Using all local ingredients in Massachusetts is no simple task, and we are often asked why we bother.
The simple answer strikes to the heart of the company's mission:
To support the growth of farms and farmers, and increase the value of food in the area where we live, and eat.It’s a selfish mission, really: we want to eat real food, and we want to offer our family and friends that same opportunity. We are grateful every day for the farmers we buy our food from, and they are grateful for us. It is a simple, solid relationship of which we are proud. We would be honored to include you on the list of patrons who also care to put their money into food value.
Why Do I Eat Local?
- Food that has been harvested, processed and preserved quickly loses its flavour
- Subtle notes disappear and lots of flavour enhancers, like salt and MSG, are needed to make it taste like anything
- As a chef I want the food that tastes the best to begin with so my food tastes great without having to be heavily salted
- When you support local food makers, and go to places where they gather to sell food, you get the benefit of interacting with like minded people and supporting the community in which you live.
- If you know your farmer and you know your food you have good friends for life.
- Putting your money directly into the hands of local makers insures a local economy to be enjoyed by everyone.
- When food is picked and processed it loses much of it’s vital nutritive benefits.
- Milk is less nutritive when it’s been processed too.
- Studies have shown that as soon as some vegetables are picked they begin to lose nutrients. And while sweet potatoes may prove an exception to this rule, the high-heat high-pressure process of canning vegetables takes out many vital enzymes, vitamins, and minerals in fruits and vegetables.
- We now know that the pollen contained in local raw honey can protect against seasonal allergies, and grass fed meat is leaner than factory farmed meat and also contains higher amounts of iron, vitamin A, and omega fatty acids.
I know that it is not practical or realistic to eat all local food every day for every meal if you live in a city, far from a farm. But just because it is hard to be perfect doesn’t mean that it is not worth making an effort to eat locally produced foods, and foods in season. Strawberries from huge factory farms in California appear year round at Whole Foods all over New England. Just because they are there doesn’t mean it is right to buy them. As a culture we are accustomed to being able to have whatever we want whenever we want it, but it is a fuel heavy and wasteful way that we have learned to live.
The only way to fix this enormously broken system we are so deeply entrenched in is to make change every day, wherever we can. That is why I eat local.
I grew up eating good food. My mom cooked dinner every night from scratch. Take out was unheard of and we rarely ate at restaurants. We dined on roasted chicken and potatoes, meat loaf with katsup and beans, fresh salad with every meal. I was admonished to “eat my yellow vegetable”. I learned to cook from my mother, and Julia Child. There was never a question of whether we would be going out for dinner.
When I left my family home I continued to cook for myself, but as I moved about the country I started to notice that there was a startling growth of strip malls and fast food and that more and more people were eating out at inexpensive chains. I began to eat fast food on a regular basis, along with the other people of my age group. I believed that the food I was eating was not particularly good, but it never occurred to me that it was actually bad for me- that it was broken in ways that I have been understanding only in the past ten years. I knew it was too salty and that salt was bad for me, but I was in my twenties and more concerned with my clothes and what kind of car I was driving than with my arterial health.
I was a short order cook, and I knew that food tasted better when I cooked it from whole ingredients, but I was not particularly concerned, because I was living in a place where lots of fresh food was available to me all the time. It was only when I travelled that I felt that I wasn’t able to feed myself in a way that was enjoyable, so I looked for salad bars and burritos when there was only fast food on offer. I counted the growing fast food joints, but didn’t really consider where they were getting all of that stuff to push out those little windows.
When I had my first child, in 2001, I started to read about artificial hormones and unnecessary antibiotics being added to milk. It was the first time I had heard of the idea that animals being raised for food were being chemically encouraged to grow faster and I got scared. What were those hormones doing to my baby, via my consumption? Where I had not been particularly concerned for my own health, suddenly there was a new reason to care- and I started to investigate the reports I had noticed. I called the larger local dairy companies and asked questions that they were not able to answer, and I got more scared. I stopped buying cheese made in middle America and ordered a dairy delivery service to bring me local milk in glass bottles.
I soon discovered that the reading and calling I was doing about milk was the tip of a nasty, broken food iceberg, with American people as the Titanic. While there is a lot of information circulating now about the problems with food systems, both domestically and nationally, in 2001 they were relatively scattered and terrifying missiles of information that I found. First “Fast Food Nation” and then “Supersize Me” appeared and I devoured the information, adding it to the arsenal of concern I was assembling in my mind. Michael Pollan wrote “Omnivores Dilemma” and sealed the deal. I encouraged my parents to stop purchasing dairy they did not know the origin of. We talked about CFOs and feedlots and found local meat and fish to replace the commercial stuff we had been eating.
I read more about Monsanto, and round up ready seed, and I began to pay closer attention to vegetables. I did some research about the peeled baby carrot and learned that it was a lot better to eat a whole carrot, but that there was no actual science to back up this fact. I was living on a small island and around me other people were starting to worry too, so I talked to them, and we began to get excited about shopping directly from the farms around us, and refusing to support expensive food being imported from far away.
In 2005 I moved from that little island back to the city where I had been raised. I had two children and needed to work and be available to them, so I took the personal chef model I had seen developing in recent years and began to cook privately for families, one at a time. I shopped at farmers markets when I could, although there were not many to choose from, and none in the winter. I arranged to get food from farms when there were no markets and started a bi-weekly Meat Meet with a farmers from central MA so that I could continue to get antibiotic and hormone free meat all winter long. Cuisine en Locale, my personal chef service, started with a dedication to the freshest, and most safe foods- initially buying largely organic, and slowly segueing to local products as they became increasingly available.
In the past 7 years the amount of local food coming into the city where I live has grown incalculably. One farmers market, two, five, twelve… summertime now finds local food available every day, and this year we have multiple winter markets. People are becoming increasingly concerned and dedicated to local food and farms. As awareness of the problems with how Americans get their food has increased, so has the pushback from the corporations who control food production and are responsible for turning food into a mechanized product. The media is in conflict about what is right- is it better to make lots of food to feed lots of people inexpensively if the food is not good for them? Is it even possible to raise enough food on small farms to feed the number of people who live in cities today? If it is not a simple fix, it is even worth doing? These are tough questions and the answers are always going to be subjective, but I believe that the right thing to do is to eat food grown within your local vicinity, whatever that may be based on where you live.