Eat Local Challenge Day 15: Starting anew

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My first vegetarian meal (that wasnt breakfast) in longer than I can remember

Days: 15
Total meals eaten today: 3
Non-local items eaten: 1
Vices: Beer, coffee, bread

After trying to find inspiration by going to Boucherie and seeing how one of my favorite restaurants does local food, I woke up once again hoping to find a fresh start with the Eat Local Challenge. And, yet again, I found my enthusiasm tempered by another dumb mistake on my part: I had let my zucchini squash from Hollygrove Market go bad.

Unlike past negative experiences, though, I didn't let this deter me from having a positive day. I headed over to the Eat Local Challenge website and looked for some recipes with all the food I had at my disposal. Now breakfast and dinner were pretty much set thanks to the remaining eggs and red beans and rice I had left. Now I had to figure out lunch. Unfortunately, with Hollygrove and the Crescent City Fresh Market not open on Friday, I couldn't buy more meat.

I had to do something I would never consider otherwise: eat a vegetarian meal.

I seriously don't remember the last time I ate an entirely vegetarian meal (at least, not one that wasn't some sort of cereal or fruit-based breakfast). The Eat Local Challenge website is filled with great vegetarian recipes but, thick-skulled as I am, my first instinct is to wonder what kind of meat would go good on top of all those vegetables. Unfortunately, aside from the aforementioned eggs, I didn't have any other meat products. Thankfully, plenty of people on the internet could give me inspiration from ratatouille to a good 'ol "throw it all in the pot" recipe and was able to settle on a vegetarian sandwich of sauteed creole tomatos and summer squash with toasted asiago cheese and raw cucumbers (for a nice crunch).

But aside from inspiration on the web, I was comforted in seeing that others were also finding it hard to adhere to all the rules of the challenges. Almost all of the recipes I've found contained some sort of non-local ingredient - be it olive oil, cornmeal or flour - and I began to feel it was ok to start using some pre-made seasoning (hence the Tony Chachere's creole seasoning on my eggs).

It was also good to see posts by Lauren Zanolli on the NOLA Defender blog that detailed similar experiences to mine when dealing with access to local food markets and the actual cost of eating local. Zanolli's goal is to eat local on a budget and I highly recommend following her posts for the week to get an idea of how to get it done. But even her efforts show that the practicality of being a locavore in New Orleans. Zanolli had to expand her range from the Eat Local Challenge's 200-mile radius to a more forgiving 500-mile radius. Also, like many others, Zanolli uses some none local ingredients in her recipes (though, again, all secondary ingredients like olive oil and flour).

This is when I pledge to not stress out as much during the second half of the Eat Local Challenge. Not only is it clearly impossible to eat only local ingredients, but I wouldn't be the first ELC participant to use non-local ingredients in my cooking. Already I was thinking of all the new horizons that were opened up but I also felt a tinge of guilt that I couldn't stay a hard-core locavore. But only a tinge. The prospect of actually being able to eat practically and get back to enjoying preparing my meals was enough to wash that out.

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