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One Local Summer: Keeping it Real and Keeping It Simple

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:13am

I was thinking about dropping out of One Local Summer. Not because I don't cook with locally-sourced ingredients, but because my cooking is hardly the thing to write home about. In my house, I think through the week something like this: "a pasta thing, a rice thing, an egg thing, a meat or tofu and two sides, a soup, a pizza thing or a something totally different thing, and, if I'm lucky and we haven't eaten all the leftovers for lunch, a Week in Review." That's the week.

Which night is which changes. And the exact ingredients of each meal are completely dependent on what I find in the garden, in the CSA box, in the freezer, and at the farmers market. "A pasta thing" may have sausage, peas and spinach and a creamy sauce (every meal has a vegetarian version for me, which has been really no big deal. So I throw in beans instead of sausage). It may have homemade pesto and diced tomatoes. It may be a ravioli with garden sage and homemade butter (shake cream in a jar. Not hard). Who knows? Who cares? It's still "a pasta thing" when my family asks if I have planned anything for dinner. And chances are, they'll never have the exact meal again, since I rarely use a recipe and the very nature of fresh, local ingredients means the meals are never really the same twice. So we appreciate each one on its own merits.

Hardly any of my meals are completely local, but just about every single snack and meal has something local, right down to the lemon balm and peppermint iced tea. Many of the meals, especially "a pasta thing" and "a rice thing," are hardly photogenic. So after these first few weeks, when I have presented "an egg thing" (a frittata), a soup, a meat or tofu and two sides, and something completely different (cheesy grits casserole) as One Local Summer meals, I wonder just how exciting the rest will be to you. There will no doubt be a pizza. "A rice thing," which very well may feature farro or quinoa instead of rice. Homemade veggie burgers, and other vegetarian choices. And more of "a pasta thing, "an egg thing" and soup (a nice summer gazpacho, perhaps?).

So I thought of dropping out, of letting the real chefs among the bloggers participating in One Local Summer inspire you. But I've decided to stay, and to just do what I do, and hope perhaps it inspires someone to let loose a little and have some fun in the kitchen. To keep it simple and real. To discover that sauteeing greens takes no time at all and can then be thrown into "an egg thing," "a pasta thing" or "a rice thing" with equal ease. That taking care of dinner takes care of lunch (there are always leftovers around). That having fresh, local produce, grains, meats, and dairy around means whipping up a local meal is not a big deal. That sometimes it's fast--mere minutes to cut some fresh greens, spread them with local, fresh chevre and a dollop of honey--and sometimes it's an all-day affair, but that it's always a pleasure, hardly a chore.

So, no, you don't have to cook for the week on Sunday, as a reporter named Leslie Kaufman recently wrote in her article, "Mom Puts Family on Her Food Plan" in the New York Times. And, no, you don't have to spend a fortune. And, no you don't have to go to cooking school. In fact, you don't even have to cook. It's pretty much impossible to beat a fresh, local salad with warm-from-the-vine crops. Or the occasional homemade ice cream for dinner :)
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