I, Locavore -- Part One
A locavore, of course, is a person who's greatest priority, food-wise, is to purchase wholesome products made as close to home as possible. Partly, this a intended to reduce one's carbon footprint, but it's also out of repulsion at the practice of growing food on one side of the globe and then sending it to the other, replacing fields in Third World countries that once grew staples for local consumption with luxury agricultural products for foreigners. Anyway, food is healthier when eaten soon after it's plucked from the ground, as the reasoning goes, and a berry shipped from Chile and consumed in New York during wintertime is selfish, exploitative, and expensive - even if it's labeled "organic."
But to qualify as a locavore, does it mean you have to purchase your groceries in the local farmers market and pay $10 apiece for pork chops and $4 for every pound of potatoes? I set out to see what local products are still available in regular supermarkets, ignoring such other considerations as organic status and humane production methods. So, visiting every supermarket and bodega I could find, I went locavoric, enjoying cash savings in the process. The first local foodstuffs I stumbled on came from dairies, but I'll look at other products in further columns.
Despite the incursion of national dairies like Tuscan and Horizon, and milk irradiated to lengthen its shelf life, there are still dairies in The Catskills, Eastern Pennsylvania, and New England that do it the old fashioned way, milking local cows and making undoctored dairy products. One has to look no further than Cabot Creamery in Cabot, Vermont (265 miles away), to find a line of milk, butter, and cheeses that are produced relatively close to my home in New York City. But could I do better?
Looking for small creameries that produce dairy products from local cows, I found Beaver Meadow Creamery in Du Bois, Pennsylvania (230 miles away). Their AA butter is sweet and salty, and exhibits an old fashioned taste that delights me. Even better, the price was only $3.25 per pound, much better than the $5 I was used to paying for Land-O-Lakes or Breakstone. At another grocer, I found eggs from McMahon's Farm in Hopewell Junction, New York (60 miles away!!). The yolks set up high and bright yellow when I fried them. I also discovered milk from Welsh Farms in Wallington, New Jersey, a dairy founded in 1891 that pledges their dairy farmers use no bovine growth hormone. And the dairy is a scant nine miles from Manhattan.
Finally, we have New York state cheddar. This product is readily available in groceries and specialty cheese stores, and I can buy it in preference to Wisconsin cheddar, English cheddar, Canadian cheddar, or even Australian cheddar. And, at $3.99 per pound, New York cheddar is cheaper than the other varieties. That doesn't mean I'm going to start grating it on my pasta, though.
Next: Rediscovering Long Island potatoes