The Frugal Locals

Is “eat local” really a challenge in the Bay Area?

I was filled with envy and despair reading the San Francisco Chronicle’s food section this week, which details the “travails” of three households that took part in a test of the Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge, which posits that, although farm-raised meats and pastured eggs may be twice as expensive as their nonlocal, industrial versions, it is possible for a family of three to eat locally for $144 per week.

Enthusiastic eaters Rob and Debbie Morris conveniently have a lemon tree, as well as pots of herbs. They make their own vinegar and harvest their own salt. Here is a lunch that cost just over $13 for three people. Warning: The following could cause extreme feelings of contentment (if you live in the Bay Area) or envy (if you live anywhere else).

First came gazpacho, made from a freezer stash of last summer’s roast tomatoes, plus minced Fully Belly radish and a flash of Happy Quail Farms habanero powder.

Then, the salad: baby romaine and roasted baby beets from Marin Roots, with Full Belly toasted walnuts and a sprinkling of Point Reyes Farmstead blue cheese.

Main course: chicken hash, made from leftovers of a Martinelli bird roasted for the Day One dinner, Prather Ranch bacon for flavor, and David Little potatoes, the end of last year’s crop.

We were so full we could have easily skipped dessert — but who could resist trying bay leaf-infused yogurt made from Clover Stornetta milk sweetened with Marshall’s Farm honey?

Compare this to the memoir by Phoebe Nobles on Salon, in which she becomes the superhero Spargelfrau by eating asparagus every single day for two months. Why? She was honoring the return of vegetables after the barren Michigan winter, during which “[e]verything … comes from a Sysco truck, along with millions of Styrofoam coffee cups.”

The asparagus is all that’s here, in the farmer’s market in May, aside from a few stalks of rhubarb. We are still wobbly on our indoor legs. Under our eyes are deep circles of leftover winter despair. We have been waiting so long for a vegetable or fruit.

Good luck with your own locavore adventures, whether you’re shopping at the farmers’ market, gathering your mushrooms in the forest, or simply growing your own.

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