Back in 2011, during the height of my dietary challenges, I decided I would add to the list of the foods I couldn't eat by taking part in the first annual NOLA Locavore challenge, pledging to eat only foods grown within 200 miles of New Orleans for the month of June. It was a challenge, but I was used to food challenges by that time, so I guess I was up for it. Still, it was stressful, and for the next several years I eschewed that particular challenge.
This year, after hemming and hawing for several weeks (because I still get the emails about it every year), I decided on the spur of the moment to sign up yesterday. I pick up my "starter packet" with all the goodies--local salt, red beans, rice, coupons and discounts all over town--tomorrow because I missed the big kick-off party. So I started the day yesterday with pretty much nothing local in the house. But that didn't mean I couldn't start getting in the spirit of the thing.
I chose to do the "Lenient" challenge, which means I can pick six foods and six meals that don't count. Pretty sure I'll be over the limit every week, but here's how I am starting out.
First, I will eat the stuff that is still in my fridge. I'm not wasting food simply because I didn't prepare soon enough. I have leftovers and produce that I've bought over the last few weeks that I will incorporate into my meals as needed. I'll try not to use the things that will last (condiments, etc.). Also, I don't eat dairy or soy, so I'm going to have to substitute almond milk or coconut milk when needed. Can't get those around here. But I'm thinking of making a pecan milk. I make a mean cashew cream that might work with pecans too. We shall see.
I made myself a lunch of things I had in my fridge that maybe weren't local, but could have been. A salad with bacon, peppers, and apples. I thought I saw apples on the Good Eggs website, but maybe they weren't local. Still, sub strawberries or blueberries or peaches... And I topped it off with a vinaigrette I bought from Vintage Garden a while back. Yum. And surprisingly filling. If I had had pecans, I would have added them.
Then I hit my main grocery store. As much as I love this challenge, my family has not signed up for it, so I had to get them their staples. The shift in focus was looking for locally produced food as much as possible. Spaghetti sauce for the night--II Tony's, made by the restaurant about half a mile from my house. Goodness knows where they get their ingredients, but at least I'm supporting a local outfit. Crawfish tails. I picked up one pack, looked on the back, and it said "Product of China." Whaaa??? The one next to it was from LA, so I bought that one.
Anyway, I came home and made "spaghetti" with local ground beef and a spiralized squash that may or may not have come from a farmers market. All in all, not a bad first day. The main difference between now and 4 years ago is that I refuse to stress about it. I know I'm doing what I can (balancing all relevant factors) and it's a step up from what I was doing before.
Today, after a breakfast of French Press iced coffee and a GF bagel I still had in the fridge, I hit the farmer's markets hard. CCFM had peaches!!! And fish and shrimp and lots of veggies of course, and herb plants! But the peaches... Hollygrove has the meat and "the box" with lots of different veggies the other market didn't have. I do like the box because the portions keep me from buying too much. Especially something like Asian eggplant. I don't do eggplant, but this challenge makes me want to experiment.
So my plan for the next few meals--fish tonight with corn on the cob and a lovely salad. Tomorrow for breakfast, gotta finish up my leftover oatmeal with blueberries and PEACHES!!!! Lunch with my mom at some participating restaurant uptown. Dinner...I would like to experiment with my crawfish tails. Spiralized something (sweet potato? Yellow squash? butternut squash?), some kind of nut/coconut milk sauce (oh, you beautiful butters and creams at the market, how you taunt me), some savory herbs and spices. I'm liking it. By that time, I will have picked up my starter pack and maybe checked out Cleaver and Co. for some charcuterie and lard...
My creative juices are flowing. I think the logo "let's have lunch and talk about dinner" is pretty right on. It's fun to think about. I'll keep you posted, but in the meantime, definitely open to any suggestions! Happy eating!