Well, you know, I’ve got nothing else to do.
“‘It’s partly this feeling of mutual frustration that creates the community on the Facebook page,’ says Lisa Meid, another active Facebooker.
‘This is one of the more difficult reservations to get right now,’ she says. ‘And while we’re all sitting around click, click, clicking to try to buy tickets (or waiting for same night tics to get posted on FB), it’s natural to seek out others doing the same and to be interested in who gets tickets that day and who doesn’t. If instead we were all calling a reservation line, there would be no community at all.’”
I want to get one thing clear right off the bat. I love local food and local businesses. I choose to patronize whenever possible. And that is EVERY DAY.
However, I don’t feel that ALL local foods deserve a place at our table every night.
Local food is typically good because it is fresher, minimally refrigerated and minimally handled. It is fantastic for the local economy. But I think it could be better. A lot better. I think that there are many folks out there who buy something just because it’s local, nevermind that it might be poor quality. They get blinded by the fact that something is from across the county and they patronize someone who is offering an inferior product.
Recently, I was sent cheese samples from an Illinois creamery. The cheeses were all cow cheese and REALLY expensive. They’d retail for $29 a pound. That is $10 more than a comparable Swiss gruyere or French comte. The cheese was T E R R I B L E. It burned on the tongue and had a funk that I deemed rancidity, not sweet-feet as a proper Swiss should have. Now, just because it’s local, there are other shops in town that carry it, and sell it at that price. What is the cheesemakers motivation to make it better if it sells for $29? Why should his cheese taste good? My point is that there is no motivation to make it better. He’s charging an arm and a leg for blah cheese. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like it. All of my cheesemongers were turned off by it. As badly as we wanted to carry it.
“Oh, but it’s local!” you say. It will not be on my table or in my cheese case, thanks.
Again, I reiterate, there are local folks out there doing great things for a reasonable price. But we must motivate them with our shopping habits to make even BETTER products.
I only eat dinner one time a day and it had better be good ingredients at every meal. If I went to a restaurant and had poor ingredients, I’d probably not go back. I’d rather have something local whenever possible, but not bad, ever.
And on to my second point.
I love local olive oil, local balsamic, locally grown coffee, local Parmiggiano-Reggiano and local Burgundy.
They don’t exist. And never will. Local coffee roasters, yes. But that’s as close as we’ll get in central Illinois. So there is obviously a conundrum. Where is the line between locally sourced, produced & grown and choosing good ingredients that will not grow or be produced here, ever? How does the locavore deal with this dilemma? Never drink coffee? I don’t think so. So where is that line…?
Recently, I was in Italy visiting some farmers in Tuscany whose products we sell in our store. And they asked me “What varieties of olives do you grow in Illinois?” They couldn’t comprehend that in my garden I grow corn, beans, squash, tomatoes and herbs. It was completely foreign to them that we couldn’t grow these products that they take for granted in their everyday lives.
So as I stood there in the olive groves I asked myself if it was possible to be a true foodie and a locavore? Can you be both? Can you justify using an outstanding oil from Tuscany on local tomatoes and still feel good about your food? I think so, you just have to select local food that is good to encourage your local suppliers to compete with each other. If that happens, your local food scene will be even better for it!
This is not to say that everything that is Italian or imported is “gourmet.” The Italians produce a lot of bad olive oil, too. So when you go into a cheese shop, international food store or grocery store, ask yourself: Who selects the olive oils that are on the shelf? Is the buyer just blindly selecting these because they’re Italian? Have they ever tasted these? Why are there 200 types of cheese? Are they all good? Doubtful.
Let’s encourage those that produce quality products worldwide. But especially locally. Remember, just because it’s local doesn’t mean you should buy it! Taste it, critique it, question it’s value. It will make every local food scene better and elevate the entire American food movement.