One of the sparkling traditions I use to ring in each new year is by cleaning out my refrigerator (woohoo, do I know how to party or what?). January is just about over -- clearly, 2010 is off to a bit of a slow start 'round these parts -- but today I finally managed it.
It was a slightly disgusting but oddly satisfying exercise to ferret out all the little tubs of leftovers that had migrated to the back, hiding behind our massive condiment collection. I meant to cull the condiment herd while I was at it -- does anyone really NEED five different curry pastes? -- but, as happens every time, each one seemed too potentially useful to dump. Even the cocktail sauce that expired last March; it's still sealed and, after all, what can really go wrong with cocktail sauce? Even though I guess if we're housing year-old unopened cocktail sauce, chances are that this family's cocktail sauce needs are pretty minimal. Honestly I'm not even sure how it got here. But I digress.
I reorganized our pared-down fridge while channeling Alice Waters. My kick in the pants to finally tackle this project came from a two year old NYT Magazine article that recently turned up in my office detritus while I was searching around for something else. The writer had had Waters, the Chez Panisse owner and local/organic eating guru, inspect her home refrigerator and evaluate its contents' SOLE value -- how sustainable, organic, local and ethical the writer's food choices were.
I like to think Alice would mostly approve of my fridge's contents. There are a few lingering, wrinkly late fall vegetables from our CSA allotment, and other vegetables and herbs from the farmer's market. Lacto-fermented Amish sauerkraut. Homemade goodies like pickled beets and applesauce made from local organic heirloom apples that I picked myself. Our dairy and eggs are locally pasture-raised. The only non-artisinal foods in my fridge are the United Nations of condiments collection and some cranberry juice.
So after I'm done self-congratuatorally patting my own back with Alice's ghostly hand I must acknowledge the other side of the local eating coin: yeah, this fridge inventory might earn me a green ribbon for supporting local food producers. But, on the other hand, while it's full of food there's not much to eat in there. Plenty to cook, yeah, but darned little to just take out and chow on. I realized this the other day when I had a hankering for an egg salad sandwich.
Lunch doesn't get simpler, right? Right -- except that I have local-fooded myself into this unintentional corner where in order to toss together an egg salad sandwich I first have to bake a loaf of bread, because we ate all of yesterday's bread for this morning's breakfast, and then whip up some homemade mayonnaise, because who wants to eat industrial store-bought mayonnaise? Making this so-called simple lunch could take all afternoon and I had to get back to work. So instead of an egg salad sandwich, I just had a hard boiled egg.
The local foods movement is working to alleviate some of our nation's most pressing problems involving food production, sustainability, and the environment, not to mention supporting small farms. However, eating locally can at times also be a real pain in the ass.