Having just finished Barbara Kingsolver’s inspiring new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, that she co-wrote with husband Steven and daughter Camille about their year of eating mostly food they grew themselves, I find myself coming back again and again to her words quoting Wendall Barry “Eaters must understand, how we eat determines how the world is used.”
Since eating is something we’ve done continuously since birth, how much conscious thought do we put into it?
How often do we think about or question where our food comes from? Or how what we eat will affect our own personal health, much less the health and well-being of the planet?
Asking these questions and becoming more tuned in to our collective individual power to affect change is the motive behind our first annual Edible Austin Eat Local Week, to be held later this year, December 8-15. Eat Local Week is an invitation to Central Texans to explore and celebrate the abundance of local food and to raise money for Urban Roots, a program being developed by YouthLaunch to teach urban kids to farm organically and give the knowledge gained (and the food raised) back to the community (see their story on page 12).
My first lesson in being more aware of how we eat came after I had launched plans for this event and initially scheduled it for early September, to coincide with the arrival of this, our Fall issue of Edible Austin. “That’s a terrible idea,” said farmer Carol Ann Sayle, one of our trusty advisory group members. “Not much except squash and maybe eggplant will be available in the local markets then.” Emmett Fox, owner of two of Austin’s most local-food-conscious restaurants, Asti and Fino, echoed her concerns. Thanks especially to the unseasonably heavy rains we had back in July, September is shaping up to be one of the leanest months for local produce we’ve experienced in a while. All the more reason, of course, to support your local markets and farmers then, but hardly the best time to coax hundreds of restaurants to put local items on their menus for the first time and send throngs of potential new customers out to the farmers’ markets.
So, along with the City of Austin, who has enthusiastically offered its support, we will proclaim the second week in December to be Edible Austin Eat Local Week. Participating restaurants will feature a locally sourced entree special for the week, a dollar from which will go to our beneficiary, Urban Roots. Participating markets will collect a dollar per purchase receipt from willing customers. Starting now, you can go to edibleaustin.com, and see a growing list of participating area restaurants and markets. You’ll also be invited to share your experiences finding, cooking and tasting local food during that week on our blog. Carol Ann assures us that there should be an abundance of fall and winter crops to choose from. Unless, of course, we have an early frost.
Another compelling quote from Kingsolver’s book is this: “If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.” Of course, it has been pointed out that choosing sustainably raised lamb shipped from New Zealand might carry a smaller carbon footprint than eating corn-fattened feedlot meat raised locally. It’s about the energy used in raising the product as well as in its transportation. So all the more reason to go to your favorite market and buy our own local grassfed and pastured products.
And don’t forget the squash and eggplant. —Marla Camp, Publisher