This past winter was the first in 5 years that I didn’t have a CSA. My visits to the grocery store for the last few months have been uninspired and unproductive – I simply didn’t know what to buy – as I had become so accustomed to nature and the seasons making the decisions for me. I love to cook and unpacking those farm boxes each week (or month, depending on the season) got the creative juices flowing as I imagined all the possibilities!
Needless to say, with a lack of inspiration and vacant trips to the grocery store, I’ve gotten into a food rut. I haven’t been cooking a lot and I haven’t been eating the way I like to eat – in a way that makes my body feel good and my heart-mind feel inspired, grateful and connected to myself and my locale.
In anticipation of a new CSA season, and to give myself a little boost, for self-care around Seattle this week, I chose a Lunch Break Cooking Class with Rachael Coyle at Book Larder.
What is seasonal, local eating?
Local eating is a practice of mostly eating foods that are available in your region. (Some say 100 miles radius, some consider their locale to be their state or coast, etc.). Depending on how you define your region, eating local means eating seasonal as well.
Why eat locally and seasonally?
Eating locally and seasonally is easier on the environment, since foods do not have to travel as far to reach consumers. And, because these foods don’t travel, they are often less expensive and have a much better taste. There is nothing better than eating a tomato just off the vine on a hot summer day, right? When you eat local and seasonal, most of your food will have this same amazing freshness, making even the simplest of recipes delightful (the perfect description of the meal I had at Book Larder: roasted rabini salad with chopped walnuts and a soft-boiled egg, steamed clams with shallots and herb focaccia for dipping, finished off by vanilla bean panna cotta with rhubarb sauce). Fresh food can also be a health booster because more nutrients are still present in the food when consumed as opposed to a fresh item that has traveled a long distance and has therefore started to degrade.
A more subtle, experiential reason to eat locally and seasonally is a connection to the rhythm of the seasons and the region where you live. Over many years of being a CSA subscriber, I have come to look forward to certain items that only appear at a certain time. And to more deeply understand the energy of a season and the nourishment food growing at that time can bring. Example, winter is a cold, damp time here in Seattle, so nourishing myself with hearty stews cooked with seasonal root vegetables is just the thing.
How to eat seasonally and locally?
There are so many ways to include local and seasonal items in your weekly meals! If you like eating out, many restaurants, especially in the Pacific Northwest, focus on seasonal ingredients. I like to eat out at places like this to get inspiration for my at-home cooking. And, for at home, there are an abundance of farmers markets and CSA options all around. Do an internet search, talk to your friends or look for flyers on bulletin boards. Lastly, many grocery stores are beginning to highlight local products, making it easier to eat locally and with the season, no matter where you shop.
Highlight for me
The entire meal was heavenly and absolutely perfect in that moment. I loved sitting down to a large table with nine other women. Though most of us were strangers to each other, there was something very familial about coming together to eat. Of the food, I particularly enjoyed the clams. As a child growing up in Maine, we used to eat steamers in the summer. Those clams are big with necks that most people remove before eating. I never liked eating them, partly because of the necks, but also because they were big and gritty and ugly to me. Years later, as a waitress at a local brew pub, I cleared away bowls and bowls of the sloppy nectar and shells from steamers and would walk out at the end of my shift filthy from the mess. Ugh. I never thought I could enjoy clams again, let alone want to cook them myself! But I did and I do! And I will.