Sunday, September 30, 2007

From Soup to Nuts, Locally Done



Last week the Chefs in the City girls shared another sustainable meal. This month’s theme, just as it has been since May, was local food – an understandably conceptually-difficult theme for a NYC based supper club. Many New Yorkers think that eating locally is only a luxury, or perhaps just a way of life, for residents of suburbia or rural communities. The attitude of such urbanites is being, if you can’t see the farm, the local produce can’t possibly exist. When I first moved to NYC, like many New Yorkers, I believed that the freshest tomato I would ever eat in Manhattan would be one that had just arrived off the cargo plane from Florida, despite having grown up just 50 miles from Manhattan in New York’s agricultural Mecca – the North Fork of Long Island.

This supper club, along with a little culinary curiosity, proved that farm-fresh local tomatoes, and any other produce this area of the Northeast can grow, is available throughout New York City, anytime during the year. In the past few years, greenmarkets have sprouted up in communities throughout New York City, the most famous being the Union Square Farmers’ Market. The City itself, including our current Mayor, has pledged a commitment to local, sustainable eating through the Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC) – a privately funded agency within the Office of the Mayor, which promotes community-based greenmarkets.

Despite this, and the many misconceptions New Yorkers have about eating locally in New York City, local eating is not a recent trend or some hot topic that is taking this City by storm like Pinkberryesque frozen yogurt shops. In fact, long before urban crawl became urban sprint, the vast majority of Americans lived on farms. In New York City’s early history, City residents ate food that was brought in by horse and cart from nearby farms. Did you know that Brooklyn was the top producing agricultural county in the US in the 1880s? Although the City’s landscape is certainly different than what it may have looked like in the 1880s, it is still very easy to eat fresh, eat healthy and support our local farmers at the same time. For more information, CENYC has an interactive map on its website that details every greenmarket within the 5 boroughs (www.cenyc.org).

But in keeping up with our recent trend, Chefs in the City enjoyed a delicious “local” Italian meal. From a roasted heirloom tomato and thyme pizzette, to fresh pasta with a local tomato sauce, to home-made local mint chocolate chip ice cream, we once again found that New York can be more than our collective connections to our culinary tales, secrets and ambitions – we can actually eat what it produces...

So in the past few years, living in New York City has taught me many things. For example, if I had one, I could drop off my pocketbook pooch at puppy day care at any time of day, I could take a spinning class at 2:30am, or, better yet, I could travel to my local greenmarket and create a completely local meal from soup to nuts (literally) from ingredients that were made and harvested within just a few miles from my City apartment.

Until next time…

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