Reflections from a Reluctant Teenage Locavore

Emily (532x800)

Despite having disappeared from my blog entirely this summer, one of my loyal readers asked if I would share her daughter’s journey in locovore eating.  She undertook locovorism as a pre-requisite to her Girl Scout Gold Award project.  Since I have my OWN little Brownie in the house and have attempted locovore eating myself, sharing my blogspace was the LEAST I could do.  The author of this post, Emily is 14, and will be starting high school in August. She loves books, horses, running, and of course, Girl Scouts.

Hi, my name is Emily, and like most teenagers, I really don’t think that much about food.  Well, okay, I actually think a lot about food (pizza and chocolate, yum!), but I’ve never thought about where food comes from.  In fact, if you’d asked me two months ago what it meant to eat locally, I would have said it meant eating at the Chick-fil-a around the corner instead of the Olive Garden at the mall.  But this summer, I started a Girl Scout project that required me to explore my food network and experiment with local eating.

As it turned out, I already knew a thing or two about local food.  I’ve always known that tomatoes from my dad’s garden taste way better than tomatoes from the grocery store.  And my sisters and I love to eat raspberries from the vines in the backyard and to pick strawberries at the you-pick farm each spring.  But like most American kids, most of my food comes from the Harris Teeter, and most of it comes from other states and even other countries (yikes!).  Eating locally, even for a few days, meant that buying our food, well, NOT at Harris Teeter.

So my mom and I set off to find the Farmer’s Market (thanks, Mom!).  We didn’t really have a shopping list, because we didn’t know what we’d find.  We figured we’d make our menus based on what was available, which, as it turned out, is the first lesson of local food.  To eat locally, you also have to eat seasonally.  Summer turned out to be a great time to shop locally for the first time.  We found lots of yummy fruits and vegetables, and it was easy to plan some meals.  We bought tomatoes, potatoes, onions, green beans, peaches, and blueberries.   We also bought some meat and eggs from a local farmer.  That’s where we learned the next lesson of   local food… it’s expensive!  My mom was pretty bummed to pay $32 for two pounds of beef, two pounds of chicken, and two dozen eggs.  But the meat was entirely grass-fed, without any other yucky stuff.  We were pretty excited to try it.  We even found local cheese and local bread.

Over the next few days, I probably did more cooking than I had in my whole life.  And I learned another lesson about local food… sometimes, you have to improvise.  We served burgers on sourdough bread, because we couldn’t find local hamburger buns.  And we substituted “Redneck Romano” for the mozzarella on our favorite grilled tomato pizzas.  We also learned that simple meals are easiest to make locally.  We didn’t have to improvise at all for our dinner of broiled chicken, potatoes, and green beans.

The most important lesson I learned was that local food tastes different.  Food begins to loose nutrients and flavors from the moment you pick it, so less travel means more flavor.  The local peaches we had for dessert were AMAZING!  But I have to admit that I didn’t like the local beef.  Maybe I’m just used to bland, corn-fed beef, but the grass-fed beef tasted too strong.  I’d probably get used to it eventually, but I’m not sure my parents want to keep paying for it!  But the produce was pretty cheap, and it was totally worth the trip to the Farmer’s Market.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a real locavore.  For one thing, I would miss junk food too much!  But I hope we make it back to the Farmer’s Market this summer, because I want some more peaches…

Have any questions for Emily? What encouragement can you offer teenagers who are making the effort to become locovores? I say WAY TO GO, GIRL!! 🙂