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Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Friday, April 30, 2010

Eat Local First

My grandparents farmed their own land for years, living in the rural hills of Georgia. Together, they raised 10 children. My uncle told me once about how my grandmother would bring her young sons with her to the fields to work, and she would carefully wrap her youngest child in a blanket and place him in a laundry basket that she would drag along with her as she picked each row. In the 1940's both child care and work were scarce.

When they moved north, they farmed their plot of land in Farmington, which, back then, was still pretty rural in comparison to the suburban feel it has today. They raised chickens and rabbits and other livestock, they worked tirelessly in their “garden” (a huge 1 acre plot of carefully tilled and nurtured soil that featured everything from corn, green and wax beans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuces and greens to even grapes!

Everything that was harvested was either eaten right away or canned for the winter months. I remember the way the food tasted from their garden, but I wish that I were able to taste it now that I can appreciate how truly special it was. I was about 8 years old and had no idea that the green beans my grandmother brought over for us to enjoy were something more than just a green bean. Now as a chef, I can appreciate it so much more.
To this day, I’ve never had a green bean that tasted better than what my grandmother made.

My other grandmother owns a farm in Ohio farmed by a family who grows soybeans, so I guess you could say that a sensitivity and appreciation for farming and local foods are in my DNA, but unfortunately for me, my thumb is not very green. Luckily for me, there are hundreds of farmers and food manufacturers who grow and produce their delicious foods right here in Michigan.

“Eating local” is about a lot more than just taste. There are many reasons to “go local” but this column will discuss four major issues. Think these as the four legs of a beautiful handcrafted dining table: Environment, Economy, Community & Taste.

Because of the globalization of the food supply, Detroiters can get a bright red tomato in January or jewel-colored strawberries in December. It seems that the only thing growing in Detroit (or in Michigan) during the winter months is unemployment and other unfortunate and unwelcome cases of blight, so we certainly aren’t harvesting any peaches or nectarines. That being said, the produce many of us enjoy in the “off season” has been grown hundreds or thousands of miles away, then flown or trucked all of that distance just to make it to the produce section of your favorite grocery store. If you’re someone who’s interested in your environmental footprint, then maybe plums in February aren’t the best bet (unless you canned them last summer). Also, many fruits and vegetables lose many of their important nutrients in fewer than 5 days, so buying closer to home is also healthier too.

The economy is another great reason to go local. According to Select Michigan, if every Michigan family would spend just $10 a week of their grocery budget on foods & products grown and manufactured in our state, it would keep over $37 million new dollars each week working for you right here at home. For instance, instead of buying Domino sugar, consider Pioneer. Select fruits and vegetables that are grown on a local farm. Calder & Guernsey dairy products are both available at Holiday Market, so purchasing your milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy products is just a trip to the grocery store.

Buying local is a great way to reconnect ourselves to our food and our community. Something as simple as an ice cream cone on a beautiful summer day ensures that our friends and neighbors can keep working and putting food on their dinner tables each night. Putting a “face” behind our foods really brings the dining experience home to many of us. So many people love food because of what it symbolizes – entertaining and spending quality time with family and friends. Sharing, talking, savoring our favorite foods together is about hospitality, love and generosity. Buying local is the embodiment of all of those things. What could be better?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how absolutely delicious fresh local food is! You really CAN taste the difference. Each year, we teach a local foods cooking class called “Eat Local First”. This class features some of our favorite recipes that incorporate seasonal ingredients. Also, for your convenience, Holiday Market features local foods and ingredients with a “Made/Grown in Michigan” sign.

To learn more about the Mirepoix Cooking School or to register for a class, go to www.mirepoixcookingschool.com.

1 Comments:

Blogger Humberto said...

I can tell if a potato is from Michigan or Idaho, just by biting into it raw. I do this six times per day, just to keep my skills sharp.

May 1, 2010 at 8:15 PM 

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