I am always amazed at the prevalence of advertising in town. Traveling to a larger city I notice it even more — posters and billboards everywhere, even sounds and smells that are geared to entice consumption.
I wander about, following tantalizing aromas, becoming less and less interested in the lunch I’ve brought with me, and if I wander into a grocery store there are good odds I’ll come out with something I already have at home.
I know I’m not the only one who has been in the embarrassing situation of filling the freezer in the fall only to find an identical package from the previous year, untouched. I started to wonder about why that is, especially since I put so much energy into harvesting and preserving food.
To be sure, there is a learning curve associated with local cuisine; I may not be used to cooking with what grows here. However, humans are adaptable. Just look to the ethnic regions in any large city – the little Italys and Chinatowns, with their requisite restaurants, which came into being before the current era in which foods are widely available without regard for region or season.
Anyone with a taste for global cuisine learns the art of substitution.
Time is perhaps more of a challenge — foraged foods are by nature whole, and so time must be invested either at the processing stage or at the cooking stage, but I’ve bought whole foods for years so this isn’t a good excuse.
When I don’t use the food I’ve gathered and grown, the reason is actually quite mundane: habit. After years of buying food from the store or market, I need to remind myself that I already have greens, fish, meat, and berries, in my freezer and root cellar.
So I turn conscious cooking into a practice.
By living out of town, away from a store, I become more inventive — for example using sauerkraut or cranberries to provide tartness in a dish calling for lemons.
I look for occasions to cook for friends and share the stories of the food with the meal. Eating local could be limiting, but it’s a blessing to cook with ingredients that are not only good to eat, but, as Michael Pollan puts it, “good to think.”
I am proud of the energy I put into my relationship with local food, and it makes sense to give it the attention it deserves.
Slow-cooked Cranberry Moose Ribs
3-4 lbs moose ribs
2 Tbs 5 Spice powder
2 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt
2c rhubarb wine (or other white wine, or vegetable stock in a pinch)
1c grated carrots
Mix spices together, and rub over ribs. Place ribs in the slow cooker. Heat wine, carrots and cranberries until just below boiling, and pour over ribs. Cook on high for 6 hours or so – if you want a crispy finish, remove ribs just before the meat is falling off the bone and toss on a hot grill for a few minutes. Otherwise let it continue to the falling apart stage, pull apart and serve over garlicky mashed potatoes, making a gravy out of the reserved liquid. Leftovers make a great taco filling.