Not long ago I found “I’m Local” scribbled in pink on all our eggs. It felt good, it’s the same kind of feeling you get when you recycle. Local and seasonal are the two buzzwords of restaurateurs these days, the good ones at least. Given the fact that not a lot can be grown in the northeast during the long cold winters, I wonder if eating locally wouldn’t restrict my diet. I like variety when it comes to my food, and I often side with tasty over healthy.
So back to the egg, it is local as it says, but what exactly is the definition of “local?” According to a 2007 TIME article “There’s not even a standard definition of what local means. To Nabhan, who inspired many local activists with Coming Home to Eat, it means eating within a 250-mile radius of his Arizona home. Many who blog at a site called eatlocalchallenge.com aim for a stricter “100-mile diet.”
But what if I live in a place where nothing much grows in a 100-mile or 250-mile radius and everything has to be flown in? Not every land on earth is fertile. It is like we are going back to the days when you had to eat what you could produce on your land. In the days before trucks and freezers and channels of communication. Also, local is not necessarily better. If I don’t buy oranges which have been transported via a gas-guzzler all the way from California, and instead opt for ones grown in an artificial setting, say a greenhouse in my neighboring town, am I really saving any energy? Also, what about bananas? They are mostly imported from Latin America, so do I give them up altogether? All this is very confusing, more so, when you don’t want grocery shopping to take up all your weekend, and at the same time, you want to do the right thing.
I always thought my addiction to Green Mountain Coffee was a good thing, after all, they are a local New England Company with headquarters in Waterbury, Vermont. Plus they are Fair Trade Certified and Farm Identified, which is all very nice but they do source their beans from far-flung places like Kenya, Sumatra, Costa Rica and Columbia. And unless there is a magical shift in the climatic conditions and soil composition in Vermont, it is only logical that they should continue to do so. Does that mean I should go without my favorite brand of coffee or should I move to Columbia?
As it happens, I am staying put and buying Green Mountain Coffee every month. Till I get the energy and land use equations worked out, and understand the meaning of food-miles in a broader sense, I will buy local as and when feasible. But go without my morning cup of Vermont Blend? Not yet.