The Ground Rules

Ten years ago, I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, the story of her family’s year of eating locally.  At the time, I didn’t realize it might someday serve as a guide.

Book Animal Vegetable Miracle
Animal Vegetable Miracle

But where Barbara and her husband grew or raised much of what their family ate, my path would be different. I would harvest a few things from my (really) small garden, but rely primarily on local producers.

pigs in barn
New farm discovery – bought pork from two young men, early twenties, farming after their day jobs

The Ground Rules

As winter would soon be upon us, I began by quickly setting some ground rules.  When I started my research, I learned that there is no official definition for “eating local”.  And If local isn’t confusing enough, there is regional sourcing, which varies even more broadly.

I decided to try to source within a couple hours’ drive (the “standard” 100 miles), but if forced to “shop” in a neighboring state (as far as 500 miles for “regional”), I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. I’m not going to forgo the blueberries my CSA delivers just because they are from acid-soiled Indiana, a few hours away (Wisconsin’s alkaline soil doesn’t readily support blueberries).

100 mile radius from Milwaukee
100 mile radius from Milwaukee


 Of course, all rules have their exceptions!  When I first mentioned eating local to my sister, she texted back the warning, “You’d better start weaning off coffee now”.

But this wouldn’t be a problem, I knew, again thanks to Barbara Kingsolver.   Her family picked one exception apiece, for a total of four. Since I am down to part time kids, I decided that my husband and I could each pick two.  Mine?  Coffee and spices—just what Barbara and her husband chose. My husband’s choices?  Olive Oil and Diet Coke!

The other exception I am making is the area of health and safety.  I would be doing more canning which means vinegar and sometimes lemon juice.  I have made my own vinegar for years and use it in homemade salad dressings.  But the acidity levels in homemade vinegar vary and canning recipes are calibrated for safety based on a standardized commercial vinegar.  Our forebears certainly took their chances and (usually) lived to tell about it, but I am not going there.

Finally, I don’t intend to give up my original blog or become a hermit. So, sponsored posts may use “non-complying” ingredients… “for work.”  I will also attend functions at the houses of friends and not expect them to prepare local food.  They will, of course, get it at mine.

400 mile radius
A safety net (this is a 400 mile radius) – still no almonds…

What does this mean?

I am not completely sure what this all means yet.  Certainly, there will be no coconut oil, no chocolate, no sugar. There are plenty of sweeteners to substitute (maple syrup, honey, sorghum), but dessert’s going to change. And I now bake bread every week.

I know I’ll get a better picture as I (try to) adapt more recipes.  Right now I am grappling with local rice (which I hope will be a story soon). I have struck out everywhere on dried beans. And there is probably no decent local (cheap) wine for cooking.

But in a pinch a person can perhaps live on beer and cheese?



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