And like Rogue Valley residents’ awareness of and efforts to eat foods that originate in our own region, the Challenge itself has grown up over the years. Mary Shaw, culinary educator for Ashland Food Co-op, says the store’s take on eating local is: “Mission accomplished,” meaning it’s moved beyond the elementary components and is working to make a difference at the next level.
I find myself in a similar state of mind. For three years, I dutifully chronicled my attempts to eat local in this blog (see September 2007, 2008 and 2009), before dropping that approach for reasons of relevance and brevity.
That’s because my diet was pretty repetitive: lots of home-grown tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, chilies, greens and sundry other garden staples combined with orchard-ripe fruits and a few locally made products that I especially like. I also explained my rationale for purchasing outside the Rogue Valley but still comparatively close to home (Nancy’s Yogurt from Springfield is a prime example).
There are layers, I discovered, to eating local. Think weighing the efforts of a local baker against where the flour was milled and the wheat grown. You could engage in these cost-benefit analyses all day.
But there are important strides still to be made that actually speak to nutrition and economy. Hopefully, families that consume a lot of processed foods ditch some for the challenge (and then keep them off the shopping list).
People who already eat lots of whole foods or grow a garden perhaps branched out into some staples that have become more recently available: ancient grains grown in Williams, wheat berries and dry beans from Medford’s Dunbar Farms, artisan breads from any number of local bakeries. Maybe they got even more serious and purchased whole animals raised locally for meat, participated in a herdshare for dairy or started a backyard chicken flock. There are almost limitless possibilities, depending on what kind of effort you’re willing to expend.
For those still developing an awareness and needing some help, there are more restaurants jumping on the Eat Local bandwagon over the next week. Check out the list and events calendar on our Eat Local page.
This week’s A la Carte highlighted a new eatery, Julek’s Polish Kitchen, that planned to participate. Unfortunately and for unforeseen circumstances, it will not open its doors in time. Look for the debut sometime next month, says owner Bogusia Klinefelter. Lucky for her and customers, harvest still will be in full swing, offering plenty of locally grown produce to complement her sausages custom-made by Taylor’s in Cave Junction.
But don’t wait to test the waters of eating local. Ease into it with this essential summer recipe for bruschetta, courtesy of McClatchy News Service.
All of the produce can be obtained locally grown, and there are numerous choices for local baguettes. Rogue Valley growers are trying to produce olive oil; in the meantime, look for Copper Hill olive oil, sold by Rogue Valley Brambles at local farmers markets. Find a comparable cheese to Parmesan at Rogue Creamery, or Pholia Farm’s market booth.
Marinated Tomato Bruschetta
4 medium tomatoes, peeled if desired, chopped
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
1⁄4 cup good-quality olive oil, plus more for brushing baguette
1⁄4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 baguette, cut into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices
1 large clove garlic, peeled and cut in half (optional)
Finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil.
Have ready a bowl of ice water. With a knife, score an X on bottom of each of the tomatoes and submerge in boiling water for about 30 seconds.
Remove tomatoes from boiling water and add to ice bath to cool. Peel, seed and chop tomatoes.
Add tomatoes to a medium mixing bowl with the vinegar, olive oil and basil. Stir to combine.
Cover and marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven broiler. Brush the baguette slices with some olive oil. Lightly toast under broiler. Remove from broiler and rub each slice with cut side of the garlic.
Serve marinated tomato mixture on baguette slices topped with the Parmesan if desired.
Makes 3 cups.