The lazy locavore confession

I believe in eating local. I DO! I especially like the local Italian restaurant around the corner. No, no. I am kidding. I like using natural, local ingredients when I cook. I feel like it gives a little extra *love* to my cooking.

Living on an island (Oahu) makes local eating both a necessity and a challenge. Every Saturday at my farmer’s market the local coffee brewing greets me at the entrance and cup in hand, my march through the market begins. Every color is represent’n, bursting, jumping off the tables: blood red beats with lively green stems, sunshine yellow papayas, dark green avocados whose interior is a buttery, softer green. Rows and rows of local vendors greet me. Like everyone, I have my favorites. I can get honey, smooth and blonde in color, mildly flavored with the Ohi’a Lehua blossom. The local butter is smooth and so sweet, I consider eating it with a spoon. The homemade chorizo or Portuguese sausages allow me to forgive myself the fatty indulgence since at least it doesn’t have artificial fillers or preservatives. Of course my pineapple is so juicy that its perfectly balanced sweet and acidic flavor roll down my chin with one bite. And I can smell the earthy acid of the fresh tomatoes upon approach.  I’ve even found a local spice maker, whose curry turns even my fingernails a bright yellow, but I don’t care because its depth of flavor makes even day-old rice a decedent treat.

Indeed. I leave the farmer’s market with the same high runners get after a marathon.

Yet. I crave. And scour.

A sharp tangy cheddar or a gooey sweet brie.I want to taste the crisp snap of a juicy apple. An orange with thick rind protecting the wet, waiting fruit. I might like some tart cherries or to feel the “pop” of the blackberry in my mouth. I can’t get any of these things locally. For one reason or another they aren’t grown here. Maybe its because there isn’t enough money in it, maybe they don’t they the cool nights they crave. It doesn’t matter. It isn’t here at the farmer’s market. A genuine locavore would say “grow it yourself!”  Honestly, as committed as I am to sustainability, I don’t see a garden popping up in my tiny rented backyard. Space isn’t the only constraint to my garden, ability to garden is the other. My guilt over not having a garden intensifies when I talk to “J” who has her own garden, with rotating crops. She trades beets for free range chicken. She trades lettuce for fresh caught fish. I just trade cash to local farmers who are willing to grow it for me. Does that make me a lame locavore?

Also, my favorite farmer’s market is Saturday’s only, until 11:30am. That is pretty early for a girl who likes her martinis or red wine on a Friday night. This has me scouring locations for smaller, more flexible farmer’s markets. If I forget something, or use it up, I know have smaller markets to visit on Monday and Wednesday mornings or Tuesday evening. It is all very complicated and I need a smart phone to remind me (seriously).

Then I remember, in the US, food now travels an average of 1500 miles to get to your plate, if you live mainland. Imagine how far it typically travels to get to the island I live on. Our not-so-fresh food sits in warehouses and processing centers, gets jostled into trucks and ships using fossil fuels which are extracted in numerous not-so-earth-friendly-ways and polluting the air while getting to us. Not the kind of image that matches that glossy apple you’re eye’n at the supermarket, right?

Back at my friendly local farmer’s market, as I wander through the rows, plucking and paying…I ponder, how does anyone who doesn’t live in a mild climate eat locavore at all? I mean, I struggle with it and I live in a place where LOTS of things grow. The whole movement started in San Francisco, which is fortuitously situated both in the top agricultural state, on the cool Pacific waters and oh, practically the center of the foodie universe (sorry, New York). Can that really be a surprise to anyone? Little ‘ole me, I live on an island and I moved here from the desert…hardly centers of agriculture. Admittedly, both places do have thriving agricultural communities, but in the small, intimate way, not in the vast, expansive, diverse way of California.

My inadequacy mounts as my craving drives me (or do I drive my craving?) to Safeway to buy the blackberries I so lust. I eye them in their plastic container. They have the glossy, pregnant bulges I imagined. But, I know they aren’t fresh, they have been sitting on a boat from someplace like Costa Rica…they would have tasted perfectly today had they been left on the vine to ripen.  I stare at the strawberries, but they seem a little anemic and the coloring is downright bland, they look unfinished. Here I am cheating on my locavore desires. Standing in Safeway in front of a display filled with plastic bubble containers made to look as if it is at a farmer’s market.

And then, slowly. I step away from the blackberries. I back off from the strawberries. I imagine how disappointed I will be when eagerly tear open that plastic container, salivating about the sweetness that will bring me back to my childhood where I picked the fresh every summer only to taste…nothing.

I guess I am a lazy locavore. And probably a locavore for all the wrong reasons. I believe in supporting local farmers, and so I do. I believe in minimizing my “eats” impact, sincerely. But what it comes down to, is that I try and find fruits and vegetables grown near me because it simply tastes better. And that is why I scour the farmer’s markets. But to my closest foodie friends, I’ll admit..I still like my cheese from overseas, my apples from Washington, but seriously, nothing and I mean NOTHING beats a fresh Big Island avocado.

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About Tara DeWitt Coomans

An aspiring cook and an accomplished eater, Tara is inspired by the world around her and the food on her plate. "When you can't jump on a plane and take a vacation to an exotic destination, chances are you can whip up a dish or go to a restaurant that will take you there." says Tara. She often eats out at a restaurant after trying to accomplish a given dish at home. None the less, she enjoys food and what it says about the human experience. Tara is a full-time freelance writer and blogger. She specializes in writing about food, cooking and travel. You can find her in the kitchen, on the plane or at her computer.