Friday, January 27, 2012

Reducing Stew's Carbon Footprint

Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home-made bread --- there may be.
David Grayson, American journalist, in "Adventures in Contentment" (1907)

Locavore eating is gaining popularity judging by the number of eat-local blogs on the Net. One for my area is Southwestern Ontario Foodie that provides lots of helpful information for those of us wanting to support local food sources. Armed with its Ontario Beef Stew recipe that the blogger had detailed with names of her local suppliers for each ingredient, I went off to my favourite grocery store known for its quality produce. Little did I know that it would take some sleuthing to find local vegetables hidden among its bountiful and beautiful displays.

The first shock, causing me to stand up and take notice, came when comprehending that each of the multiple mountains of potatoes originated south of the border. How could this be when the homeland is famous for its abundant crop from the rich red soil of Prince Edward Island? I have since learned that Canada is the largest consumer of America's fresh potatoes even though we grow them commercially in every one of our provinces. It would seem that marketing plays a big role because in my grocery store the potatoes on prominent display and available for purchase by the pound are all American but peer under the display counter and you find stacks of 10-pound bags of P.E.I. potatoes. I came to buy four spuds to accompany my stew, but for the sake of principle I left the store hauling a heavy bag. That's fine, they won't go bad.

Closer to home, the stew's onions came from Holland Landing, located about 100 km away, and the mushrooms sprouted in the neighbouring town of Dundas. It took me quite a while to find local, "Ontario" carrots amidst the stacks of multiple choices of types and brands of carrots from the U.S. Again marketing seems to be key. I can't be sure where mine put down their roots, but it should be somewhere within a 100-kilometer radius from here. Unfortunately, my mission to buy local was thwarted when it came to garlic. My choices were US "Elephant" garlic that didn't seem too fresh, unnaturally white Chinese garlic, and regular-looking, seemingly fresh bulbs from Mexico. What a choice. ;-(

I can't begin to calculate the greenhouse gases emitted through the transportation of my stew's ingredients to market but it certainly could have been drastically more if I had not challenged myself to buy local. I came away feeling proud of my little accomplishment and I had some fun meeting the challenge.

By the way, the stew was delicious.


John said...

I was delighted to see that we share the word 'spuds' !
If you want to see garlic on the grand scale (for us...), take a look at:

Unfortunately there's a whole lotta air miles involved...


Anonymous said...

The results were terrific no matter where the product came from. Two platefuls for me and it brought back memories of a northend home long ago

Shari said...

Thanks for the compliment on the stew and thanks, John, for the link to the Isle of Wight garlic farm. What a great idea! I'm going to try its Mushroom & Garlic Broth. To sample its Valentine dessert of Warm Chocolate Soup, Cinnamon Beignets, Vanilla Seed Ice Cream, Strawberries & Homemade Shortbread would be worth making the trip across the pond. I'll keep you posted. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I know when we were living in CA the best garlic came from Gilroy (Garlic capital of the World and home to the Garlic Festival). Think I'll have to check out the Isle of Wight sight - it sounds yummy.