Monday, November 23, 2009

100 Mile Thanksgiving

Bleatings from EnviRambo.

100 Mile Thanksgiving

Every Thanksgiving there is only one thing on my mind, what are we going to eat? Who is all coming? Where is everyone going to sit? Do I have enough dishes? When will I find the time to clean the house? How long do I need to cook the turkey? How many times will I hear, "Your house is cold!"? Okay, make that many things, but alas, my main concern is, what are we going to eat? The menu is always given great consideration. I spend days looking for recipes, organizing a menu, making a grocery list, shopping for ingredients, preparing the meal, cleaning up after the meal. A lot of thought, planning, and preparation. With so much going on who has time to stop and think where the food they eat is coming from? I know a few short years ago the thought never crossed my mind. The past two, sure I thought about it, briefly. This year, I focused on it.

Food is increasingly moving up the ranks on my laundry list of environmental and health concerns. Every time I hear of another recall, learn about CAFOs, or read an ingredient list I just want to start growing my own. Since I have yet to master gardening, shopping the Farmers' Market and choosing organic is the best I can do. Add shopping local to that list.

I set out to my local Food Co-op with my lengthy list of ingredients in hand.

dry Riesling - 103 miles
garlic - 37 miles
white mushrooms - 12 miles
apples - 30 miles
cranberries - 48 miles
1 orange - 2,000 miles (California)
carrots - 37 miles
parsnips - 32 miles
celery - 2,000 miles (California)
onion - 37 miles
turnips - 37 miles
butter - 40 miles
porcini mushrooms - 12 miles
slab bacon - 315 miles
sweet Italian sausage - 23 miles
bread - 14 miles
half & half - 40 miles
green beans - 5 miles
french fried onions - ???
sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil - very, very far away
cream cheese - 40 miles
turkey - 40 miles

Thyme, parsley, and chives came from 5 steps outside my kitchen door.


It was surprisingly easier than I thought. Due largely to the fact that my Co-op stocks many products from local sources and labels their origin. It did take some extra time to stop and actually read the labels rather then throw it in the cart and go. I also had to ask a few times when something was not labelled. Luckily my Co-op also stocks a knowledgeable staff that was able to answer all my questions. I normally split my grocery shopping between the Co-op and the supermarket; taking advantage of the Co-op bulk section and the supermarket prices. I do not think I would have had the same outcome at the supermarket. Often the labels only list the headquarter address or where the product is distributed from, but not where it was actually grown.

In the Summer buying local is easy, I just shop at the Farmers' Market and purchase directly from the farmer who grew it. What does someone with no access to a Farmers' Market do? Have you ever tried contacting a company to inquire of their sources? I have. Once I called Swanson to ask where the meat used to make their broths came from. Short version - they were unable to answer my question. I want affordable food, from a source I know, sustainably produced. Everything seems to take me back to know your farmer or grow your own. Maybe next year I will grow my Thanksgiving dinner. Until then...

Do you know your farmer? Be thankful if you do.


panamamama said...

Our local farmer's market is all organic and certified local. This year they have turkeys, mushrooms, greens, eggs, milk, cream, butter! Yay! I can at least know that part is good.

Green Bean said...

Not too shabby for Wisconsin!! That is so awesome!

Jenn the NonLocalEating Greenmom said...

Oh man, I'm just in awe of you. I'm afraid this Thanksgiving I'm just sort of plugging my ears and going "lalala" whenever the thought of actually how far my food travelled to get to me comes up. (Of course, since the topic only comes up in my brain or on the blogosphere, the plugging ears thing doesn't work so well and just makes people think I've lost it.)

The bread for the stuffing comes from heels of a year's worth of bread I've been freezing as I acquire it, the sage comes from my herb garden, and the pumpkin and apples for the pies come from local orchards and farmers markets. That's about it. If I'd planned ahead I could have gotten some cranberries from my mom last summer and frozen them, or bought potatoes/yams from the local farmstand a month ago, or several other things...but I didn't. Sigh. Next year...

Jenn the Chicago Greenmom said...

(she pulls this off and she lives in WISCONSIN??? Okay, now I really feel like a loser! So much for sighing and going, "well, you know, I live in Chicago, I can't do local"...)

The Raven said...

Great job! Sounds so yummy.

We're searching for the closest cranberries we can find. Last year we tried to substitute with--was it home-canned rhurbarb mixed with horseradish?--but it did not really meet our annual craving. I think I could make do with some sauce made from rehydrated dried cranberries (which would be less of a big deal to ship). Any other ideas, anybody?

Karen Moser-Booth said...


There is a great article about this very same topic in Places Journal, an architecture/design academic journal: The writer uses a map at the Thanksgiving table for the kids to mark their food sources.

Daisy said...

I'm impressed! I bought my fresh organic turkey from a local butcher. the cranberries were grown in the northern realms of my state. The potatoes were state-grown, too. The rest? Not so good. I'll work on it.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

What are you making? You've got some very interesting ingredients in there.

greeen sheeep said...

I was surprised myself to find so much local grub in November in Wisconsin. I have always focused more on organic than local, luckily the recipes I picked featured a lot of seasonal ingredients. Erin, I posted my actual menu over at my personal blog.

Since I am a member of the Local Foods & Sustainable Task Force, I figured it was time to start practicing what I preach. Thanksgiving was a great way to kick that notion off.

Jessica Nichols said...

So inspiring! I am not hosting Thanksgiving so this is largely out of my control. I am jealous of panamamama that she can get milk ar her farmer's market. I am in a tizzy about my organic milk lately. It's the latest cobble in my eco-path, I guess you might say.

greeen sheeep said...

I am jealous that panamamama's market is still open! My markets closed for the year in October. Oh, how I miss them! I wonder if I join a CSA next year, if I will have access to local produce longer? Need to look into that.

greeen sheeep said...

Jenn, I have never thought about freezing the ends of bread. What a great idea! I save the ends of veggies in the freezer to use for making stock. I bet the bread would be good for meatloaf, casseroles, all kinds of stuff. Thanks!


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