Monday, March 31, 2008

Here Come's the Sun


It has been neither a long nor lonely winter. Yet, spring rushes in a burst of strawberries and daffodils, asparagus and tulips. It is time to bid goodbye to the dark days of winter and with them, the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge.

Of all the challenges I've participated in, to date, this one has affected me the most. I undertook the challenge with an earnest intent to eat locally grown produce through out winter. I soon realized that eating local goes beyond produce and beyond the farmers' market - though that is the best place to start. Like a detective, I kept my eyes open for local sources for other food stuffs. While hiking in a mystical manzanita forest near my parents' home, I came across an ancient mill, powered by a two hundred year old water wheel, that ground a variety of wheat and corn flour. At the recommendation of another dark day-er, I lurked through the aisles of the independent health food store and uncovered additional flours and baking additives that are locally milled and processed. I began to make more and more of our food from scratch and developed an adventurous streak in the kitchen.

On this, the last week of the challenge, I intended to go out with a bang but it was my oven that went out instead. Waiting for the repair man, we've feasted on frozen food - not the Lean Cuisines of years past but frozen portions from meals I cooked throughout winter: sweet potato gnocchi, pumpkin soup, winter squash risotto and slow cooker vindaloo (inspired by a fellow dark day-er). We've also dined on our share of local salads and omelets, from local pastured eggs from the buying club I host, stuffed with local cheese, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and asparagus, and quesadillas made from buying club cheese and locally made tortillas and paired with homemade Spanish rice.

Even as I welcome spring, laden with her peas, fava beans and rhubarb, I will miss those dark days. I will miss Not-So-Urban-Hennery's thoughtful recaps of each participant's meals. I will miss checking out the other dark-dayers blogs, like a peeping tom peering in through a foggy window to discern what delights they are cooking this week. I won't, however, miss the surprise of a new recipe that is truly seasonal, the sample of an untried fruit or vegetable from the farmers' market, or the joy of an undiscovered local food source. I will still be experiencing all of those things. The challenge lasted only a season. Its impact will last indefinitely.

7 comments:

CindyW said...

Isn't it interesting that the limitations and finite boundaries can actually make our lives feel more fulfilled? It's all about using the gift of our creativity to fully utilize and optimize within the parameters we are given. Okay, I am totally doing geek talk. Often in engineering designs, people come up with the most elegant solutions when they are limited to specific parameters. On the flip side, when there are no such boundaries, the designs are often sloppy and sub-optimal. In defining the "local" parameters in our eating habits, we are able to potentially live a simpler and more elegant life.

It's really late at night. I must be rambling...

Burbanmom said...

FANTASTIC job, GB! You must be so proud of having made it through such a difficult (yet sounds like - very enjoyable) challenge! I hope I learn enough (and put up enough) this summer at our local farmers market to join you next year!

Erin AKA Burbanmom

Jennifer said...

Sounds like a great experience! Perhaps I will try it next year. I'll tackle summer this year first...

Thanks for sharing all you learned during it!

arduous said...

I have loved reading about your experiences with this challenge. Your meals always make my mouth water, and you have definitely inspired me to try "inventiveness" in the kitchen.

So, congrats, you made it, and I look forward to reading your summer cooking experiences. :)

Melinda said...

Laura's challenge certainly changed the way Matt and I eat - permanently. Without it, we would have been lazy, I wouldn't have grown so much food, nor had so many long and crazy escapades picking food by the light of the hand-cranked flashlight. Nor learned how to bake and make cheese and butter and countless other recipes.

Pretty cool what the internet can do for us, how we can push one another....

kale for sale said...

The challenge lasted only a season. Its impact will last indefinitely. --- Well put Green Bean!! That could be the slogan for future challenges. It's absolutely true. Once those local pea shoots wrap their curly tendrils around your meals the course is set.

Green Bean said...

Cindy - not rambling at all! I think you are absolutely right. When I finished watching the PBS series Frontier House almost every single participant they interviewed (once they'd returned to the twenty-first century) said that there was just too much available now - too many choices and there's no creativity. Nicely said!

Burbanmom: It was a blast! as I'm sure you'll find next winter, though, truth be told my climate makes it much easier for me. That said, you can totally do it! I've seen your victory garden posts!

Jennifer: First things, first! Besides, summer has so much good produce to enjoy. Let's not skip it.

Arduous: Why thank you! Come on up any time. :)

Melinda: It was an amazing challenge. I was proud to have participated with folks like yourselves.

Kale: You have a way with words too, girl! I love the pea shoots imagery.

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