When it comes to food, Chenango County has more to offer than people think.
To highlight Chenangoís bounty of locally produced food items Ė and to encourage people to spend their dollars within the community Ė Opportunities for Chenango and Cornell Cooperative Extension are putting on an ďEat Local ChallengeĒ Sept. 10-16. Equipped with a handbook and an eat local ďpassportĒ to guide them to the numerous products made throughout the county, participants will incorporate as much locally produced food into their daily diets as possible and keep a log charting their experience.
The Evening Sun staff is taking the challenge and will be giving daily updates on their progress in both the print and on-line editions of the paper throughout the week.
Itís only the first day of the ďEat LocalĒ challenge and Iím already going to cheat. Well, not really.
My first meal is going to come from Hoppieís in Oxford, who, along with several other area restaurants, put together special menu items this week comprised of locally grown and raised ingredients.
Between a busy last week and Colorscape all weekend, I just didnít have a chance to get any shopping done, which I plan to start this afternoon. And to be honest, that may be the most challenging aspect of this entire week, considering the diverse selection of food products the over 70 different farms and specialty shops in the county offer.
Goal-wise, I hope to incorporate local foods into 75 percent of my diet. That will be a considerable change for me, considering 75 percent of my diet currently comes from the China House and nameless vending machines.
Thatís another reason why this challenge will be good for me. Itís forcing me to eat healthier. Fast food is an easy, and cheap, answer to the question ďwhat do I want?Ē for lunch and dinner. This will be a good way to take a break from the habit, and maybe start to break it all together.
Other good Ė and necessary Ė habits I hope to pick up along the way; shopping and cooking (with idea of creating actual meals, and not just buying and eating items I can rip into the second I get home).
This was a great idea that I think will be beneficial to me, and it will truly be a challenge.
The ďEat LocalĒ challenge begins today, and I have to admit, so far, Iím not off to the best start. With a plethora of weekend activities, including Colorscape Chenango, my nephewís birthday party and the long and arduous task of directing my husband on how to build that new room, I had little time to go shopping.
So before I go any further, Iíd better admit the areas where Iíve already blurred the line between local and not so local. Despite the fact that I have not yet stopped at Chenango Roasters (theyíre closed on Sundays), Iím going to help myself to a cup of coffee this morning and pretend itís local, because I fully intend to visit the South Otselic business today. Also, I doubt the powdered creamer in the break room was manufactured locally (or even during this century), so I might as well admit that I plan to cheat and use that until I have a chance to buy some fresh half and half from one of the local merchants specializing in dairy products.
Iíve been a little nervous about the idea to try to use only locally grown products for all of my cooking needs, and about the fact that Iím actually going to have to cook every night. I have little time for shopping now, and Iím afraid this challenge may make it more difficult to fit my shopping into the allotted time, but after coming home from a grocery store a few nights ago with rotten produce and cheese that had been melted and re-congealed, the idea of having fresh products direct from the growers has a lot more appeal.
So, armed with my Guide to Locally Grown Products and my Bullthistle Bounty discount card, I plan to spend the day shopping and bring home enough local products to last me the week.
In the spirit of being a conscious consumer, Iíll be attempting to eat only local foods ... sounds easy enough.
I once tried being a vegetarian for about two weeks, but it turns out it wasnít really for me. At the beginning of summer I tried eating only, if not mostly, organic food in an attempt to clean up some of my ridiculous college eating habits that still linger from over two years ago. Mixed success; I still refuse most store bought non-organic beef and dairy, unless Iím out for special occasion or Iím desperate. Trust me, you really do want to know the things they do to your meat and dairy before you eat it. I had no idea until I covered a story on the difference between the non-chemical, all natural, organic farming and the processed, chemically enhanced, synthesized, antibiotic drenched, hormone grown, gas packaged and preserved farming.
My girlfriend Brooke also happens to be a keen (and beautiful) vegetarian and her family often visits local farmerís markets and grow a number of vegetable themselves in their large garden. In fact they donated quite a few tomatoes, squashes and cucumbers to my cause this week. Their influences combined with my recent revelation on the benefits of eating local and eating clean have made me a very conscious eater.
On any given day Iíll usually grab a piece of fruit on my way out the door. On occasion Iíll skip over to Garfís and get myself a bagel before work at 7 a.m. I usually donít eat again until I get out of work around 4 or 5 p.m. but sometimes Iíll get lunch at a local restaurant with my co-workers. When I get home Iíll have more fruit or make something with some kind of protein, chicken or seafood, although on a number of days Iíll just eat vegetables or fruit. When I go out to eat I usually break all the rules and eat whatever. (About three times a week)
I replaced all my usual fruit and veggies this week with produce from the Norwich Farmers Market and have decided to try and eat completely local for the entire week, morning, day and night. I even cut out my morning coffee until I can find a suitable replacement. (Too bad it didnít occur to me until I got here this morning.)