Eating “locally” may seem like a trendy new fad, but among many restaurants, the idea is really not new. Recently we’ve all heard the word locavore, which Wikipedia defines as “a movement in the United States and elsewhere that spawned as interest in sustainability and eco-consciousness food consumption become more prevalent. Those who are interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market, are called locavores.”
Martine LePore, Artist Incubator at Artisan Works
But the reality is that most good restaurants have been practicing this philosophy for many generations. And it’s not as altruistic as you think. In fact most good chefs have one goal: fresh, in-season ingredients that taste good! The best way to achieve that is by altering menu items to flow with the seasons. And it’s not just produce that has seasons. Many species of fish, including swordfish, tuna, and striped bass, have seasonal peak times of harvest and quality. Of course we’ve all heard the “R” rule about clams and other mollusks. (Tastes best in months ending in “r”)
You’ll find that chefs are constantly on the lookout for reliable sources of good quality local sources. In the Rochester area, we are lucky to have a number of independent growers, cheese makers, bakers, wineries, etc., to allow chefs to “cook locally” for 8 to 9 months a year. There are also a number of organizations that pair local producers with restaurants, including the very successful “Pride of New York” organization.
Unfortunately, we now live in an era of mega grocery stores were consumers have demanded that they provide everything we could possibly want, 12 months of the year. Never mind that that tomato in January tastes like cardboard, or strawberries in December have just a slight tinge of berry flavor. Let’s not even get started on those shrink-wrapped ears of “sweet” corn!
Eating and buying locally has a number of benefits: It keeps money in our local economy, it supports local small growers and producers, it benefits ecology, and most important, it benefits our health and wellbeing! There is nothing better than looking forward to spring snap peas, that first ripe tomato in summer, or that crispy fall apple!