March 23 • 12:40 PM

Let the journey begin...

Vow to eat only locally produced foods is rewarding

October 17, 2007
I am sitting at the dinner table and thinking that it's way cool, indeed, recognizing this Olympic achievement that had seemed impossible just months before. It had required a season of single-minded focus, commitment, and the domestic stamina of a dozen Martha Stewarts.

I took time to thoughtfully consider what was on my plate—a discreet, monastic practice I learned that allows you to simply observe that which you will become. Almost immediately, my eyes grow round and big. "Look!," I gush, "It's almost all local!" I am awash in euphoric glee. "Look! Look! The turkey breast is from Towns End Farm, the cherry sauce is from Brownwood Farms, the corn is from Cutcher's!"

I'm feverish. On a roll. I'm even clapping my hands. "And the potatoes are from…they're from…um…" I stammer. I don't want to say it. My sobering husband Kevin finishes the sentence for me. "Idaho. The potatoes are from Idaho."

Wise guy! I glare at him. Okay, so Idaho crashed my party. Big deal. I dismiss the potatoes. "They're from an emergency bag I bought in July, and they're darn lucky to be here."

I regain my composure. Like an attorney at an evidentiary hearing, I point my fork to the glass tumbler. Concord grape juice, I calmly remind him. Made fresh from Larry's private vines at Shade Tree Nursery, and sweetened by wildflower honey from Two Patriot Farms. I'm smirking now, and the Idaho issue is far behind us.

But wait, sweet victory lies in the table's centerpiece —a behemoth peach-raspberry-blueberry cobbler oozing with syrupy juices. This dessert is richer than chocolate, and has the depth of a fine French compote. The blueberries are from Blake's, and the raspberries from Sue Beckwith's U-pick off Rochester Road. The peaches, well, the peaches I had to use up. They're all the way from Del Monte, but it doesn't matter. I'm in rapture, and I'm not going to let it or Idaho put the kibosh on this foodie's local extravaganza! Honestly, a meal never tasted so good…

The journey began when I took a quiet, personal oath earlier this year to eat local. Actually, it was more of a decision to eat with seasonality in mind, depending exclusively on the gastronomic harvest that is current or abundant at the time. It was easy enough to do, especially during the summer.

But late September came, and I could sense fresh, local offerings beginning to dwindle. My shock over the cucumber's sudden disappearance made me realize I had not prepared one lick for the hibernating months ahead. In a panic, I took to cooking vats of marinara, trays of veggie lasagna, blanching pounds and pounds of crudités—all expertly prepared for freezing by my space-age vacuum sealer.

The result often resembles a packet of astronaut food. Could this really be better for me than, say, buying a California tomato in December? Chilean cherries in January? A Peruvian avocado in February?

I don't know everything about this local journey that I'm on. But as long as I follow simple guidelines, I know none of my little food packs will suffer a national recall.

The gasoline I've used all summer during my weekly circuit to every farmer's market around doesn't even hold a nozzle to the jet fuel necessary to transport one load of exotic fruits to this heartland.

And when I can look straight into a man's eyes, knowing that his wisdom grew this or his competence made that, I know I'm participating in capitalism at its most fundamental. Being an entrepreneurial spirit myself, it makes me positively giddy to hand that man my hard-earned currency. I hope he and his family, and all the summer's market vendors, enjoyed nothing short of a satisfying and prosperous season.

Cynthia Pankala is a business and motivational consultant who resides in Attica. Share your local food experiences with her by email at

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