Going Locavore in St. Louis for Lent

First, know that I’m not actually Catholic, but currently I teach at a Catholic High School, and me being me, I find the tradition of Lent to be awesome. At least the whole part where you give up something for forty days. I’m a bit of a glutton for giving up things. I like to step away from technology for sustained periods of time. I like to experiment with giving up and reintroducing various foods to see how my body handles them. I give up TV sometimes. Sugar most all of the time. And on and on! So, this year, my boyfriend was talking about Lent and what he’s giving up and it got me thinking. What is something that could be a good challenge for me? That I’m interested in going without? And it hit me.

100% Locally-sourced food! OK, so when I first thought about this, I got really excited. The chicken, beef, pork and eggs that I buy are all locally sourced, which is awesome. But then I started thinking. The salad greens I eat every day are not locally sourced. Nor are the frozen veggies I steam each night for dinner. And what about the olive oil I use on those salads, or the butter? The coconut milk? The extras like sashimi and kombucha that I enjoy? I quickly realized that, though I source some big things locally, a large portion of my food does not come locally. Furthermore, I’m going to be embarking on my locavore mission during the tail-end of winter, which really probably won’t fully thaw out until the end of March. This means that the local stores of foods I have access to could be pretty bare AND not much is growing currently, obviously! Challenges upon challenges. But, I am someone who thrives on challenges, so I say bring it on!
Thus, during Lent I will only shop at Local Harvest Grocery and farmers markets that are still open (Soulard Farmer’s Market, for example). From cooking fats to veggies to meats to dairy, I will source these from what is locally available and eschew all else. This means that my routine will need to be adjusted a bit and I’ll have the opportunity to experiment with new recipes and new food combinations. This is something I’m excited about. I’ll also have to cook in bulk A LOT more.
I’m interested in approaching this experiment from multiple angles, like:
  • How nutritious is my diet when I’m eating solely local foods? Especially during winter. (And my definition of nutritious may be quite different from yours — I align much more with the whole Primal way of eating (Mark Sisson) as well as The Personal Paleo Approach (Chris Kresser) and Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions (a la The Weston Price Foundation).
  • How easy is it to source locally in St. Louis, MO? This involves ease by which I can get local food, the ability of getting foods direct from farmer, the recipes I use to craft together meals, etc.
  • How cost effective is it to go local? My grocery bill is consistently my highest expense, but that’s also because I invest in my health by investing in good quality food (read: grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic). Will my grocery bill be lower?
  • Where ARE the things I buy coming from? I.e. who are these farmers that are stocking the Local Harvest grocery shelves? What are their stories?
I will look at these questions and blog about them and my experiences. I’d like this experiment to also serve as a how-to guide for those that are looking to embark on the same journey. I think a locavore movement really encompasses, or can really encompass, a lot of other movements: organic, slow food, grass-fed, sustainability, etc. My aspirations would be to continue after the forty days of lent, especially as farms begin producing produce (ha) and I begin growing produce in my own garden. I’d like to trace local eating as we pass through the seasons, touching on produce that is currently in season, where to get it, how to cook it, and then too as it gets cooler, share my experiments with preservation. I’m already getting to be a huge fermentation junkie, and I’d love to freeze/ferment/can big batches of veggies to last me through the winter. This, I think will make all the difference.
But, for now, I will start in winter and work with what I have currently available.
A couple of caveats, of course. I can see, for example, removing butter from my cooking repertoire unless I can make it myself from local milk (preferably grass-fed cows), but where does one draw the line? For example, it will probably be impossible for me to ever get salt locally or other spices, like turmeric and cumin. Of course, these things can be grown and I will explore doing that, but for the time being I think I will exclude certain spices and salt from needing to be local. I WILL source these from Local Harvest instead of a bigger grocery like Whole Foods as I think that will be really important during this experiment. But there are certain lines that I feel must be drawn!
Additionally, if I go out to eat or am given something to eat or am cooked for, I will not require my food to be local. My focus will be on buying my own food locally, but I don’t want to impose this requirement on my friends and family. This makes for an easier and less stressful time. It also helps me remember that life can’t be too rigid and one has to make concessions at times for those around them. That being said, I don’t go out to eat often (preferring to cook and make my own meals), so this won’t be too big of a thing, I think.
So there. A brief explanation of my plan for buying my food locally for Lent (and maybe beyond!). Join me on this journey as I explore more fully the St. Louis local scene.
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