tips on how to prepare and cook them. Most of the sites I found recommended soaking them in water overnight before cooking, however, I didn’t plan ahead enough to make that happen. Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to the kitchen for making the wheatberries, so I attempted to make them in a microwave. Just a little advice: don’t make them in a microwave. It may seem like a clever idea seeming as how wheatberries can take up to an hour to cook on a stove, but don’t be fooled; wheatberries aren’t the type of food that is almost instantly cooked in the microwave. It still takes a heck of a long time! Almost 30 minutes, to be exact. Because I was making them in a pretty small bowl, I cooked them in 3 or 4 minute intervals and had to keep adding water as it was being absorbed by the wheatberries. Though the process was tedious, I ended up making some great hot cereal out of them by adding some milk and maple syrup.
As the week wore on, I was both running out of ideas for meals and getting sick of eating the same things over and over.
Eating locally at the beginning of November is no easy task. The options of food available at this time of the year are limited. Farmers markets do not have the variety that they had in the summer and early fall months.
I wanted to do this project because I thought that it was going to be fun and interesting. I walked in with no expectations about whether or not it was going to be hard to find local food. I thought – ‘that sounds fun and interesting.’ So, I named it my first choice. Boy am I sad I did that now. Ha! That was totally rough for me. This is what my refrigerator and personal food cabinet look like in my house. Obviously I eat things that are packaged, easily prepared, or simply store bought. Today I woke up and went to the deli for breakfast. Sure I have some eggs I could have made but why would I want to do that if I can have a yummy sandwich instead? (The white package at the top is the leftovers I’ll probably eat for dinner.)
Listening to my group-mates talk about their experiences was one of my favorite parts of this project. Marea loved her time eating locally. While she was able to spend time cooking, her week of eating locally was much earlier in the semester and thus had much greater variety in local options. Lilly lived on campus and is a vegetarian. Kyle had to work over break and skip a day for thanksgiving. I think my experience was the most negative for sure. I am happy that I do not have to do that again.
I know that I have become a lot more aware of how hard it is to eat locally. There are not that many options for those who want to eat completely locally. (Not to mention the interesting diversity of quality in local goods.) I see the benefits to eating locally but, for me,local eating is just not in the cards.
November 17 2011
Generally, I am the type of person who does not think much about the food that I eat. I think that it is great when there are local options at restaurants or in the super market but most of the things that I choose to eat are simple and easy. Sometimes I buy a bag of frozen chicken and will throw a few pieces in the oven when I get hungry. Fresh produce is great and I love having vegetables in the house, but, for me, this usually ends with having to throw half of what I buy away. When I lived in Burlington this past summer, I spent a lot of time cooking and eating locally. It was great. My friend and I split the cost of a crop share. We picked up our vegetables by the waterfront once a week. Easy. Simple. Fast. Most of the vegetables that I got were delicious and if they weren’t than my friend would eat them for me.
This time of year it is not easy at all! I am incredibly frustrated. I bought a carton of eggs at Healthy Living but haven’t had any yet due to lack of time to prepare them. Today I didn’t have time to cook before class so I ate another apple. I am so sick of apples. I don’t even like them that much. I really want to smother it in peanut butter but I couldn’t find any that had local ingredients. Honey is too sticky and way too inconvenient to take on the go. Oh well I suppose. Today when I got home from class I threw the spider infested sweat potato I got at City Market in the oven. My first thought was, “ugh, going to take forever to cook. I am hungry NOW.” The potato came out fine. There were parts that I didn’t want to eat because they looked gross. But, it generally tasted fine. I felt guilty when I cheated and put some non-local butter and salt on it.
I worked all night and again was too tired and burnt out to cook. I have about 3 hours of work ahead of me tonight and its already 11:30. Tomorrow I’m going to try to make time to get back to the grocery store and buy more food. I usually spend about 60 dollars tops at the grocery store per month and I am getting close to that total already this week. My bank account is angry with me.
Because I took the challenge literally and I only ate locally grown foods, I had a lot of difficulties. Although I didn’t end up spending a large amount of money on local food, I did spend a lot of time cooking. It was in no way convenient. Luckily, my week for eating local was in September and midterms hadn’t hit yet so I had plenty of time. The only portable snacks that I had were apples, pears, and carrots, so I needed to cook or bake in advance if I wanted to bring something more substantial. I would estimate that on average I cooked for at least an hour and a half per day. I would often cook large amounts of local beans and wheat berries at a time to have on hand. Normally, I go for canned beans and this was my first experience cooking with dried beans. They take hours to cook and on top of that, they need to be soaked overnight first. Luckily my roommate had a slow cooker so it took lots of time but not lots of effort. I don’t normally drink coffee so that wasn’t a problem but I did miss tea. By the end of the week, I had strong cravings for chai tea, almonds, hummus, cereal, and bananas and these were the foods that I ate first when my week was done.
Unlike my fellow group members, cost wasn’t a big issue for me. Local meat is extremely expensive but this didn’t apply to me because I am a vegetarian. In addition, I think the fact that I chose to only eat local ingredients instead of locally made products helped with the cost. Although I had to spend a lot of time cooking them, local winter wheat berries and beans were very inexpensive and made up a large part of my diet. Also, I got the majority of my produce from the farmers market which had much better prices than the grocery stores. In an average week, I spend 40 dollars on food. For my localvore week, my groceries only cost 15 dollars extra and I had plenty of food left over. For one week that doesn’t seem like a lot however I can see how it would add up over time.
It surprised me how much work I needed to do to prepare for my week of local eating. I scoured the stores beforehand and did a lot of research on certain local companies to see whether all their ingredients were really local. I found that I couldn’t eat Cabot cheese, use King Arthur flour, or drink Magic Hat because all of their ingredients are not locally sourced. The only alcohol I could drink was local wine, cider, or vodka but in the end I couldn’t afford those. In a way, these dietary restrictions gave me a sense of isolation and made me feel left out. I couldn’t go to out to eat or to bars with my friends unless I didn’t order anything. I suppose on the plus side I ate extremely healthy that week and ended up getting a lot of work done because I couldn’t go out.