It’s hard to know where to begin a conversation about local foods in Alaska, in February…. so I’ll begin with last night’s dinner. Chicken and Rice Soup
To put this hearty soup together, I dug deep into our freezer and pulled out a lovely plump chicken purchased from Triple D hatchery in Palmer and I also made a trip over to Arctic Organics a few days ago to pick up the 20 lbs of carrots, 15 lbs of beets, 40 lbs of potatoes and 2 red cabbages they had in storage for me. I confess the onions, celery and rice were globally sourced. The soup turned out fantastic, even as a leftover for Super Bowl Sunday.
I may be one of the few Alaskans able to make chicken soup with 80% local ingredients, in the winter, and I want this to change. One of the goals of this blog is to share knowledge and dialogue about local food options in Alaska. In addition, topics will include various types of growing practices, food ethics and resulting consumer choices. The value of knowing that the chicken we enjoyed in our soup last night was raised carefully by a local family is immeasurable. For every grilled AK Rib Eye, glass of fresh milk from a cow share, and baked Alaskan potatoes slathered in local butter, that I eat, I feel blessed.
Thankfully, our family chews with confidence and pleasure on most occasions….To be totally honest, though, I make no claims to be a purist: for example, finding a regular source of local bacon is a challenge, so, sometimes I am forced to buy at a chain store…This also goes for times when I crave avocados, tortilla chips, spices, and the occasional hamburger and fries from the Mom and Pop burger joint. But when given the choice, I always choose local.
When I do cruise the meat or vegetable counter at the local grocery store, or read a menu at a local restaurant, I feel disheartened. “Where does the food come from, how was it raised, under what conditions, and is it the best choice for optimal health including that of my community.” I often ask myself “what am I voting for by making this purchase?” “Who and what am I supporting?” and “what needs to be accomplished to ensure local meat and veg is included on the menu?” I realize, our lives are busy -- making it convenient and easy to shop at a big box store to buy whatever is needed. I also realize it could be a very different shopping experience. It’s the dream for a different experience that motivates me to write this blog.
Buying local foods and committing to eat something that was locally grown (on a regular basis) is a significant challenge. The beauty and the dilemma, however, is that we are in the drivers’ seat and as a result, control the bus. The criteria we use to determine whether or not food on the dinner table supports our values can be guided by simply sharing information, building relationships and making a thoughtful and informed choice. Incorporating local food into your diet when you can will have profound benefits both for personal health and the health of our communities.
What I hope to offer on this blog are continuing opportunities to learn from one another, about local options that exist and provide a platform to connect producers of food locally and those wishing to add more local choices to their diet. I also hope to share many ways for each of you to get actively involved helping shape Alaska’s food system.
Lastly, if you are a producer, or know a producer who is looking to connect with participants of the blog, please e-mail me and I’ll be happy to post their “what’s available” information.
Chew happily and wisely (and 32 times!)