So it Begins

Eat Local Challenge 2010. It's been three years since I've done a real challenge - it feels good to be getting back in the groove! After my first personal challenge in 2007, I was instrumental in starting the first ever eat local challenge at North Coast Co-op in Northern California. Now I've been helping my coworkers at Willy Street develop their first ever challenge. We've got over 500 participants this year, and I couldn't be prouder!

After much deliberation, I decided what the hell, I might as well jump right in myself and go for the hardcore level. It's the hardest of all of the six levels of challenge, and dictates that everything I eat will be locally grown, with the exception of salt. It will probably be a little easier than the last time, three years ago. I have oil available to me now (sunflower oil from Driftless Organics), which I didn't have. Plus lots more meat and cheese options (I've given myself an extra exception of cheese enzymes and agents used to cure meat), wheatberries and flax from Washington Island in Door County, and I can also add maple syrup and sorghum syrup as acceptable sweeteners.

Funny thing about salt, I did some research about the possibility of finding local salt, and found that there is none. The nearest source is the Detroit Salt Mine, far under that streets of Detroit. I'm trying to convince them to send me a big hunk of freshly mined salt, but so far I've had no luck. It's used as road salt in Michigan, but their website says that it used to be sold to the food processing industry, which means it must be at least marginally edible....

Here's my breakfast Saturday, the day before the challenge began.... I usually work Saturday mornings, but I just had to get to the downtown farmer's market to ready myself for the challenge, so I took the day off. I was also trying to eat as many of the delicious foods that I won't be able to eat for a month, so of course I had to stop at The Batch for a vanilla swirl and a Limonade (imported from Italy!). Mmmm.....sugar........

I would have had coffee instead of the Limondae, but I had decided (smartly) that it would be better to taper my caffeine consumption than to go cold turkey. I only drink one cup a day regularly, but I tended to get a headache when I didn't get it, so I knew some withdrawal was in the cards. Despite my attempts to drink less day by day, I still managed to get a killer three day headache. Yesterday was my fourth day without any caffeine and my first day without a headache. It's amazing how physically addicting caffeine is, and how common..... despite knowing this, it's hard for me to imagine that I'll give up coffee for good, it just tastes so good! I guess that's even further proof of its addictive nature. I'll see how I feel at the end of the month.

After The Batch, I headed to the Dane County Farmer's Market downtown. We are blessed with one of the biggest markets in the country, which is a good thing in terms of variety, but not so good when it comes to walking down the sidewalk trying to shop. Between all the people looking at farmers' wares, people not watching where they are going, slow moving strollers, and general pokiness, I can get quite frustrated. It would be better if people actually bought things, but the fact is that most people are only there to look and to buy maybe a pastry or a beef stick....

Enough complaining. Regardless of the fact that it's impossible to walk at your own pace, this is an amazing market. The picture here only shows about 1/5 of it - it goes all around the capital square and features any kind of vegetable you might want, meats, cheeses, fruits (the apples are starting to come in!), bakery, hickory nuts, pestos, plants, etc. etc. I don't usually go because of the crowd, but when you want local variety, this is the place.

Here's what I ended up with. Local fruit is hard to come by at the Co-op, so I stocked up: apples, pears, and blueberries, plus the very first of the local apple cider! A quarter pound of hickory nuts (at $21 they aren't cheap, but you have to remember that a super nice little old man shelled them all by hand), garlic, and corn for grinding. The corn was sold as bird food, but the man who sold it to me said that he grinds it for cornbread and it turns out great.

Later in the day I ended up at our Main Street Garden, and found Mom looking sadly at a large branch of one of our peach trees that had split. The peaches aren't quite ripe, but they are sweet and crunchy - definitely edible, just more like an apple than a peach. We stripped the branch of peaches and sawed it off. Mom was glad that I had showed up "It's always better to deal with tragedies like this with someone else" Awe... This is my half of the unripe peach haul. I guess I won't be hurting for fruit!

The other ingredient run that I did this weekend was to The Washington Hotel Coffee House. They sell wheatberries and flax from Washington Island in Door County. This is almost exactly 250 miles away and pushing the "local" designation, but I'm counting it. I braved the enticing scent of freshly ground espresso and purchased a half gallon of wheatberries and 2lb of flax seed.

So here's the food I ate on day one. I'll try to post my meals every day, but I can't promise that I'll always get pictures.

Breakfast. Sugar River Yogurt with blueberries, peaches, hickory nuts, and honey.

Lunch. Chicken salad (the chicken is from The Rustic Table, our meat CSA), with green beans, black cherry tomatoes, and sunflower oil.

Dinner. This picture didn't turn out too well, and the meal has kind of a funny story.

Earlier in the day I attempted to use the cheap hand crank grain mill that I have to grind some flour from the Washington Island wheatberries. It didn't work so well, and I ended up with half ground, basically cracked wheat. I thought maybe I could use that to bread some zucchini and fry it. It didn't really work out. I tried dipping the zucchini in egg and then the wheat, and after the first slice the wheat got soggy and wouldn't stick to the zucchini. So, I just gave up and combined the egg and wheat to make a sort of omelet pancake.....tasted good, but I probably wouldn't make it again...

The zucchini, however, was amazing - fried in bacon grease with little bits of crunchy fried wheatberry.

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