Well, friends, my parents came to visit us at The New House this weekend. We had a lovely visit, but a comment that my dad made made me sit up and Take Notice and scribble a note to myself to Write About It. At breakfast Saturday morning, he mentioned that he had heard an interesting piece on NPR about national food chains. They spoke with some CEOs of large (soulless) chains, and they were bragging (my word) about how, if you order a Domino’s Pepperoni Pizza, it would taste the same whether you called them up in Carmel or Connecticut or Columbia. My dad was impressed. I was Dismayed.
I think I must blame the folks over at McDonald’s. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure they pioneered the idea of Manifest Destiny Taste Branding. I just made up that term, but that’s what they do: you can tell a McDonald’s burger blindfolded, from sea to shining sea, because they all taste the same. Once the interstate highway system had folks zooming from coast to coast in hours rather than days or weeks, large chains swooped in and capitalized on Americans’ need to have things Stay the Same, even when their view out the window was radically different. How sad–we could take to the road in our cars that had beds built in and go See the Country, but somehow, we wanted some aspects of our lives to stay the same, even on the road. And it wasn’t enough to just bring some pictures of the old homestead with us on the road. Oh, no, we couldn’t just Dream of Home while munching away on a Local Specialty. We wanted our food to Stay the Same. No matter Where. We. Went.
I’m a little hazy on the history, so I’m not sure if Americans demanded it and The Food Machine gave us what we wanted, or if The Food Machine made us believe that that’s what we wanted and shoved it down our throats. Regardless, lots of Mom & Pop type restaurants were shuttered for good as the Interstates diverted traffic from erstwhile roadside burgs that made their livlihoods on the stomachs of hungry travellers. I know. I’ve seen Cars.
That’s why The Beloved and I make it a point to Seek Out local eateries wherever we live or visit or just pass by. We can no longer bring ourselves to eat at The Usual Suspects along the highway; it is worth it to us to drive a few miles “our of our way” to sample food that tastes good and is place-specific. Aside from the thought of the enormous carbon footprint of fast food restaurants, and despite the convenience and the advertising and the Catchy Jingles, we just can no longer justify spending our pennies to perpetuate the Death of Local Food. When Money is the driving factor, food ceases to be something that sustains us. It just becomes another Product to be manufactured and marketed. There is no love at a fast food restaurant, and we all know that food made with love from real ingredients by real cooks is the only real food there is–the only kind that can sustain us. The rest is just empty calories.
We’re shopping at our local farmer’s market as much as we can. We’re frequenting local restaurants, spending a bit more to keep the money in our local economy and to know that the folks who’re making our food really care, and we sleep better at night.
Granted, The Beloved and I are just two people–no kids to feed–so it’s a bit easier for us to spend a couple of extra dollars a week. After all, we have no daughter who needs a prom dress; no son who needs new cleats. We do cut corners elsewhere, though. I rarely buy new clothes, and my shoe collection would make most woman rush to get our their magnifying glass. This is partly because I pretty much hate to shop, but it’s mostly because I think it’s more important to support local business and local food than it is to have this year’s gladiator sandal in teal ostrich skin.
When it comes to baking, it’s a little more difficult to buy locally-sourced ingredients. Sugar? Not so much a North Carolina specialty. Eggs–I can get them at the farmer’s market. Ditto milk. But I will tell you, I have to make a Huge Wedding Cake for this coming weekend, and I shan’t be purchasing Organic Anything to make it. A girl’s got to make a profit. (I know that’s a wimpy double standard, but I’d rather tell you the Ugly Truth than make you believe I am St. Jenni of Organica). Flour? Honestly, I’ll have to do some research. I think in this part of the country that it’ll be much easier to find local corn flour, but I’ll see what I can dig up and let you know.
So, that’s it for now. Just had to get that off my chest. So, what are your thoughts on buying and/or eating local?