Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dark Days Week 1: Unintentionally eating local

So the Dark Days Challenge has officially begun. This is something of a marathon challenge, running from November through March of next year, so I will have to both pace and organize myself. This is also the first time I'm embarking on a challenge like this... while I've come across some organic and/or local options at random at the market, I've not specifically searched them out. So before we go any further, let me say this: as I am new to this, I will *not* be 'hardcore' about this challenge. While I will happily look into local sources for staples like flour, salt, sugar, etc. I will not avoid them entirely if I cannot find them locally (which I fully expect I cannot). I will absolutely look into alternatives, such as maple syrup or honey instead of granulated sugar, but the focus for me during this challenge will be mainly on exploring options for things like meat, fruit, and veggies, and also capitalizing on such local beauties as beer, wine, maple and, of course, cheese...

Image of lovely, melty Quebec cheese courtesy of IGA

But what did I cook for the first meal of the Dark Days challenge, you ask?

This weekend I had intended something very simple (and honestly not very exciting) for my first challenge meal. Before I made it, however, I made a meal that was simply meant to clean out some items from the fridge/freezer and give me leftovers for lunches. I decided on a chicken stew with dumplings and when I assembled everything on the counter, found out that all of the (main) ingredients I was using were local! The chicken had been bought on special a few weeks back and when I took it out to thaw, discovered a big sticker proclaiming "Aliments du Quebec" which means it is from a local Quebec producer. Unfortunately it did not specify which producer the poultry was from or any other details, but that seems to be common practice at our normal grocery store. I will be trying to get better 'documentation' going forward so as to avoid any possible greenwashing (localwashing?).

Likewise, the veggies I used were also local... the carrots, celery, green beans, onions and potatoes were all from farms within 50 miles of Montreal! Quite a nice surprise for me, considering they were ingredients I had simply grabbed off the shelf without paying particular attention to where they were from. I know it might sound silly, but that made me strangely happy. The spices and flour were, of course, from farther away, but we ended up having a tasty, filling meal (and leftovers) that was both inexpensive and made from ingredients produced within 50 miles of home! (I improvised the stew, but followed the recipe here for the dumplings) As I wasn't planning on this meal being my first post, I didn't get any pictures (I was too busy enjoying my dumplings!) and honestly stews with thick gravy like that aren't terribly photogenic anyway. But don't worry, going forward I'll have plenty of pics with my posts.

So my first foray into eating local was unexpected but successful. In the weeks to come, I am going to try a variety of dishes from breakfast through dessert. I have been doing my homework looking up sources and producers of local goodies and will probably put together a list of my sources for anyone else who might be interested. I'm feeling a bit more confident about this challenge now that we've started... in fact, for the next recipe I shall be attempting Coq au Vin with, of course, Quebec wine.

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