How to Eat Like a Locavore
A new group of cooks is taking the "eat local" dictum to an extreme: They’ll only buy ingredients produced within a 100-mile radius. Here, two locavores share their best winter recipes.
Some might call it extreme. Others see it as a truly balanced way of life. More and more people are declaring themselves locavores—meaning they’ll only eat and cook with ingredients grown locally (typically within a hundred-mile radius). The movement was born of a desire to support local producers and to reject foods shipped in from thousands of miles away on trucks and planes that deplete fossil fuels. Locavores vary in their orthodoxy, from the ultrastrict (who might eschew ingredients like salt, sugar and vinegar that aren’t locally produced) to adherents of the "Marco Polo rule" (who deem acceptable dried spices like cinnamon and peppercorns that sailors could carry while at sea), down to the more lenient "wild card" users (who allow themselves a few indulgences—most commonly chocolate, coffee and olive oil—outside of their hundred-mile "food shed"). But even wild card locavores can have a tough time answering the question, What’s there to eat in the dead of winter? We asked two locavores on opposite coasts to explain how they rise to the challenge. One is Dede Sampson, a chef and food buyer in the Berkeley school district, who can find wonderful ingredients in Bay Area farmers’ markets all winter. The other is Jeremy Silansky, chef de cuisine at American Flatbread, in Waitsfield, Vermont, where area farms are buried in snow. Here, their delicious recipes, plus their secrets on how to eat locally all winter long.
Without knowing it, Dede Sampson had been a locavore most of her life. She grew up in a small Iowa farm town where the local crops determined what was for dinner. "I’m naturally not hungry for out-of-season ingredients," she says. Sampson, who formerly cooked at Oliveto in Oakland, helped organize the first mass locavore experiment in August 2005, which drew about 200 participants (last year’s involved more than a thousand). Because fresh produce is bountiful year-round in the Bay Area, eating locally in the winter is relatively easy, Sampson says: "I’m not a planner, but I do some canning and pickling." Her biggest challenge: "There are so many greens here I haven’t seen before. Eating locally turns you on to new ingredients."
Jeremy Silansky started on the locavore track at a young age. "I’d watch Julia Child cook on TV and see my grandpa slaughter chickens," he says. As chef de cuisine at American Flatbread pizzeria—whose owner, George Schenk, cofounded the Mad River Valley Localvore Project—Silansky is committed to eating locally. To do so throughout the winter requires extra planning and a good network of farmers. Silansky cans tomatoes from his garden and freezes local corn. For fresh produce, he relies on Pete’s Greens in nearby Craftsbury, which cold-cellars vegetables like beets throughout the season. And instead of using balsamic vinegar and sugar, Silansky opts for cider vinegar from Champlain Orchard and maple syrup from Easty Long. "For me, it creates a more intimate experience," he says.