Recently a good friend of long standing, who lives in San Francisco and with whom I exchange a lot of letters about food, sent me a flyer for a ‘locovore’ food event that was to be held in the Mission district. Locovores, of course, strive to grow, gather, and eat much if not all of their provender from as nearby as they can get it. The flyer was interesting. I really can’t say that I saw anything on the proposed menu that was particularly appealing–we seem to be eating a lot of wild radish seed pods–but I suppose the advanced prep can be fun.
At the risk of sounding hopelessly behind the times, I confess to being less than 100% with the locovore movement. While I love fresh ingredients (Tuscany taught me that fresh + simple = better), I’m not so keen on the principle that everything has to come from nearby. With the exception of a few earnest and committed individuals, the social scientist in me thinks that what we see in locovorism is another instance of commodity fetishism as practiced by the avant-garde nouveau bourgeoisie. That is, the locally produced ingredient is being elevated into an object of devotion by urban hipsters flush of cash.
This might not apply to someone who is growing or gathering local ingredients and thus converting his/her own labor into consumable goods. However, anyone who would pay $80 for the privilege to sit down to such a meal as described in the flyer has to be guilty as charged.
I grow tomatoes–and go through the attendant expense and hassle–because one cannot get, even at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market (which is now fabulous), a tomato like one can grow. On the other hand, wild purslane (verdulagas in Spanish) grows in profusion over my septic tank drain field. I am told that it’s edible and can be steamed. I decline, having once sampled it and found it vile. I also do not bother to harvest the pinon nuts from my many trees, although that’s mainly because the ravens always do it several days before one actually would oneself. Pine nuts are okay, but they just aren’t in my repertoire.
I like our New Mexico grass-fed beef because it tastes better, is raised by local ranchers whom I would prefer to have my money over IBP, and generally has less junk in it (antibiotics, hormones, etc.) It is, however, expensive, so that I only buy it for a treat.
I wish I could go to the trouble of keeping bees and raising honey like my San Francisco friend does. Actually, I simply wish that a close neighbor would go to the trouble so I could be assured of the best pollination for my orchard. The ladies were a little sparse this year, and I wouldn’t mind supplementing their numbers if I could afford the money or time.
Back in the 1980s I used to say that if the Soviets threatened to drop the bomb, we’d head to my grandmother’s house in Texas, because she had about five years’ worth of canned goods in her pantry. In the event of something truly apocalyptic I think I would still try to head that way. My dad can grow just about anything–potatoes, onions, green beans, peas, okra, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, squash, melons, strawberries, peaches, plums, apricots, beef cattle, poultry, and wheat. With a solar powered pump on the (very shallow) water well, I think we might do okay.
In the meantime, I’m going to buy the freshest I can get or have need for, grow whatever high-value-added stuff makes the most sense, and make do with the rest. A fresh tomato can be awesome, and wild strawberries are precious, but I don’t feel like bowing down to either of them.