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Blog Tue Sep 11 2007

Localvore Challenge: Day 1

The Green City Market’s Localvore Challenge started today. Last year at Thanksgiving I made a lot of noise around my house about having a 100-mile Thanksgiving, and my son thought we actually had, but I never fully committed to it. Once I realized I’d have to make my own pie crust, I gave up on the idea. So I’ve decided to try a week of preparing and eating only local food. My first day has been a bit bumpy

I went to the Green City Market on Saturday to register and pick up the packet of information about what exactly “local” means, but by the time I made it, the information packets were gone. The two guys working at the information table were able to tell me that local means food from Illinois, the states bordering Illinois, plus Michigan. But they weren't sure which local bakers I could buy bread from. Other questions went unanswered as well: Do they make pasta in the Midwest? And what kinds of local breakfast foods are there? They directed me to their web site, and to the Bleeding Heart Bakery, which is committed to using local ingredients. But Bleeding Heart’s table at the market was pretty bare, except for some $12 granola that made me consider fasting instead of eating local for the week. Most of the other tables were also bare. I came home with some apples, pears, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Later Saturday evening, I got lucky, when we visited some friends for cookies and beer, and they sent us home with basil and chard from their garden, and some homemade pesto.
This morning I realized how poorly prepared I really am. We had a small piece of banana bread left from a bakery in Evanston, which we each ate as our local breakfast item, but we added some frozen waffles, from Canada, to the mix. I also had to make two school lunches. Most of it came from what I found around the kitchen, but I had the local apples and pears from the market, so I put those in the lunchboxes.
As soon as my kids left for school I went online, to the Localvore Challenge web site to get some help. There’s a message board for participants, and I even found a query about cereal, which looked promising. But the response was a link to a site for breakfast recipes. I’m committed to eating local food, but I draw the line at making my own granola, or paying more than $10 for a small bag of it.
Next I hit Sunflower Market, on Clybourn. The GCM lists it as a source for local products. But I had to circle the store twice in order to fill my cart halfway. I couldn’t find any local cheeses; most of what I saw was imported or organic and from the West Coast. And I couldn’t tell where the produce was from. I left with salsa and hummus from Chef Earl’s in Wilmette; some Matt’s Fresh-Baked cookies from Wheeling; granola from the Milk & Honey bakery here in Chicago; Amish Kitchen egg noodles, from Millersburg, Ohio; and a few other items. I found Whole Foods much more helpful in terms of finding where the produce was from, but it turns out most of it is from California. I bought blueberries, corn on the cob (sort of local; from Minnesota), dill, rosemary and some cheese. I was appalled at the local cheese selection. Unless I wanted to pay around $10 for a block of cheese, there wasn’t much that was local. When I go to Dominick’s I always leave with cheese from Wisconsin, without even trying to buy local. The same is true for milk. At Dominick’s they sell Dean’s and Oberweiss, but at Whole Foods and Sunflower, I had to hunt for local milk. Not all of Organic Valley’s stuff is local, but I've learned the dairy is from Wisconsin.
I’m fairly new to the area, and I remember last year when we moved here we drove through Ohio, so I thought it was a border state. My son checked his almanac. It’s not. As my husband pointed out, the localvore challenge isn’t just about cooking. It’s also about geography. This may take some work.
For dinner we ate the egg noodles from Ohio, in a cheese and rosemary sauce, mixed with the chard. Nearly all are local ingredients—I used some cottage cheese I had on hand, rejected from the lunchboxes. I don’t want it to go to waste. So we’ve started with this ground rule: anything in the refrigerator from before the week started is as local as Ohio.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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