I have just been reading Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy, one of the best books that I have read for a long time. If you have not read it yet than I suggest you put it at the top of your “must read” list. As I read the chapter on the values of eating locally I was feeling very pious because I was working on tonight’s dinner – my favourite autumn garden soup with tomatoes, winter squash, cabbage and scarlet runner beans all out of the garden. I was thinking that I had truly achieved a local meal and then I realized that the mushrooms I thought said “grown in Washington” really said “packed in Washington.” In the small print at the bottom of the label I read that they are actually grown in Pennsylvania.
Now of course I grumbling about the deceptive advertising that tries to make me feel virtuous when I have no reason to be. Eating locally as much as possible is not easy and for us I know it is easier than it is for many because we do grow 40-50% of our own vegetables. But it has had many payoffs. As Bill McKibben says when talking about a year he spent eating locally: “I’ve had to think about every meal, instead of wandering through the world on autopilot, ingesting random calories. I’ve had to pay attention. But the payoff for that cost has been immense, a web of connections I’d never known about. I’ve gotten to eat with my brain as well as my tongue; every meal becomes a story.’
For us eating locally has not just meant enjoying the wonderful taste of tomatoes straight from the vine, it has also necessitated wonderful times of community interaction processing apples, tomatoes and squash. And it has stirred all of our creativity as we have grappled with what on earth to do with 200lb of tomatoes and such things as 25 lb of tomatilloes – I didn’t even know what a tomatillo was 5 years ago.
So all that to say that I am very grateful to people like Bill McKibben who are encouraging all of us to consider the joys of local eating and the satisfaction that comes from connecting to our local communities as a result.