I've been pondering a version of that old riddle during the past month, which, as I'm sure most of you already know, has been the second annual Eat Local Challenge month. Unlike last August's inaugural Eat Local Challenge (during which I apparently wrote 8 posts in the final 2 weeks!), this past month, I haven't had as much time to devote to writing about my experience of eating locally grown and raised foods. My version of the tree-falling-in-the-forest riddle goes like this: if I eat locally and don't blog about, am I still eating locally?
Just to hedge my bets, I thought I'd dash off a quick post [edit: actually 2, with the second part coming
tomorrow Thursday], lest all the happy memories of the luscious strawberries, asparagus, fava beans, and wild salmon I've enjoyed during May be replaced by nightmarish visions of unrecognizable foodstuffs oozing hydrogenated fats and high-fructose corn syrup. Who would cast such an evil spell on this prodigal blogger? Am I the only one who has wondered whether the Wiccan-wood-nymph-earth-mother-goddess of the Locavores is, as the name would seem to imply, truly loca, possessing powers we should all fear? Well?
To appease any potential retribution from her Loca-ness (the Loca-ness monster?), I want to assure you all that I have been faithfully living la vida local, feasting on the fruits of our local farms, ranches and fisheries to the best of my ability. Frankly, eating local has been a bowl of cherries (particularly with the first appearance of Frog Hollow's cherries last Saturday).
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, which is the subject of this post (first of two), I have had zero incentive to look beyond the 100 miles from my home which, as any aspiring locavore knows, is where that arbitrary line is drawn beyond which one's stomach shall not cross. Yes, it has been a glorious month to live in this Eden called the Bay Area, filled with an embarrassment of riches that every foodie has been enjoying at our local farmers markets (and in our local restaurants). At home in our kitchen, my wife and I have been ecstatically buried beneath a hailstorm of peas and fava beans, asparagus and artichokes, green garlic and spring onions, which, believe me, have been a vast improvement over the real hail and rain that had saturated us down to the marrow of our bones for the previous 5 months.
The highlight of my farmers market visits in May has been watching the changing parade of wonders that is Mariquita Farm. Here I found some true rarities, like fava leaves, garlic and leek scapes (pictured left), cardoon flowers (not edible, but oddly beautiful, pictured at top of post), and, of course, their treacherous artichokes (pictured above right, which I featured last month).
Three vegetable dishes stood out as highlights in May. First was a starter of grilled asparagus with romesco sauce that I made from local Tierra Vegetables dried chillies, Lagier almonds, and Bariani olive oil, made from a recipe I posted last year.
Second came a seductive yet simple celebration of the fava bean. I cooked up some whole wheat spaghetti and tossed it with briefly cooked fava leaves and fava beans that had been stewed with garlic and rosemary, about half of which I mashed into a velvety sauce. Lots of black pepper and pecorino sardo cheese (from India and Italy, respectively... what're you gonna do?) and a squeeze of lemon made this labor of love one to remember.
Third, another night I made a sybaritic pasta dish consisting of long strands of hollow perciatelli that were sauced carbonara style with a raw farm egg, green garlic, Fatted Calf bacon, Italian (again? Am I falling from grace?) parmigiano reggiano, all buried under an avalanche of sweet peas. One of the few times I would use the word decadent to describe a pasta dish.
Then there's the local fruit. As I've said before, I am loco when it comes to fresh fruit, but I'm no pastry chef. When the fruit is as ridiculously sweet as Ben Lucero's strawberries are (finally, in the last week, they are no longer as waterlogged as previous weeks) or even the first Brooks cherries from Frog Hollow, I prefer to savor every bite unadorned. When I grow tired of gorging myself on plain berries and stone fruit, though, I have a few tricks up my sleeve (most of which involve some variation on custard or cake).
When it comes to fruits and vegetables (including nuts and olives and their oils), if you can afford it (a topic which could fill a whole series of posts), why would you want to not eat local while living in the Bay Area?
Tomorrow Thursday: we'll see that the picture isn't as rosy when it comes to local seafood.