First of all, huge thank you to the awesome Andrea Bemis for initiating and creating #localthirty. We couldn’t be more excited to join in! Here’s a link to Andrea’s website: http://dishingupthedirt.com
So happy you’re taking the time to come read a little more about this whole ‘eating locally’-business. As mentioned on Instagram, we both read the book ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ by Barbara Kingsolver about four years ago. This book depicts the author and her family’s first year of embracing the ‘locavore’ movement, where they decide to settle on an Appalachian farm and live off of what they can either grow/produce themselves, or gather from others in the local area. While an ‘extreme’ case (not everyone can pull a farm out of their sleeve), the book is written in the most humble of ways. There’s no preaching. There’s no forcing, shaming or guilt tripping. There are just carefully selected words dancing across the pages, saying ‘hey… you can think like this, too’.
We were living in NYC at the time, and we sort of seamlessly transitioned from Whole Foods addicts to the most loyal customers at the Union Sq Greenmarket. It really just happened. Whole Foods obviously still provided us with dried goods, but we just couldn’t make ourselves buy those bananas from Costa Rica anymore, or tomatoes in the middle of the winter, or that perfect looking Californian kale. So we became fruit, vegetable and egg ‘locavores’. We got to know the farmers, and they got to know us. We were treated to extra good deals and overflowing boxes of berries during the bountiful months of the year, as a quiet ‘thank you’ for showing up even the most bitter days of winter and schlepping bags and bags of snow-covered apples, carrots and sweet potatoes the 20 blocks home to our apartment. Actually, one particularly cold and snowy day, a local newspaper had sent an interviewer to Union Sq to see if there would be any crazy people shopping. Guess who they found? Yep, indeed Sophia, a little shy in front of the camera of course, but happily answering ‘why not?’ when he asked ‘why are you shopping here today?’. Poor man, he didn’t know he had stumbled upon a hardy Swede.
But back to relying on seasonal and locally produced food. You know what? It’s really only hard 1-2 months every year, and that’s around March. The rest of the time, you can EASILY find enough locally produced vegetables to sustain yourself, and this is coming from two people who consume their bodyweight in vegetables on an average day. Obviously though, most of it will be from storage from December and onwards. There are a few differences between the selection of items here (1 hr 20 min northeast of Stockholm) and New York City, but those can be summarized quickly: in NY, you’ll be seeing piles and piles worth of nectarines, peaches and melons come late summer, while you’ll have to really go look for it around here. Also, NY (and America in general) has a big thing for fresh corn (and rightfully so, it’s delicious), while Sweden’s corn production is still on a very small scale. Otherwise, we’re looking at about the same range of stuff. It all starts with asparagus, radishes and some shy leafy greens in the spring, which then make way for snap peas, zucchini, green beans and all the other quintessential early summer delicacies. Late summer brings tomatoes, broccoli, pole beans, maybe even the first winter squash, and fall keeps us warm with root vegetables, kale, cabbage and onions for all those stews and soups. Winter means digging into the stored produce, but you’ll still be able to buy (in our case) Swedish potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, kale, beets, parsnips, celery root and Jerusalem artichokes (Swedish: jordärtskockor). This should be available in your regular grocery store, even. Oh, and there are Swedish frozen peas! We love the ‘Ebba’ variety. The logical question to follow all of this is, but what do I do if I want to have cucumber in the winter? And this is where the importance lies, after all. We have to relearn that we can’t have it all, all year round. It’s hard to discuss this subject without sounding too preachy or too judgemental, so I will do my very best to not. We think that we’re all capable of making better choices for our planet. Discovering your local food, exploring different ways to cook with it (we could easily write a book called ’30 ways to cook with cabbage’, that’s for sure!) and making eco conscious decisions when you’re hitting up the store, that’s what we want to inspire you to do. Not conforming to a boring, restricted idea of life, where dinner will consist of potatoes 10 months out of the year. If there are things that brighten your day like nothing else, don’t sacrifice those. But maybe you buy certain things out of pure habit – things that could easily be replaced by a more sustainable choice? That’s what you should go after, then.
Now, going into #localthirty and #närodladseptember, we’re going to expand our ‘locavore’ commitment to include everything that we consume, not just fruit and vegetables. Our 10 ‘cheat list’ items were fairly easy to come up with. Salt and pepper were no brainers, and so was coffee (for Michael). We use lemon quite a lot, so that has been our one cheat item for the past four years too. Cinnamon and cardamom are simply musts when it comes to baking with apples and pears (and we all know that glorious season is coming up!). Ginger goes in a cup of tea fairly often around here, and with cooler temperatures around the corner… it had to be included. Tailwind is the name of our preferred race day nutrition, and since we do have races in September, well – a spot had to be given to it. And while our jar of cacao powder can go untouched for weeks at a time, we won’t be having any, let’s say, chocolate bars during the month of September so who knows what kind of severe cacao related cravings will hit us? Better safe than sorry in this department, am I right? And just in case we forgot something super important, we’re leaving the last spot open. It’ll be fun to see what ends up filling it. Over to you all. What do you choose?
If it seems too big of a commitment, too overwhelming of a task to go all local for 30 days, maybe you could consider aiming for a lighter version? Just to give it a try? You could, for example, expand the geographical area a little, from the 200 miles (320 km) to maybe 300 miles (480 km)? Or, if you live in Sweden, you could commit to only buying Swedish grown and produced food. There’s a very helpful yellow-and-blue label that says “Från Sverige” on a lot of things, from oats, sugar and flour to dairy, eggs and vegetables. Maybe stick to those items, and try wheat berries instead of quinoa, choose Swedish cheese instead of Dutch and go for the Swedish apples instead of imported ones from Argentina. Another modification is to go all local for one meal a day. Pick the one that makes the most sense for you. If you’re on the oatmeal (Swedish: havregrynsgröt) bandwagon, then your task is simple. Point is, don’t be turned off by the scale of the challenge. Instead, join in to the best of your ability. And share! Share awesome brands and products you come across, share fun substitutions you come up with, share what you cook, eat and will make again. Share where you go shopping, share when you struggle.
We’ll be sharing as much as we can of what we cook and how we consume during this time. Most of our vegetables, we’re growing ourselves, which means the same stuff should be readily available at any farmers market or well-stocked grocery store. Since our fruit trees were completely demolished by a moose earlier this summer, we’re hoping to be able to go pick apples, pears and plums in the area.
To finish off, a list of random thoughts going into this challenge:
- Use facebook to find places where you can go fruit-picking for free (so many apples, pears, plums etc. go to waste every year, rotting away in forgotten corners of people’s gardens).
- Cook big batches of food, that will last you more than one meal.
- A surplus of zucchini? Make zucchini muffins!
- Do you have lots of mint growing in your garden? Pick, hang upside down to dry and – voila – you’ve got your own mint tea for the winter.
- Simply prepared vegetables are underrated – with a little bit of butter/oil and salt, you can go such a long way!
- Try dino kale (Swedish: svartkål)! Use it as you would spinach. Our favorite vegetable.
- Read labels! Flip those packages over and read what it says. Don’t buy it if it has circled the earth already.
- Substitute! If there’s no local spinach, can you check the kale instead? There are endless of substitutions that do work, and this is an important reminder, especially since most (yes, most!) recipes will include ingredients from completely different seasons.
We will miss walnuts on our oatmeal, and peanut butter too. But with cinnamon stewed apples on hand instead, we think we’ll be alright in the end. Thank you for reading, and please keep us posted on how your #localthirty and #närodladseptember will be developing. Happy foraging, picking, sourcing, cooking and eating, everyone!