Most days, I've been a total disaster. You see, because of my job, and because I'm still taking public transit several days a week, I am outside of the house from about 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. Breakfast and lunch are always eaten at work and sometimes dinner. So I'd gotten in the habit of making 3-4 small grocery runs every week at lunch. I'd get some bread for sandwiches, or I'd pick up some vegetables and a bottle of dressing for a small salad I could toss together in our kitchen at work. If I was in the mood to cook, I'd do the grocery shopping at lunch so that I wouldn't have to do it at 9:00 pm at night. And if all else failed, I regularly bought pasta and a jar of Trader Joe's organic tomato sauce so I could just have spaghetti.
But if I want to be eating local, all that goes out the window. The grocery stores that are walking distance from my work don't sell too much that's grown within 150 miles, and even if they do, they don't really label anything. Occasionally I see something marked, "California Grown," but California is a ginormous state. I have no way of knowing if this was grown in San Diego, or if it was grown in Eureka. Oh, I know, buying from California is still better than buying from New Zealand, but like ... everything is already all grown in California. I've probably unwittingly eaten "California local" a zillion times because really, if you live in California, how can you not? So to just accept all California produce as local seems like it's cheating, somehow.
Plus, I think part of the reason people advocate for local food is because buying local often means buying from local family farms. In other words, industrial organic, even Californian industrial organic, is missing half the point. So instead of doing my 3-4 shopping runs a week, I've been pretty much limiting myself to a once a week shopping trip at the farmers' market.
It's been a mess. Because I'm only able to shop once a week, I over buy. I haven't had this much food waste since I did Crunchy's No Waste challenge. But produce, as Barbara Kingsolver reminds us, is not meant to be eaten days and days after it is picked. And if you wait a week, or hell, with some of these veggies, even a few days, they end up going bad. But if I omit buying tomatoes for example, and then I have a craving for rajma on Tuesday, well, I'm screwed. I have to wait until the next farmers' market on Sunday.
Unfortunately, my good intentions have left me ill-prepared to deal with the matter of feeding myself. I went without bread for a week because the grocery stores near my work doesn't sell local bread. There is a store near my house that does sell local bread, but by the time I got home from work, I never feel like going to the damn store. I finished up the tomato sauce, and have been reluctant to buy more because, well, shouldn't I buy some local tomatoes and make my own sauce? But when the hell do I have time to make tomato sauce? Oh yeah. Last Saturday. The day BEFORE the farmers' market. So, finally, the other night, I came home late, starving, with no (non-rotting) food in the house. I thought I was going to cry. Instead, I picked up the phone and I ordered a pizza. For delivery. (Yes, I picked a local business, not Dominoes, but still.) I started to wonder, have I made the perfect the enemy of the good?
Tonight, as I walked home from the subway, I ran the dinner options in my head. I had some asparagus I'd bought on Sunday that miraculously hadn't gone bad yet, that I really had to deal with tonight or it would definitely be bad. And I had some corn that I had chosen specifically because I suspected corn lasts a reasonable length of time. But ... asparagus and corn isn't much of a dinner. So I decided I HAD to stop by the grocery store to pick up a lemon for the corn (I had used all my local lemons to make lemonade) and some bread for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. And I thought, maybe they'll have some Winchester gouda or brie and I can eat that too.
First, I headed for the cheese. No Winchester. Okay fine, I thought, I'll just get the bread. I headed to the bread aisle, where, because it was now 9:00pm, the stock of locally baked daily bread was vastly depleted. In fact, the only kinds of bread I could find were rye, sourdough and rosemary olive. None of which go very well with peanut butter and jelly. Okay, it's okay, I told myself. I'll just get a lemon. So I headed to produce, picked up a "California grown!" lemon, and then I saw my beautiful Mexican mangoes. I picked up one, fondled it, put it back down, and almost threw a temper tantrum in the store. Instead, I angrily walked back to the dairy aisle, grabbed a goat cheese made in Sonoma. 500 miles is good enough! Then I stalked back to the bread, and grabbed a loaf of the sourdough.
I headed home and within twenty minutes, I had a meal of roasted asparagus, corn on the cob, and sourdough bread with goat cheese. It wasn't perfect, but I'm done making the perfect the enemy of the good. Tomorrow I will have peanut butter on sourdough, and you know what? Maybe it'll taste just fine.