In New York Local: Eating…

In New York Local: Eating the fruits of the five boroughs, New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik goes hyperlocal and lives to tell us about it:

You go local in Berkeley, you’re gonna eat. I had been curious to see what might happen if you tried to squeeze food out of what looked mostly like bricks and steel girders and shoes in trees. I wanted to do it partly to see if it could be done (as an episode of what would be called on ESPN “X-treme Localism”), partly as a way of exploring the economics and aesthetics of localism more generally, and partly to see if perhaps the implicit anti-urban prejudices lurking in the localist movement could be leached away by some city-bred purposefulness. If you could eat that way here, you could do it anywhere.

Each day I get less and less interested in localism, perhaps in direct correlation to its rise in popularity and its growing army of fanatics.

13 thoughts on “In New York Local: Eating…

  1. Quoting Feynman – What do you care what other people think? Use your moral compass to guide you. The time you were vegan, was that because it was a fad? Perhaps you will eat only imported foods just to show these fanatics.
    Also about eating foods grandma would recognize. I wonder what she would think about asparagus gel or oyster foam or lavender air from a pillow that is served with the beef. Or whatever the next big idea some chef will cook up. My gran would have laughed.
    When Starbucks changed their decor, did the taste change? After all food primarily is about taste and all else becomes secondary.
    Perhaps you should stop and just enjoy the simplicity of humble food and not try to get on the next big thing.

  2. I know what you meant. Each day I get less and less interested in reading about localism (I admit I haven’t even read the article yet and a couple of months ago I would have stopped whatever I was doing until I got to the end).
    But that doesn’t change that, little by little, and certainly never to the point of fanatacism, my refrigerator is getting more and more local. It started with the CSA, then the CSA farmer’s neighbor’s honey and syrup, then another neighbor’s chickens, then a weekly walk to the farmer’s market for a pound of local beef… and next spring, eggs from my own chickens.
    Do I still buy coffee and olive oil and avocados and salt and pepper and many other things that could never grow here? Of course.

  3. I think you’re potentially throwing the baby out with the bath water. Just b/c ‘everyone’ is talking about localism doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting or important.

  4. My point is simply I’m losing interest in reading all the same stories about an issue I already understand and have been aware of for a long time. I’ve been a CSA member in both NY and CA, and I shop at my local farmer’s market year-round. I guess what I’m tired of is reading the same stuff over and over. And I’m tired of the people (Gopnik gets into this in his piece) who are fanatic about localism and live in places where it’s easy to do, like California, and forget that in places like New York it’s much harder — unless we spend the summer putting up all kinds of preserves in our tiny apartments, or spend the winter eating squash. Also food miles may not be the issue locavores think it is. That’s my point.

  5. I was always under the impression that eating more food that is grown locally is only a part of sustainability. And true, we’re reading a lot of the same fluff right now about how eating locally is good for you and better for the environment and whatever (and these same articles all but ignore places that aren’t California), but keep in mind that it took decades for global warming/climate change to become accepted and acknowledged as fact by the mainstream media. Until the masses are beaten over the heads (or the ideas are subtly massaged in over time), they just won’t “get it” because there are too many other pressing issues for them unless its a crisis.
    The locavore fanatics are no better than people who don’t give a hoot about where their food comes from; sustanability in reality requires a much more nuanced view on everything – the “Marco Polo” exemptions (olive oil, coffee, spices, etc.) seem like they would be a good starting point.

  6. In some ways I see your point–I’m sure you saw the NY Magazine article about the wacko brooklyn dude? Ridiculous.
    On the other hand, I think the more articles about localism, the better–as Douglas sez, the message may take awhile to permeate the general populous. However, I think articles like Gopnik’s and NY Mag don’t help the message permeate–it makes localism seem weird and snobby (who has the time??). Perhaps articles on how to fit reasonable localism into your diet more frequently–though they might be old news to those of us who’ve been doing it for awhile–would be more useful to change the wider population’s eating habits.

  7. From My Crowd, a Harper’s piece by Bill Wasik, “inventor” of the Flash Mob:
    “[…] a backlash was the only avenue by which [journalists] could advance the story. […] It followed inexorably from the subconscious logic of contemporary journalism: just as a popular president requires momentous-looking photo spreads in newsweeklies, or as the rise of a new technology requires think-pieces about its threat to the very fabric of society, so a fad like the flash mob requires a backlash.”
    This is exactly what localism is suffering at the moment. Journalists are compelled to write something new on the topic, something that advances the narrative. Some might balk at the term “fad”, but the Localvore thing definitely conforms that model in several ways. When it becomes fodder for the CBS Early Show, you know the peak can’t be far away. (Sorry, Jo, I don’t mean to imply that you’re fodder.)
    BTW, I’m not bashing journalists or “the media”–this is just what they do.
    I wish I had a better link to the full story. If you’re a subscriber you can view it here.

  8. “I’m tired of reading all these stories about………”
    I’d argue that the way we learn about the larger world is beyond broken. It’s not just stories about food. The confluence of money, markets, advertising, and extraction make a pretty potent drink. Too bad it tastes like shit.

  9. Sometimes all these article do feel like they’re preaching to the converted, for those of us who’ve been making the so-called sustainability effort for a while. I think the problem is that zealotry is unattractive at best, and at worst, ridiculous. All trade is not bad by definition, just because it requires some fuel mileage; much more foolish is the guy already cited whose article appears in New York Magazine — he created his Brooklyn farm at a cost of $11,000 and wasn’t even able, really to sustain a month’s worth of meals for himself, much less his family. What a silly, dilettante experiment. That money could have actually fed a lot of hungry people. The fact is, many of us live in cities. And we’re probably not going to create lead-contaminated farms within cities in order to feed the populace. Food needs to be transported.
    Meg’s point is that California smugness about local eating doesn’t take NY into account — and then imagine Canada, and Alaska, and many other regions with even shorter growing seasons than the Northeastern U.S. Trade and transport are not in and of themselves an evil — it’s the degree to which they’re used, and for what purposes, that tips the equation.
    The issue might be not to merely stop at reading or re-reading or becoming bored with articles that tread the same territory, but to actually work toward legislation that supports the food values you think are important — like a farm bill that subsidizes small farmers instead of Big Corn, so that YOUR tax dollars go toward producing carrots instead of high fructose corn syrup.

  10. Triple Amen to that, Julie. What I get most tired of reading are the words “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” and “high fructose corn syrup” on packages that are also labeled “Premium.”
    There oughta be a law.

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