Local

Text: Peter Hertzmann

Since the concept of “buying local” was introduced in the early 1980’s, it’s been co-opted and used by various groups and individuals to advance their own political agendas or to sell their products or services. There is no official definition for the term from a government agency or an academic organization although some political groups have their own definition. It’s a concept that means different things to different people.

Local. I’m tired of hearing the word. Chefs discussing their personal philosophy seem compelled to include concepts such as sustainable, organic, seasonal, fresh, and of course, local in order to be politically correct in the world of food. Sometimes, I almost expect the chef to include the term “tasty” in their list of notions. Supermarkets identify local items with shelf markers and extend the term to cover processed or manufactured foods where the producer’s official address on the label is within some specified distance, even if the true manufacturer is located halfway across the country. If Internet sellers could claim a local status, I’m sure they would.

Local is always related to distance. At times, it is used to refer to the carbon footprint due to transportation distances of fresh products, an inadequate analysis of the total carbon footprint of all aspects of the raising the product must be taken into account for any accurate analysis. Sometimes it’s used to refer to the support of locally-owned businesses, an inaccurate implication that the number of employees that a business supports is based solely on the location of the owners.

I am not against the concept of local, but I have my own way of thinking about it. I’ve made an effort to get to know the people who sell me food. I know a number of the farmers that sell to me at my local farmers market. Some have even been to my home for dinner. I know the owners of the main stores where I buy my food. I know many of the chefs from restaurants that are my favorite restaurants. Some have even been to my home for dinner. For me, local is knowing the people who produce and sell me the food I’m cooking in my kitchen, whether for myself, my family, or guests. Local is also the meals I’m enjoying when I’m out. To me, the term means nothing more than that.

Sea campion buds
are tangled with leaves and stems.
Remove all petals.