by Monika V.I. Kunz
I’m going to spill a secret: even though I try my best to exclusively eat local, sustainable food, I’m not 100% a locavore. I can blame it on the fact that I’m Southern California grown and had the luxury of fresh—and locally grown—produce for most of the year during much of my life. But, truth be told, I didn’t exactly intentionally eat locally while a Californian.
When I moved to the East Coast six years ago I was suddenly appalled by how bland my grocery store-purchased fruits and vegetables tasted. I’d review the label, see they were grown in California, and wonder how avocados from the homeland could taste so terrible in the North East. It look me awhile to fully grasp that West Coast food is meant to be consumed while your feet are planted near (or, even better, in) the Pacific, and vice versa.
In Amy Cotler’s book The Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food, she guides the reader through three simple steps on how to become a fan and advocate of local buying and eating. Step one is to shop for local foods—meeting your farmer actually does enhance the flavor of her harvest; step two is to eat seasonally and simply—your ingredients do all of the work when they’re as flavorful as locally grown items tend to be; and step three is to connect and engage—you have a backyard (or fire escape / windowsill), so why should people with over an acre of land have all the fun? She manages to make waiting for something to come into season compelling, even to a self-described instant gratification junkie. At one point Amy writes about how she only eats strawberries while they’re in season because the delight that comes from consuming these perfectly ripe berries is worth the months of deprivation.
I’ve gotta say, after enjoying ramps, and rhubarb, and asparagus, and greens, and finally strawberries recently that were produced by farmers I chat with at my greenmarket each week, Amy and her Locavore Way are spot on. This isn’t to say I won’t still sneak some greens in the winter months (old habits die hard!), but spring greens that taste of the (East Coast) earth mixed with love and patience are better than just about anything grown and bagged in California then shipped to Brooklyn.