It was just over 6 weeks ago when I joined my first CSA, bought Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and started hunting down restaurants serving local, sustainable foods. Before then, I might have been the person my friends thought was most likely to eat "edible food-like substances" (thanks again, Michael Pollan!), and least likely to start a garden.
Sure, I've been obsessed with food for my entire life, and I've dabbled in local foods before. I spent most of 2001 meat-free, thanks to the book Fast Food Nation. I've always loved French Meadow Cafe, Lucia's, The Craftsman, and The Birchwood. But this Simple, Good, and Tasty commitment to learning about food and documenting the journey, this is something entirely new. I like to think that my friends are happily surprised and that I haven't become too irritating, but you'll have to ask them. Meanwhile, this seems as good a time as any to reflect on what's changed for me in the past 6 weeks, how my life is different - and better - than it was before. So without further ado, I present: 10 ways local food has changed my life.
- I've rediscovered the joy of eating. My love for greasy spoons has been almost entirely replaced by my desire to try new, fresh foods, and to support businesses that sell and serve them. I've started frequenting The Wedge, Common Roots, Anodyne, and other local markets. I've been to Brasa, the Red Stag Supper Club, and other terrific restaurants. (And I've learned how hard - and how immensely rewarding - it is to schedule dinner for 30+ people at The Craftsman.)
- I've lost five pounds, which is sort of amazing when you consider bullet point number 1.
- I've connected with fantastic people I never knew, like Rob Smart, who writes Every Kitchen Table, Zachary Cohen, who writes Farm to Table, KristenM, who writes Food Renegade, Tracy Singleton, who owns the Birchwood Cafe, Mike Phillips, chef at The Craftsman Restaurant, and Joan and Coleen, who run A Backyard Farm.
- I've connected with amazing people who I did know in entirely different ways. Who knew that Dave, Chuck, Ginger, Jen, Scott, Jan, Erik, Kathy, and Kevin were foodies? I should have, and I do now!
- My 7- and 3-year old kids now know the meaning of the words local, sustainable, and organic. They say all 3 often in the following sentence: "I don't want to hear about anything that's local, sustainable, or organic anymore!"
- I had a great tour of Whole Foods, and learned about what local foods are available in Minnesota year-round (not many!), and how the chain views organic, local, and sustainable foods.
- I've rediscovered the joy of cooking, incorporating local, sustainable, and organic foods into recipes as simple as Sloppy Joe's made from Thousand Hills Cattle Company grass-fed beef and organic tomato sauce.
- I appreciate farmers more, and I think I understand my in-laws (who grew up on farms) a little bit better. I'm even looking forward to my next family trip to the farm in South Dakota.
- I don't need coffee to keep me regular.
- I appreciate my amazing wife - who supports this interest of mine way more than some of my other crazy ideas (she's even agreed to do a stay-over at Harmony Valley Farm on Father's Day weekend) - more than ever. And I appreciate my friends, readers, co-workers, and supporters who care enough to humor me and to engage in this awesome, awe-inspiring topic. I am more socially, politically, and environmentally aware than I can remember. And, on a related note, I think I'm starting to understand what it means for food to be seasonal, and why that's better for me.
I think it's a pretty good list, and I completely understand why people feel the need to evangelize the things they love. If you've had a similar experience, or can share 1 or 2 (or 10) things from your own list, please do. I'd love to hear from you. This post has been submitted to Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday. Check it out.