Friday, January 25, 2008

Dark Days: The Upside and Downside to Eating Local

This week I experienced both ups and downs in the eating local scene. My replacement pasta maker finally arrived and so I gathered ingredients to make totally local pasta.

First off was eggs. The last time I was at the meat market, I noticed that they were again carrying local eggs from pastured chickens. I’ve purchased a couple dozen grocery store eggs after my local supply dried up and they have just not been the same. Monday, I happily drove to the meat market to get a dozen "real" eggs. They were all out. The farmer comes on Wednesday. Wednesday, I ran errands with Munchkin and dropped by the meat market. It was 11:15, and the eggs weren’t there, yet. I drove back again after lunch. I got my local eggs, but it took me three trips to the store. This cuts down on food miles?

To make local pasta, I also needed local flour. With great expectations, I received my first order from Azure Farms on Tuesday. I had to drive halfway across town to the pickup site, but the price of my gas beats the price I would have had to pay to have the 30 pound box shipped. I’d like to just combine the pickup with other errands, but the lady who hosts the pickup site wants orders picked up the same day after the 4pm delivery and it means a special trip for us. When I got home, I discovered that two items I wanted the most had not been included. Out of stock. I also discovered I forgot to order the pastry flour! I wasn’t charged for the missing items, but there is only one delivery each month and so if I want the items, I have to place another $40 order next month and hope they come. The rest of my order looked good, even the bags of local, organic dried beans that were about double the size (the bags, not the beans) I had anticipated. Let’s just say that I’d better find some new ways to cook with beans! I also got some Oregon flour, just not the type the pasta recipe calls for. And the $3 bag of local flour looked really small.

Friday afternoon I bravely set about making the pasta. Intrigued by Laura’s egg photo, I used local eggs along with one grocery egg for comparison. If depth of color defines a good egg, the Omega-3 grocery egg yolk was a lovely orange and the local, pastured, three-trips-to-the-meat-market egg yolks were pale yellow. Don’t know quite what to make of that.

Anyway, I mixed the eggs with half a bag of the Oregon flour and waited an hour for the dough to do whatever it is that dough does while it rests. Then, with some fear and trepidation and with a little boy for an audience, I put together the pasta maker and started to work. What fun! It couldn't have been easier and the noodles looked so nice that Munchkin wanted to eat them raw. (I made him wait until they were cooked, of course, but he gobbled them up at dinnertime.) The whole process minus the time to mix the dough took under 30 minutes, and that included clean-up and reading the instructions multiple times. The pasta tasted good even though it needed about a minute more cooking time, and I’m already looking forward to making more and experimenting with types of flour. I never would have thought to try anything like this before the Dark Days challenge, so the fun we had creating real pasta was a definite "upside" to eating more local, not to mention the taste!

Others doing the Dark Days challenge are making wonderful meals. If you want to read about some amazing cooking, complete with gorgeous photos, check out the summary that should be up on the Urban Hennery website by Sunday night. As for me, for the past two weeks, I don’t have a Dark Days all-local meal to report, but I’ve learned how to make bagels, bread and pasta from scratch. I can live with that.


Green Bean said...

Wow! Pasta from scratch. Very cool. I might think about that. Isn't it cool how trying to cook local makes you more willing to try things that previously seemed impossible. :)

Donna said...

Green bean: Thanks for the comment. Yes, it is very cool! My 2/2 post tells about how I also made my own refried beans for the first time!