Have i ever shared my Bubble conceit with you? It goes like this: the Bay Area generates its own little bubble, and when you venture outside it, you're shocked -- shocked! -- to discover that people do not recycle, or have much disdain for our now-former AG, or leave a restaurant before lighting a cigarette, or ... you get the idea.
The Bay Area is also a foodie epicenter, and when that combines with the Bubble ... well, I am probably not the only one who has wondered whether large swaths of the U.S. will begin importing even more produce just to watch San Franciscans get the vapors or, more importantly, if this whole local-eating thing will ever be perceived as practical or desirable outside of a few privileged areas of the country.
The Ethicurean began looking for food bloggers who live somewhere other than the U.S. coasts and began running a series by Ohioan "Jennifer aka The Baklava Queen" which made great points about how seasonal food is often as much about storage as it is about shopping. The Baklava Queen's posts almost make me want to take up preserving. Almost.
And Reason has actually been giving the local-eating movement its usual treatment "The Year of Magical Eating" (Apr 30, 07) observes:
Those who defend the pleasures and economies of modern life against the romanticizers of a zero-impact, local eating, fresh fruits and veggies past often overemphasize the soul-numbing drudgery of rural life. Picking berries and turning them into jam while chatting with a friend has been one of womankind's great pleasures for centuries. But just because it isn't awful doesn't mean that it isn't time-consuming labor.
while the farm-raised reviewer who wrote "Barbara Kingsolver's Latest Fiction" (Jul 1, 07) states:
At one point, Kingsolver makes fun of a vegan movie star who wants to create a safe-haven ranch where cows and chickens can live happy lives and die a natural death. Kingsolver dismissively writes: "We know she meant well, and as fantasies of the super-rich go, it's more inspired than most. It's just the high-mindedness that rankles; when moral superiority combines with billowing ignorance, they fill up a hot air balloon that's awfully hard not to poke." That pretty much sums up how I feel about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
And I do wonder if the local-eating advocates are in peril of being written off as out-of-touch -- if not with actual logistical and economic considerations ("Don't Buy Local," NYT, Jun 13, 07; "Food That Travels Well," NYT, Aug 6, 07), than with the everyday practicalities ("How to Eat and Read Local," NYT, Aug 29, 07). Adam Gopnik walks around this argument in "New York Local" (New Yorker, Sep 3, 07):
You go local in Berkeley, you’re gonna eat. I had been curious to see what might happen if you tried to squeeze food out of what looked mostly like bricks and steel girders and shoes in trees. I wanted to do it partly to see if it could be done (as an episode of what would be called on ESPN “X-treme Localism”), partly as a way of exploring the economics and aesthetics of localism more generally, and partly to see if perhaps the implicit anti-urban prejudices lurking in the localist movement could be leached away by some city-bred purposefulness. If you could eat that way here, you could do it anywhere.
and he concludes:
There are powerful arguments against localism: apart from the inevitable statistical tussles about exactly how much fuel is used for how much food, the one word that never occurs in the evocation of the lost world of small cities and nearby farms is “famine.” Our peasant ancestors, who lived locally and ate seasonally from the fruit of their own vines and the meat of their own lambs, were hungry all the time. The localist vision of the tiny polis and its surrounding gardens has historically led to bitter conflict, not Arcadian harmony.
It is even perilously easy to construct a Veblenian explanation for the vogue for localism. Where a century ago all upwardly mobile people knew enough, and had enough resources, to get their hands on the most unseasonable foods from the most distant places, in order to distinguish themselves from the peasant past and the laboring masses, their descendants now distinguish themselves by hustling after a peasant diet.
This may be so; but the fact that one can explain everything in social life as a series of status exchanges does not mean that social life is only a series of status exchanges. It was cool to be a liberal in 1963, but that did not make liberal attitudes to race foolish. All human values get expressed as social rituals; we place bets on which of the rituals are worth serving.
If there was something to be learned, it’s that the question of locality is one that can be either narrow and parched or broad and humanizing. As usual, the frivolous reason is the better reason, and the better reason looks a bit frivolous. To shorten the food chain is to pull it close, close enough to put a face on one’s food and a familiar place on one’s plate. To eat something local is to meet someone nearby.
Like I said above, I live in the Bubble. But I know a lot of you don't. How do you handle the local-eating issue? Do you garden, freeze and can? Do you or a family member hunt? (And if you do, would you send me some venison? Yum.) Do you buy local for some things, but not others?