Sam and I traveled back to Wisconsin for a much-needed visit with our family and friends. I got to spend a few days in Madison, the place I consider my “hometown” and at my parent’s house, the place where I grew up. I was back in my original location where I became a locavore. The return to my origins, of sorts.
Looking at the wide open plains and the 40-mile views, I asked myself, Why am I a locavore? What is it about this place that made me want to eat here?
Madison is a warm, fertile environment for locavores to grow. We have really excellent year-round farmer’s markets, a great Co-op, and a bounty of CSAs, resulting in easily accessible produce for city-dwellers. Plenty of excellent restaurants feature local foods, including Le Etoile. REAP works tirelessly to promote local eating and Miriam Grunes, the head of the REAP group, is a force of locavore nature herself. Wisconsin is a farm-friendly state with acres and acres of pasturage for cows, and good soil for crops. In Madison, we were surrounded by other locavores – friends with CSA memberships, or that shopped at the COOP or that brought kale recipes to potlucks. Being a locavore was an easy as falling off a log – another thing we weirdos do in Wisconsin.
But my locavore roots go deeper than this- I realized while eating sun-warmed strawberries from my mother’s garden. I was raised a locavore. A hyper-locavore, in fact. I was raised eating each summer from the bounty of my mother’s garden: asparagus, peas, beans, tomatoes, herbs, peppers, raspberries (Oh Heaven, the Raspberries!), cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, golden oregano that supplanted the yard… Built into my childhood was the underlying premise of eating what’s seasonally available, looking forward to seasonal foods, eating seasonal foods until they were (not literally) coming out of my ears, preserving seasonal foods for eating in the off-seasons, and longing for seasonal foods when they’re not available. We were “locavores” before the word “locavore” was coined.
I was taught the tools to enable me to eat locally throughout my childhood. I remember “camping” with my classmates down at Lorado Taft (I had my first slow dance with a boy in this room…) and learning about all of the exciting nuts that you could eat that were found on the grounds. I think they just wanted cheap labor to shell black walnuts, but… The neighbor kids and I would find puffball mushrooms in the woods behind my parent’s house and cook them like scrambled eggs. I knew where ALL of the wild gooseberries grew. Mom was always canning during the summers and my sister and I would help with some of the work like frenching green beans.
Sometime during my pre-teen years, I got mad and pounded out of the house and hid away behind the raspberry canes where I knew my mom couldn’t see me from the house. My plan was to live in the garden, eating raspberries and uncooked green beans and carrots covered in dirt and never go home again… That tells you how deep this goes. At my most resourceful, I was dreaming of living off my mom’s garden.
I am a locavore because I have always been a locavore. As a kid, I was a freeloader off Mom CSA. Now, as an adult, I’m just doing what I learned when I grew up… That’s why I’m a locavore.