On eating local in a Michigan December

I’m so pretty: Treviso-type radicchio in the cold, cold ground

Remember One Local Summer? Well, one brave soul decided to continue the idea of producing, eating and then posting one locally sourced dinner per week over the course of the winter. Laura at Urban Hennery has found more willing folks who are also giving it a try: go check out the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge.

I did not do this challenge. My reason for withholding is simple: with all food in our larder locally produced, there isn’t much of a challenge to be had. This sounds like bragging. It’s not: it’s just me being single-minded. Admittedly, I thought ahead; this wasn’t something I just started to do. I just wanted to show you that, with a little forethought, you might be able to do the same.

My weekly meals rely fairly heavily on making fresh, filling breadstuffs, and on the contents of our freezer/root cellar/canned goods. Lunches are usually leftover dinner. I try hard to mix up the vegetable offerings, but mostly I use up what is fresh first before moving into the deep freeze stash of last summer’s veggies. Most of our salads nowadays are fruit-focused, with lots of apples and pears mixing it up with the heartier cabbages, fennel, celeriac and radicchio fresh out of the gardens.

So here’s a sample of this week’s local eating at Chez El.

Eggs and toast for brunch, with jam (strawberry or Damson plum this week)
Dinner (with company!) of minestrone soup, frozen from August’s beany bounty; roast chicken with potatoes and carrots in the roasting pan; roasted beets; oaty whole-wheat bread and a fennel/bosc pear salad

Oatmeal for breakfast with applesauce for the sweetener
Lunch of either a cheese or chicken sandwich on the oaty bread; apple
Dinner of biscuits and gravy (with pan drippings from Sunday’s chicken dinner, as well as a few pulls of leg meat in there too) with a salad of “hot” coleslaw (think warmed spinach salad); dessert of cranberry muffins (10 lbs. of cranberries from Thanksgiving: luckily, we like them! I’ve frozen them in 2-cup portions)

Breakfast of cranberry muffins and applesauce
Lunch of biscuits/honey, fruit, and cheese
Dinner of Michigan-made spaghetti and a jar of tomato sauce

Eggs and toast for breakfast
Leftover spaghetti for lunch with apple or pear
Soup night: either something with the stock made from Sunday’s chicken or potato/leek or potato/kale soup. New whole-wheat loaf, salad from the greenhouse.

Eggs and toast for breakfast, with jam
Lunch of leftover soup, cranberry muffin and apple
Dinner of vegetarian chili with cornbread: my beans, peppers, tomatoes; local Bloody Butcher cornmeal; canned peaches for dessert

Cornbread with honey and homemade yogurt with fruit for breakfast
Cheese sandwich or leftover chili for lunch with yogurt/apple for dessert
Dinner of root mashers with steamed cabbage thrown in: think Colcannon without the cheese; salad of shaved celeriac and apple; toast with butter

Porridge (5-grain) for breakfast with fruit
Quick soup for lunch (either out of the freezer or off the shelves downstairs: tomato, eggplant/tomato, or something bean-y) with bread
Dinner of leftover lunch soup, herbed omelet, pan-roasted potatoes, roasted cauliflower; apple tart for dessert

What this weekly sampling kind of tells you is we’ve got lots of variety. Olive oil and butter are my big out-of-foodshed weaknesses, but lately, I have found a local source for soybean oil, and it is okay, especially for baking. The spaghetti and the cheese were the only things I purchased that were “ready-made,” all else is just stuff I chop up and have either cooked and canned/frozen earlier, or am chopping and cooking for the day. Bread gets made about 3-4 times a week, with quickbreads like biscuits or cornbread filling in the gaps. I am not a maniacal breadmaker, though; I often rely on some slow-rising sourdough or a variant of the no-knead method. We free-range on apples and pears in the winter; our root cellar is fairly full of these fruits now. Not much goes to waste, certainly. The chicken carcass always becomes soup or stock, cooking all night and then refrigerated in the morning to be picked over later. The stock is usually then frozen with the meat, sometimes without, it just depends. I also am VERY stingy with the greenhouse greens! Those babies need to grow a bit so January and February aren’t so dire. I am also, for some unknown reason, saving all my winter squash. Maybe it’s because I am the only one who really truly loves it in the household…who knows.

If this helps just one person think about how he or she can eat closer to home, I will feel gratified. And if anyone would like my sources or recipes, please let me know. Local winter eating can be done, and I swear it doesn’t have to be boring!

(Luckily, though, we do like pears and apples.)

4 responses to “On eating local in a Michigan December

  1. I’d say I’ll be right over for a meal, but we eat such similar things that it would be a pretty long trip for biscuits and gravy. 😉

    That’s the way to eat, El. Perfection.

  2. So, you and my husband are in the same camp when it comes to DDWELC. He felt I couldn’t join b/c it would be cheating. I joined b/c I wanted to help people see that with prep work, eating local in the winter can be done. I have to admit, my mouth’s watering over your greens. Show off!! 🙂 LOL!

  3. El you should have joined in. It would have been great to have another participant talking about the benefits of preserving and planning ahead. And how it can be fulfilling rather than difficult.

    Nice post and thanks for the plug. BTW, it seems when you eat seasonally there is an American cuisine after all. Your menu looks a lot like recent meals at our house.

  4. Liz: you know you are quite welcome…I might even make you a chocolate cake!

    Angie: And I think people are really glad you ARE sharing. (But if you’re ever over on this side of the state, stop by for a salad!)

    Laura: Again, my hat is off to you, really. I felt my blog was kind of hijacked, in a good way, for One Local Summer, so I just couldn’t bear to start that up again. But hell most of my recent posts are all about food, so I guess I am really not a gardening blogger much anymore anyway… But keep up the good work with the Dark Days! (And I take heart in your similarity in meals: maybe Kingsolver was wrong in there being no US food tradition.)

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