During my travels with Honey Bear, it was tremendous to see the amount of support and awareness my friends and family have about local eating. Many of them proudly served me their local food and apologized for not having more. Most of them expressed their awareness in reading labels, asking questions about food origin and seeking out local farmer's markets to purchase ready made food like sausages and cheese and the satisfaction in supporting local farmers and producers.
It also lead to some deep and important conversations about the sustainability of eating locally and the consequences of reducing our choices to a smattering of locally grown and produced items. For many of my friends and family, the issue of reducing their environmental impact and supporting their local economy were the main reasons to buy and eat local, with which I strongly agree. However, I also believe that following this local movement too closely may result in cultural isolation and runs the risk of xenophobia.
Most notably was the case in the recently expanded Hamilton Farmer's Market and the vendors that were pushed out of the new expansion. Macleans magazine article "Thinking Local, Acting Loco" brought up the dark side of the locavore movement, that of pushing out retailers who sell food with imported ingredients, like pita bread or exotic fruit. In an effort to maintain a locavore "purity", long-time selling and popular vendors were no longer welcome or part of Farmer's Market.
I may be naive and a Pollyanna, but I firmly attest to learning more about cultures through their food. My ability to travel abroad is limited, but through food, music and arts, I get a peek at a culture vastly different from my own. Exotic flavours, textures, spices and ingredients push me out of my food rut and help me appreciate that we live in a world that is full of such great variety and vibrancy. A simple ingredient like a spicy Madras curry powder or the heady aroma of freshly grated nutmeg is enough to transport me to a place of wonder, well beyond the routines and predictability of my own life and I can't imagine living without them. To sum up, here's what I've realized: eating and buying local is totally the way to go, but for us, it's not the only way. Imported foods and exotic ingredients are a wonderful treat, especially when it's fairly traded, organic and ethical, so everyone wins with our purchase. It's taken us 50 days and one Ethno-Graze later to realize how vital imported food is in our lives and the role it will play once we're finished the challenge.
Cheers to the next 50 days!