Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge

I'm doing another challenge! When I first read about Urban Hennery's Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge (that's a mouthful!),  I was intrigued.  Now that I'm in my second year of kitchen gardening, I've become much more aware of the food that is on my plate--where it comes from, how it tastes, the costs and benefits of eating what I eat (monetary, economic and environmental impact, and health, among others). I thought this would be a good way to spend the dreary winter months, since my garden is pretty much shut down until next spring.

From the host's original post:
The challenge runs from Sunday, November 27th, 2011 to Saturday, March 31st, 2012.

What’s the Challenge?
Cook one meal each week featuring SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients, write about it on your blog and email your happy recapper a link to your post. 

What does local mean?
Traditionally, local food challenges call for a 100 mile radius. Winter time is more difficult in many climates, especially if you’re new to eating locally, so my default winter definition is 150 miles. You can choose to make your radius smaller or slightly larger as you need. Typical exceptions to the local requirement are oils, coffee, chocolate and spices. If you’re making fewer or more exceptions, please note that on your first post.
On the surface this seems easy--one meal a week can't be that bad right? {Ask me again in February when I'm desperate and eat a handful of snow and call that my local meal of the week. }

What Will Be Easy
  • I'm fortunate that I live in an area with many farmers' markets, and even the grocery store chains in my neighborhood have sections where they sell local foods, so I think it will be easy to find locally-grown food.
  • Best of all, I live near one of the best farmers' markets I've ever been to--the Old Town Alexandria Farmers' Market. It's supposedly one of the oldest markets in the country and open every Saturday year-round (score!)
  • I have access to products from local dairies, so getting things like organically-produced milk and especially eggs will be very easy.
  • I have some locally-raised (northern VA) grass-fed beef stored in my freezer from a recent trip to the Old Town farmers' market, plus a few veggies from my garden and the farmers' market to get started.
  • Northern Virginia has some of the best wineries around, for those days when I just want a liquid lunch {kidding, sort of}

What Will Be Hard
  • I'm a horrible cook.
  • Planning ahead--I need to stock up on meats to get through the winter. Last year around this time, my meat guy at the farmers' market ran out (one of his freezers broke down). I need to get down there next Saturday and get more to stock my own freezer.
  • Side dishes--if I plan right, meat and eggs will be easy to get, but side dishes and condiments will present more of a challenge. I'll have to be more thoughtful about how I balance, season, and prepare my meals.
my weekend farmers' market purchase

For me, planning ahead will be key, and I don't want to set myself up for failure, so I will likely wait until the weekend to make my local meal of the week because I know I won't be able to make good choices after a long, stressful day at the office.

Although the challenge considers 150 miles to be local, I'll try to keep it closer. From where I live, places in Pennsylvania are within 150 miles, but I'll try my best to support VA-based farmers.

In addition to oils, coffee, chocolate, and spices, as noted in the Challenge rules, I'm also going to allow myself the exceptions of rice, beans/legumes, and a certain Louisiana seasoning that we picked up on our last trip to New Orleans. That will give me flexibility.

I'm glad this starts after Thanksgiving! This will indeed be a challenge. Looking forward to it!


  1. Have fun with the challenge! I have often thought about previous generations of my family who grew or hunted all of their meals. It must have been hard but very rewarding! We are fortunate to have farmers markets and other sources of local produce. The closer to home, it seems, the better the quality and taste.

  2. Oh, lucky you to have a Farmer's Market year round!!! Mine here has shut down, and even before it shut down the vendors had very little to offer. Your list of "What will be hard" doesn't seem impossible. But, April 1 is a long way away! I bet you become a better cook, and a much more organized one by that time! Good luck!


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