Here’s an abbreviated version of this week’s column up at BlogHer:
As a predominantly local eater, I’ve seen my definition of what I consider to be local go through many permutations over the years. At my strictest, it was a 250-mile radius for just about everything save coffee and spices. At my most exhausted and lenient, it was more like whatever could be purchased with these here dollar bills found locally in my wallet.
Local is however you define it, and that’s kind of the point. You choose where your money goes, whom you give it to, and what you get in return. Dollars spent in your community stay in your community (at least for a little while). Same with jobs. The food, with less distance to travel from field to fork, pasture to knife, and dairy to glass, usually means better flavor and nutrition. It also means our landscape is less likely to resemble a scene out of WALL-E. I see the value in this.
But we’re in February right now here in New England and there ain’t much a-growing. Lately, I’ve been thinking that you can take this local thing a little too far. Like citrus. Local it is not, but how far is Florida, really? Sometimes, I could really go for a tangerine. Sure, I dutifully snub those colorful orbs of pithy goodness during the summer when we have ripe berries, juicy stone fruits, and crisp apples coming out of our ears, but in these dark, lean months when the local farmers are hibernating, is it really so wrong to migrate south a little?
Slowly, I’ve been letting citrus back into my life, especially in the winter when my body craves vitamins and some acidity to cut through our rib-sticking meals of meat and root vegetables. We drink orange juice for breakfast most mornings. A grapefruit is a special treat. A pint of kumquats mingled with red onion and mint might grace some local fish. And the truth is, I pretty much always have a few lemons and limes on hand year-round.
Florida isn’t really my definition of local, but I don’t want the citrus industry to go away. They provide a valuable service to us tart Bostonians in the coldest months, making our bleak winter days a little brighter. We all have to draw our own lines.