The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2010

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Page 4 of 112

FROM THE EDITOR Are You a Local Yokel? politically correct food trend these days is to be a “locavore.” This means that you should eat produce that is grown close to home—within 100 miles is the usual parameter. Thus you can feel noble dining on broccoli that was grown in the next town, guilty if the greens were trucked or shipped from some distant farm. Of course, the locavore movement The began in California. It’s easy to be a loca- vore in California, where fresh produce is abundant year-round. But what if you live in North Dakota or Maine? Does being a locavore in those areas mean you have to subsist on a diet of lentils and rutabagas? In mid-summer, when you crave a peach or a plum, does this mean you have to sneak them in the dark of night? Will the militant locavores come and take away your Fruit-of-the-Month Club member- ship card? As with most other righteous causes, some people tend to get carried away. My recent visit to Japan showed me that a great culinary tradition can exist without slavishly adhering to the locavore doc- trine. More than most cuisines, Japanese cooking depends on superior ingredients. The top Tokyo chefs know that they can’t rely on local sources for all they need. (See my report on page 98.) Local Tokyo scallops are decent, but the best ones come from Hokkaido, which is about 600 miles away. If you are a restaurateur trying to survive in a city with 30,000 restaurants, which would you buy? Many restaurants in Japan source their sea urchins from San Diego and Santa Barbara, because they’re better than what they can get in Japan, just as most of the best American restaurants source sole from the southeast coast of Britain. What about the pineapples in Minnesota or the apples in Arizona? Does being a locavore mean you have to hop on an airplane and fl y to where the particular item you crave is local? That would prob- ably consume more energy than if you have it shipped to you. Restaurateurs shouldn’t be intimidated by this latest food fad. Getting your ingredients locally is a good thing to do when it makes sense, but remember: We live in a global community, and the world is full of amazing produce. If you require things that you can’t fi nd locally, don’t feel guilty about having them shipped. Actually, you are helping to provide jobs for people in the transportation business. Now, if that isn’t noble, I don’t know what is.. 4 / the tasting panel / september 2010 PHOTO: CATHY TWIGG-BLUMEL

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