Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Local 100 (Redux)

Needing to take a quick, deep breath (to do some food research and recipe testing), and also wanting to go back in time a bit, I am re-posting a previous blog post. I started this blog on January 30, 2009; as I am nearing the six month mark I thought I'd take a moment to pause and focus on why I started it. The post below was not my first post but it is the post where I explain why I started '100 Miles', and what I hope it will accomplish. I've been posting recently about a great trip Robert and I took to Europe, and while all those posts were food-related, I now want to circle back around to the origins of the blog, and to more of the themes and activities that 'living life locally' engenders.

My great-grandmother, Ora Goodman, standing in her garden in Orcutt, California

This is a re-post from February 3, 2009.

Victory gardens. A White House farmer. The Slow Food movement. Eating local and organic. One hundred miles from where you live. The idea of keeping life local intrigues me. Not only as it regards food and eating but for living life in general. If we all lived our lives locally how different would they be? Quite different in my view. More intimate. Possibly more rewarding. None of these ideas are necessarily new. American chefs have been pushing ‘local’ for years. And I have no political agenda in writing this blog. Yes, living life locally will help the carbon footprint but I am not advocating total abstinence from living life – one should still travel to overseas locations, take trips by car and airplane, do the things that make life pleasurable. I just wonder -- if our lives were consciously more intimate might they be more fulfilling?

As I mention in my blog description, my great-grandmother lived her life locally but it was by dint of circumstance not of choice. She and my great-grandfather were not rich people yet they lived an abundant life. Somehow they didn’t need a lot to survive. My great-grandmother’s backyard garden fed a family of four plus any and all visiting relatives for many years. My great-grandfather fished local waters, hunted with my great-uncle in local mountains, and grew fruits and vegetables in the garden. I learned very valuable lessons from them about living a simple yet satisfying life.

My great-grandparents, Rolla and Ora Goodman's garden in Orcutt, California.

The idea for this blog actually came to me through a friend, Martine Rothstein, who makes every attempt to live her life locally. Her company, Burden Free Foods, uses only local ingredients in all its products. On a recent visit we were discussing buying and cooking with local ingredients only. Through her work with her company she has sourced many local New Jersey farmers and purveyors for both her business and her family. She mentioned trying to keep it all within a 100-mile radius. It made a lot of sense to me. I began to think about it as a way of life.

I live in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles -- a small 3-block ‘village’ with restaurants, cafes, hair salons, a taco stand, yoga and dance studios, and various shops. On one end is a Starbucks, and in the middle is Kaldi Coffee & Tea, a small independent coffee house that roasts its own coffee beans. I am currently re-training myself not to automatically go to Starbucks (not a big fan anyway) but to go to Kaldi instead – a local business that needs my support. My partner, Robert, and I often walk from my condo to eat at one of the restaurants; we try to get to the weekly farmers market; and I recently started getting a haircut at Salon Mix, a local Atwater Village hair salon. All efforts to localize my life.

It is 100 Miles as a concept that I will explore in this blog. As well as a place where I will put down on paper memories of my experiences working in the food industry, of other foodies, chefs and friends I have met along the way. Old and new discoveries made. Places visited and recipes prepared. Amazing meals I have had. All with the idea that living closer to home as much as possible is ultimately better for the spirit.

One hundred miles from home.

Charles G. Thompson
February 3, 2009

End of re-post.

My Status: it's been hot in Los Angeles, summer really is here (finally!); enjoying all the summer produce; writing, cooking, blogging and eating!

Upcoming Posts: The Wedge Salad: a recipe, the origins of the salad and of Iceberg lettuce. Review: 'The Barcelona Cookbook'.

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  1. It certainly seems longer than six months -- your blog being a staple in my RSS reader. You've managed to carve a nice road in the LA blogging scene, Charles. I love this story, as it revisits exactly why you're doing this.

    As I've said many times before, being a true localvore in any urban area is incredibly difficult. I'd think it's difficult for anyone who's not living in a self-sustained situation (on a farm, etc.).

    But the fact that you're willing to do as much as you possibly can to live by the 100-mile rule is far more than most people can say.

    In these days of the 1000-mile carbon footprint put on most of the food that people shovel into their mouths on a daily basis, credit is certainly due you my friend.

    You're my kind of people. Keep blogging. :-)

  2. As always, Phil, thank you for your kind and astute comments. So very much appreciated -- truly. I agree completely with you re the difficulty of attempting to be a true locavore in an urban environment. As we have both said, and especially for me, it's all in the trying. As long as I am trying to attain the goal then it is all good.