Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Eat Locally...Really Locally

From Amsterdam to L.A. to Davis, CA in less than a week.  I've been up here in northernish California since last Monday visiting some good friends.  I have forgotten how incredibly hot it can get up here in Davis, and while the heat of the mid-afternoon sun leaves me heading for the nearest air-conditioned spot, it's apparently very good for the produce around here.  Notice our crazy adventures in my friend's dad's garden.  Her parents had been on vacation for a few weeks, and we volunteered to go over and do a little gardening only to be attacked by the largest zucchinis in the world.  They were everywhere and they were gigantic.  You can see in the picture below that I was nearly swallowed whole while picking them.  Thank goodness we had some zucchini bread recipes.  I also made one of my favorite soups all with ingredients from the garden.  It's during moments like those that I am a little sad that all I have is a balcony with a herb pots, but after an hour trimming the blossoms off of chard plants in 95 degree heat, I wasn't so sad about not having my own garden.
There's a reason why the local food movement has taken a firm hold in California.  When you can grow almost any summer fruit or vegetable imaginable within a 60 mile radius of your house, it's pretty easy to eat locally.  I'm not knocking it.  I do love to walk through farmer's markets like the one I went to on Saturday in Davis.  One sweep down the aisle left me feeling hungry and ready to dive into a crate full of tomatoes.  We talked to the blueberry farmers from Fresno and even the local woman selling worms for all your backyard composting needs.  

Outdoor markets in California, for all their beauty and variety, always have an air of unattainability and superiority to me.  Going to a farmers' market is a little bit like how I browse through designer boutiques; I might get a few small items here and there, but I'm not going to buy a new wardrobe in one afternoon.  It must be the artisnal cheeses and the twenty varieties of baby beets for sale that give off the slightly elitist vibe, although I readily admit that I love the market just the same.  After all, I was the one standing there plotting ways I could hide 8 oz. jars of lavender honey in my carry-on luggage.  California markets are just a fun diversion that present you with a bunch of inspiration for cooking and living.  If I hadn't seen all those stalls selling crate after crate of gorgeous figs, I probably wouldn't have felt this insatiable need to make something right this second with figs.

Lucky for me my friend's brother had a fig tree bursting with fruit.  I can eat a lot of figs on my own, but even after living without them since my move to Amsterdam, I couldn't finish a few pounds before they went bad.  A few minutes of searching online  coupled with a need to cool down led me to a fig ice cream recipe and a really nice food blog.  Locally grown tastes really good covered in sugar and heavy cream. 


  1. I'm a month behind on saying it, but the NY Times article you sent on "mudloeppen" in Friesland made me homesick - for a place I've never been! Must be genetic.

    I'm planning on writing soon about local "adopted" foods, from kolatchke to pho, that speak of my hometown through waves of immigrants (oh, for a rijstafel...) but right now, I'm thinking of foods I eat plain, but everyone else needs to add sugar to: rhubarb, cranberries, grapefruit, passion fruit.

  2. Steve, I hope you liked the article and that you'll get to visit very soon.
    I'd be so interested to read about your local foods. We've got the Indonesian rijsttafel in Amsterdam but also great Surinamese food and lots of delicious Moroccan and Turkish influences, too. I'll have to write about them when I get back to Europe.
    My brother used to pull stalks of rhubarb out of the ground and chomp on them like celery sticks. Just thinking of that makes my mouth pucker. Give me a really good grapefruit, though, and it won't need an ounce of sugar.