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Happy 2014! It’s a new year and talk of resolution is once again in the air. If you’ve resolved to try to eat local more this year, well, you’ve chosen the best resolution if you ask us! Here, we chat with local food enthusiast Randy Shore aka the Green Man for some advice and inspiration to help get you off on the right track. In addition to being an avid farmer, a food blogger, and a columnist for the Vancouver Sun, Randy has his finger on the pulse of delicious local cooking. Enjoy his perspective, tips and recipe below. Happy New Year!
Buy Local Eat Natural: What are some of the simplest changes people can make in everyday shopping to bring more local food into their kitchens?
Randy Shore: You know I’d say one of the easiest changes you can make is to visit your local winter farmers market. These markets feature your local farmers putting out their local produce. At the market this month, we’re seeing things like leeks, kale, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions and much more, as well as some great locally sourced meat, seafood and dairy.
Also, don’t rule out the supermarket. If you want to eat local remember you often need to stay near the perimeter of the store—that’s where you’ll find local fruit and vegetables and your Western Meats. Today many supermarkets are working hard to increase signage to help point you toward local items. Safeway has well over a thousand local products in store and really clear signage to point them out. A lot of their end caps are focused on showcasing local products as well. At places like Choices and Whole Foods you’ll even see story-based promos for some local operations that actually show photos of the farms and spaces where the food was produced.
BLEN: Eating local has a reputation for being cost prohibitive. What do you think about this?
RS: This is a lot less true today than it used to be. In the past, if you were buying premium vegetables at the farmers market you were paying more because the marketplace wasn’t that big and the farmers weren’t sure they had a viable market. But now with so many farmers markets and local retailers who purchase local, the local infrastructure is rebuilding—farmers know there’s a market, so they’ve been scaling up. When they scale up, our costs as consumers scale down. And local foods don’t have the same transportation costs, so in the end there’s a convergence of prices between local and non-local foods. Prices are really meeting in the middle.
If you’re looking to cut down your grocery bill, one simple thing you can do is reassess your diet. I did this recently and have since cut back on meat and carbohydrates. My general rule is buy less, but buy better—you can cut the amount of meat you’re eating in a sitting in half and enjoy better quality [when it’s local] without it costing more.
BLEN: What does your winter menu look like?
RS: Well, grilling season is officially over when it’s snowing [laughs] so these days I am enjoying a lot of comfort food: soups pastas, scalloped potatoes and gumbo. Gumbo is particularly good because you can make it with winter vegetables and stored items like onions, garlic, peppers and dry spices you may have from summer. I’m also really enjoying things like hamburger soup, carrot soup and caldo verde Portugese soup.
BLEN: Can you share a recipe you’re loving to make these days?
RS: Onion soup is a bit of a dusty classic. Popular in the 60s and 70s, it was done so widely and so badly that it became a bit of a joke. The pizzeria that I worked in as a teenager topped the onion soup with the same cheese they put on a pizza, a combination of cheap mozzarella and even cheaper edam. It wasn’t good. But done well, onion soup is great. Really deep flavours emerge from the cooking process, the kind that you will never get from a packet or a tin.
I bought a tray of leek seedlings last spring and developed a really effective way of growing them in a very small space. The result is that I now have more than 100 leeks in my garden. I also have two boxes of onions in the spare room and quite a pile of garlic and shallots in the kitchen. This recipe is how we do onion soup in Canada. Actually… it’s how my wife does it.
*Editor’s Note: Us folks at Buy Local Eat Natural have heard that Overwaitea Foods also has plans in the works to prominently feature local suppliers. Check out their “Talk About Local” efforts.