Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Local Cooking Class Tomorrow

Tomorrow I'll be taking a class in cooking with local ingredients at the Fort Lauderdale Whole Foods Lifestyle Center.

The class is taught by Laura Thomas and every attendee gets a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the inspiration for my experiment. The class is from 7-9 pm, Thursday, January 22nd.

I'll let you know how it goes. I'm very excited.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pre-Marmalade - Calamondin Puree

Boiling Calamondin Stock

The Finished Product - Calamondin Marmalade

I used this recipe and it came out beautifully.

Lady Marmalade

I never liked orange marmalade. We never had it in our refrigerator growing up, but my grandparents did. It was my grandfather's favorite, but he ate a lot of gross food - things I've come to categorize as "old man food" meaning that only old men, like my grandfather would eat them. He liked black licorice, liver and onions, trout. Every Christmas we had a mincemeat pie just for him because no one else would touch it. He even liked fruitcake, so it wasn't a big surpise that he'd forgo my preferred strawberry jam for orange marmalade which he liked spread on toast with margarine. He liked the toast burned, the toaster's dial turned all the way over to four or five. I've never understood my grandfather's tastes, but now that he's gone I miss his quirks.

When I was looking for something to make out of the calamondins I'd harvested I read that they make a spectacular marmalade and apparently not much else. I found a few pie recipes, but nothing appealed to me. I figured if I made marmalade maybe I could use it in recipes or give away the jars as gifts. Plus, I've always wanted to can my own jam.

I didn't grow up with grandmothers in farmhouses who preserved their own fruits and vegetables. Lord knows I wanted them to, but my grandmothers smoked and played cards and avoided the kitchen as much as possible. They had a few specialties but they weren't the home preservationists one thinks of when imagining grandmas. One of my grandmothers though, had a sister who made jellies and preserves. Aunt Thelma was the cook in the family and she had married an Italian man, actually from Italy, whose mother taught her to cook. My grandmother used to say that she could never make cookies as well as Aunt Thelma who could consistently turn out sheet trays of identically round, evenly baked chocolate chip cookies. Aunt Thelma also had a blackberry bramble behind her house and her own grape vines, so we always got our jelly from her. She used to seal her jars with a quarter inch of paraffin that I liked to chew on once we opened the jars. Now, my grandmother says I remind her of Aunt Thelma with my love of all things food and kitchen related, so I figured it was time I learned to can some jam (which almost sounds a little dirty when you say a few times).

I bought some jars and borrowed a big stock pot from my parents. Living in a small apartment, stock pots are a luxury. I don't have the space to store one, so whenever I want to cook something in mass quantities I do it at my parents' or swipe a pot from their pantry to use temporarily. For the marmalade project I needed the stock pot to boil the mason jars in order to sterilize them and seal them. Normally home canners use a special canning kit that has a rack for the jars to fit in, a funnel to fill the jars and special tongs to lift the hot jars out of the boiling water. Again - big luxury. I don't have room for all that crap, so I decided to wing it. I don't really recommend winging it, especially with things that can cause third degree burns and botulism, but I am an advanced cook, and I knew I could manage. Maybe one day I'll get the canning kit, but for now I'm ok without it.

I boiled my jars for ten minutes and left them in the hot water. Then I washed, sliced and seeded the calamondins, tossed them in the food processor and chopped them roughly. The recipe said to add water and boil, which I did. At first I didn't realize why it would be necessary to add a large amount of water but I realized that the marmalade takes so long to cook that the water reduces down and without it, the fruit and sugar mixture would burn before it was ready to be canned.

Then I boiled half of the calamondin stock with sugar. Since I wanted my marmalade to be completely local I chose Florida Crystals Sugar. They're a good company. Check out their website. I felt good using their sugar, especially when the sugar industry is normally exploitive and destructive to the environment.

Once the stock and sugar had boiled down and had reached 220 degrees I removed my sterilized jars from the water, wiped them dry and filled them with the boiling marmalade. Then I put the lids on and boiled the filled jars for ten more minutes to seal them.

My OCD kicked in at this point. If the jars don't seal you can really make someone very ill. I couldn't live with myself if I made someone sick, including myself. It seemed strange to imagine that I could actually make a jar of marmalade and seal it up and be able to store it in the pantry, unrefrigerated until I decided to open it and eat it. I don't know what that seemed so bizarre to me - that I could do something like that, but it did. I think it's because I'm just so used to always buying everything in the store that it's almost like I've been brainwashed into only trusting big industry products with commercial labels, made by machines instead of real human beings. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. It's like, in the past fifty years we've come to trust and value the work of machines over the work of people.

Luckily, my jars all sucked shut, perfectly vacuum sealed. I was amazed. I had about a quarter cup of marmalade left that wouldn't fit in the jars so I decided to taste it.

I liked it! It didn't resemble the bitter, runny marmalade that I remembered from my grandfather's burnt toast. The homemade version was bright and citrusy and not at all bitter. I believe this is because the calamondin's peel doesn't have a thick layer of bitter pith like larger citrus fruits. The bitterness I disliked was caused by orange pith (the layer of white spongy stuff under the zest). Calamondin marmalade is great and I found that I prefer it paired with savory things best. It's good with cheese and crackers, spread on a sandwich or as a glaze to grilled chicken or shrimp. I'd also like to stir it into a homemade barbecue sauce.

I wish my grandfather were still alive because I know he would have loved my marmalade. I would have sent him a jar.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Calamondins, Picked and Ready to Cook

Aren't they pretty? I embellished them with a branch of bougainvillea. I wish this was a scratch and sniff photo because the freshly picked fruits were wonderfully aromatic.

My Initial Specimen

I had to dissect the mystery fruit to find out its true identity. One of the ways I figured out what it was, was by counting its segments. Calamondins have nine segments and one or two green seeds.

Calamondin Tree

Picking Citrus

At first when I thought about becoming a Locavore in the tropics, I thought it would mean only buying food grown nearby, but it isn’t. To me eating locally was a reaction against gluttonous mass consumption. We eat too much and we buy too much and I want to reduce my bad habits in both areas to benefit myself and the world I live in. Sure, I’ll have to buy food. It’s unavoidable, but I want to look for alternate and creative ways to eat locally that don’t involve more consumerism. I hope to discover free culinary resources in my environment. Two ways to reduce consumption are by foraging and by growing your own food. In my experiment, I'm trying both.

In Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he goes foraging for mushrooms. Mushrooms grow freely in the forest and experts in mushroom identification know where to forage them, picking themselves a free meal. I like the idea of free food growing in the world around me. Some of my best childhood memories are of picking wild blackberries, stuffing most of them in my mouth, staining my fingers inky purple. But we don’t have mushrooms and blackberry brambles in the tropics. Ok, we probably do have mushrooms, but God knows what kind they’d be and I don’t trust myself to pick and eat them. I can see myself either ending up dead or at best tripping my eyeballs out on a beach somewhere, local eating the last thing on my mind. I wondered what other edible treats grew around here that I could pick though.

Having first thought of fruit, I decided to take a walk around my neighborhood, Fort Lauderdale’s Victoria Park, to see what I could find. Victoria Park is in downtown Fort Lauderdale, a couple miles west of the beach and seemed promising because there are a lot of trees, most of which look wild or at least native. This is rare in South Florida where many people live in meticulously planned developments with velvet lawns and sculpted shrubbery. I didn’t even make it down my street before I found several things to eat.

Green coconuts litter the gutters and literally hundreds of them hang from neighborhood trees. Coconuts are everywhere. Luckily I really love coconuts and in my almost nine years of living in South Florida with these things all over the place, I had never thought to actually eat one. On my walk I also noticed that most yards boasted at least one variety of fruit tree. I counted several papaya, tamarind, carambola (star fruit), lychee, mango, cocoplums and Surinam cherries. The last two are popular ornamentals down here and few people know that the fruits are edible. I'm trying to work the nerve up to pick and eat them. I'll keep you updated on that.

If I had gone on my same walk ten years ago I’m sure I would have seen a bounty of citrus trees; limes, lemons, oranges and grapefruit, but unfortunately an epidemic of citrus canker, which began in Miami in 1995 forced the state of Florida to cut down and ban almost all new plantings of citrus trees, lest the disease spread to the lucrative citrus groves in central Florida. Citrus trees for personal use, once ubiquitous, are now rare, however it is possible to still grow your own. You simply must purchase your seedlings from a state certified nursery.

On my first walk I only found one orange tree and it was in someone's backyard with a few branches hanging over a fence into an alley. I didn't want to steal someone else's oranges, but I found one orange, freshly fallen and not at all rotten, resting on the ground so I picked it up and brought it home. Compared to a bag of local, organic oranges I had purchased at Publix, the alley orange was indistinguishable. It ended up contributing to a pitcher of freshly squeezed juice.

I decided to scout out my parents' neighborhood to see what might be growing there. They live a couple blocks west of the beach in Fort Lauderdale and their neighborhood is more sparsely wooded than mine. I didn't expect to find a lot, but in my parents' neighborhood I really scored when I found an unusual species of citrus.

Every neighborhood has that overgrown abandoned house that all the kids think is haunted. Often it's the subject of double dares and triple dares and kids shudder when walking past it. There's a house like this at the end of my parents' street. No one has lived in it forever and it's rumored to be in foreclosure. For several months the yard was untended, but recently someone came and cut the grass. Most of the yard is shaded by a mature mango tree, but on my walk I noticed an usual tree behind the mango. It looked like an orange tree for all intents and purposes except the oranges were tiny - about the size of a jawbreaker and just as round.

At first I thought they were kumquats, but kumquats are oval and these fruits were perfectly spherical. I picked a couple and took them home for further research.

After an intense round of googling search terms like "little tiny oranges" I finally managed to figure out what these things were. They're called calamondins and they grow well here in Florida. Most people plant them as ornamentals, but calamondins are perfectly edible. You can just pop the whole thing in your mouth, skin and all.

Big mistake. Calamondins are heart-stoppingly sour. Wow are they tart. Oh my Lord are calamondins puckery. They made my eyes water.

Surely there was a use for them. I couldn't just let a whole tree, weighed down by ripe fruit, all rot on the branch and decay on the ground in the yard of an abandoned house, so I looked up calamondin recipes and learned that they make a great marmalade.

I didn't feel comfortable taking any more fruit from this tree. I didn't know for sure who the tree really belonged to. I felt like I was trespassing, so I checked with all the neighbors, one of whom owns half the tree. Once I knew that everything was ok, I picked about 40 calamondins (the number the marmalade recipe called for) and brought them home to start my next project: home canning!

More on that later.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Truck

You can find him Friday, Saturday and Sunday on US 1 between Broward and Sunrise.

Yum - Florida Spiny Lobster

The Lobster Truck

Look, there's one thing you need to know about me and that's that I don't eat things from the side of the road. I don't mean roadkill. That's a given. I don't eat food sold on the side of the road. It freaks me out.

Last year I started to notice that side of the road food suddenly became extremely hip. Jonathan Gold, the LA Times' Pultizer Prize winning food writer was all about some side of the road food. I can't even count how many food bloggers and columnists were raving about lunch trucks and roadside stands. Not me. Hell no was I about to eat some food out of the roach coach. I was staunchly anti any kind of food that wasn't sold in a highly regulated grocery store or spotlessly clean looking restaurant that had at least ten people eating in it at the time I arrived.

I'm profoundly neurotic and have a raging case of OCD which manifests itself in a phobia of food-bourne illness. I can barely eat a cracker in the homes of most of my relatives and I have a long list of things I refuse to even consider eating in restaurants because I just have no way of knowing 100% that the oysters didn't sit out languishing at room temperature for 72 hours until they turned into a veritable froth of deadly bacteria. Basically, if I don't have control over every aspect of a food's preparation I'm convinced it's going to kill me. Somewhere in the throes obsessive thought I decided that food sold on the side of the road had an even higher chance of killing me, so I've always refused to go near it.

Except it was near me every weekend. Friday, Saturday and Sunday the fish guy comes in a pick-up truck and stops in a parking lot right outside of my neighborhood. I've been watching him warily for years. He sells fresh fish, lobster tails and stone crabs from huge, banged up, white coolers out of the bed of the truck. He takes cash.

The whole thing looked seedy to me. How could I know where his products came from and if they were safe? I so reviled the fish guy that I actually wrote a piece about stone crabs and warned people not to buy them from people on the side of the road. When I wrote it I pictured the fish guy in the parking lot near my house.

Hold on a second while I shove my foot in my mouth. I have to take my flip-flops off.

My husband came home last Saturday insisting that I go interview the fish guy because he was certain he sold local products and he was right around the corner. I hemmed and hawed and tried to procrastinate.

"OK," I said, "I'll talk to him but I'm not eating anything from the back of that truck."

We pulled up in the abandoned parking lot where the pick-up truck sat with it's red and white signs advertising grouper filets, lobster tails and stone crabs.

"I bet he's a criminal," I told my husband.

The fish guy is not a criminal. He's friendly and sunburned. His name is Corey and he took over selling seafood out of the back of a truck business from his dad. The family's been doing it for over 20 years and they have a loyal following. That was obvious because while we were there three other cars drove up and the customers looked like they were preparing for a shellfish famine. So now Corey sells the seafood while his dad catches it. They get everything from Everglades City, just across Alligator Alley. Completely local. Totally safe.

Corey opened up one of the coolers and I tentatively looked inside. For a long time I've imagined severed, human body parts lurking in partially melted ice, inside of those coolers. Of course that wasn't there. There were however, a lot of severed crustacean parts like lobster tails and stone crab claws, though the stone crabs were almost gone and were well picked over by the time we got there around five Saturday evening. It looked pretty legit, but I still had some misgivings, which my husband completely ignored as he purchased a twelve dollar, eight ounce lobster tail.

"It's just to try," my husband said, "It's local. It's for your local eating experiment thing you're doing. You have to eat it."

He was right. Part of my experiment, I hope, will be to get me to try new things, to stop being a headcase about food and to be more adventurous and open to new culinary experiences.

One of the most popular and effective methods of treating OCD is through immersion therapy. By confronting your worst fear and realizing how irrational it is, the phobia disappears. I was going to eat the spiny lobster tail.

We washed it off and smelled it. It smelled like the sea - sweet and briny, very fresh. Then we boiled it for a few minutes, sliced it in half lengthwise, brushed it with a lot of butter and broiled it until the top just barely began to brown. Then each of us took a half, dipped it in melted butter and enjoyed every bite of it.

"Thank God this is local," I sighed.

The lobster was wonderful. I didn't get hepatitis from it and I didn't go broke trying to afford it as I would have in a restaurant. The next day we bought four more and they were even better.

This local eating thing...I can definitely do it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mango Blossoms

In a few months it will be mango season and these pink clusters of flowers will turn into one of my favorite local things to eat. I can't wait!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Very Ripe Black Sapote (Not Chocolate Pudding)

Almost Ripe

Just Because It's Brown...

I complain a lot about living in South Florida. I miss the grizzled slush of Northern winters, hearing the snowplow come down the street at 3 in the morning and I miss fireplaces and ticking radiators. One thing though, that I definitely don’t miss is the winter produce, which generally consists of some shriveled, bruised apples, leather colored grapes and a glut of rutabagas. In January while Northerners make due with pale, hard tomatoes I’m enjoying BLTs with bloody beefsteaks and trying to decide what to do with all the strawberries that are in season, but in addition to these well known crops, South Florida’s winters also bring some more bizarre harvests. The tropics are home to all sorts of unusual and intriguing fruits, some of which look like grenades and others that will literally kill you if you eat them a second before they’re perfectly ripe. Many tropical fruits flourish in people’s yards and I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t at least have an orange or a mango tree nearby. I couldn’t find anyone, however, who had a black sapote.

The black sapote is a bit elusive. I can’t recall where I first heard of this fruit, but since I learned of its existence I had been on a mission to find one and try it. I had to. The black sapote is rumored to taste exactly like chocolate pudding and if there was a fruit that in any way resembled chocolate, I decided I had to find it. A species of persimmon native to Mexico, Central America and South Florida, the black sapote is nicknamed the “chocolate pudding fruit” and in Mexico it is popular in desserts. If it really tasted like chocolate pudding I could certainly see why. You wouldn’t have to put it in a dessert. It could be the dessert.

Being a skeptic, this sounded way too good to be true. I mean seriously, if there is a fruit that looks and tastes like chocolate, the most wonderful substance that there is, why then is it so difficult to find? One would imagine that such a miraculous specimen would easily be the most popular fruit on the entire planet. Think about it – it’s a fruit, which means it’s healthy and has very few calories and it supposedly tastes like something that, when mixed with shovels of sugar and gobs of butterfat, is pure heaven but decidedly not so healthy and most assuredly laden with calories. The sapote has no fat at all, or if it does it’s some miniscule amount of fruit fat which doesn’t count and is probably good for your heart anyway. According to a University of Florida website, the black sapote contains about 130 calories per fruit, which average about a five inch diameter, meaning they’re pretty big and you might not even be able to eat a whole one, unless they really did taste like chocolate and then I could probably eat about sixteen of them in one sitting. The sapote also boasts high amounts of Vitamin A, more Vitamin C than an orange and lots of fiber. Chocolate? Not so much.

Given these astounding properties I hatched a plan to locate a black sapote and eat it. Then, if these rumors of chocolaty goodness were indeed true I decided I was going into business and starting a black sapote farm (I have no idea on what land, but I supposed I’d figure that out) and then I would become the chocolate fruit messiah, spreading the good news around the globe, which would then make me a billionaire. I started to have elaborate fantasies of whippet-thin celebrities carrying sapotes around looking very glamorous. Then I imagined a world in which children would come in from playing in the snow to sip steaming mugs of hot sapote, and it would be all because of me, but before I launched my revolution I had to get my hands on one of these things and it was proving impossible.

They don’t sell them in the grocery store. I didn’t know anyone who had a tree and local farmer’s markets were bereft. Then, fate intervened and not one, but two black sapotes found their way to my doorstep. Last winter I was part of a Miami CSA group (Community Supported Agriculture). In my efforts to eat locally and to support the area’s organic farms I signed up with Redland Organics and every Saturday I received a box of fruits, vegetables and eggs straight from the farm. I loved that I never knew what I was going to get and I confess that a lot of the times when I picked up my box and looked inside, I still didn’t know what I got. Like I said, the tropics are home to some very unusual species of edible plant life. Who knew I’d ever be such a fan of callaloo?

One time my box contained two black sapotes. I had no idea what they were because they weren’t black, but instead a rather unattractive matte green, the shade of cheap institutional paint from the 70s, and they were dusted with an even more unpleasant black film which brought mildew to mind. Perhaps I had pictured something a bit more ripe and succulent.

The instructions which came with the new fruit told me to let them sit out at room temperature for several days until they were black, looked “ready for the compost heap” and were too soft to hold without falling apart. I set them on a plate and waited. The next day they hadn’t changed. I moved them around and came back the next day to find that they were a little softer. By the third day they felt like a barely ripe avocado. Tentatively I sniffed and the sapotes had no scent, which was a bit disappointing because I had hoped to breathe in the aroma of brownie.

That weekend the black sapotes caved in upon themselves and their skin now resembled the stained, vinyl interior of my grandmother’s 1973, olive-green Chevrolet, complete with cigarette burns. They had split in several places and leaked a root beer colored syrup onto the plate, which I hoped would taste like Hershey’s. I opened one black sapote with my hand, expecting to reveal the filling of a chocolate cream pie, and finding instead a slick, jammy mass that, once freed from the confines of the fruit’s skin, oozed all over the plate in much the same way that chocolate pudding might. It didn’t look like chocolate pudding though. The pulp was stringy and filled with big seeds the size and shape of Brazil nuts. Still, there was hope. It might not look exactly like chocolate pudding, but surely it could taste like it. Right? I grabbed a spoon with great anticipation.

Once, I remember ordering a Sprite in a restaurant. The server mistakenly brought me a Club Soda and I took a sip expecting Sprite. When I tasted the Club Soda’s bitter fizz, it was jarring because my taste buds were already prepared for sweetness. Such was the case when I tasted the black sapote. Having planned (hoped and prayed even) for chocolate pudding, my mouth instead encountered stewed prunes. It’s not that I have anything against stewed prunes, but they just aren’t even in the same league as chocolate and the black sapote was runny, ropey and bland on top of it all.

The black sapote wasn’t horrible. It just wasn’t chocolate. If I were stranded on a desert isle and found a black sapote tree, I would be thrilled, albeit not nearly as thrilled as if I found a hidden stash filled with hundreds of bittersweet truffles, but still. My fantasies about being a black sapote magnate were destroyed and I realize why the fruit isn’t popular. It’s messy and difficult to transport when ripe, is tragically unattractive and doesn’t taste all that great unless of course you are a passionate fan of stewed prunes and I don’t know anyone who is. I suspect someone who pitied the black sapote started that whole chocolate rumor to get people to try it because it’s good for you. It also could have been someone who hadn’t actually eaten chocolate in years and who thinks that carob tastes like chocolate too. There are people like that, you know. It could just be that “chocolate pudding fruit” sounds a whole lot more appealing than “stewed prune fruit.”

The black sapote is rare and unique, sticky, ugly and strange, but it’s not unpleasant unless you’re expecting something else. If you visit Miami in the winter or if you are lucky enough to live here, be adventurous and see if you can find one to try. Just keep in mind that just because something is brown doesn’t mean it tastes like chocolate. It could taste more like stewed prunes or God forbid, something worse.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Really Expensive Local Dinner and A Free Event

I found this via Miami Dish.

The next "Dinner in Paradise" is this Thursday, January 11th at 7pm at Paradise Farms in Homestead. Unfortunately it costs $155.oo which is really, really out of my price range.

If I were really rich, I would definitely go.

Also this Thursday, the 11th, at the Whole Foods in Boca there is a "Why Buy Local" panel discussion from 1 - 2:30 pm and that one is free, but unfortunately I can't go to that either because I'll be in the middle of teaching a class (ironically across the street from the Boca Whole Foods). Bleh. I need to develop some sort of technology which would allow me to be in several places at once. It should also provide me with enough money to go to $155.00 dinners.

Maybe I can find someone to go to the Boca event and report back to me about it.

Why I'm Doing This - My First Post

This experiment began as a school project in a non-fiction class right after I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Here's an excerpt from the project that pretty much explains it all, but the thing is, once the assignment was over, I didn't feel like I was finished, so I decided to start this blog and really dedicate myself to exploring eating locally as it manifests in a different climate.

In the past four years, the local food movement has gained considerable, nationwide popularity. Articles on eating locally have been featured in “The New York Times,” “O” Magazine, “Gourmet,” “Bon App├ętit” and many other large publications as more people are interested in becoming Locavores. The term Locavore was Oxford Dictionary’s 2007 word of the year and was coined to describe members of the local food movement who only eat food grown and produced within a certain radius from their home. After hearing so much about eating locally, I wanted to give it a try, especially after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan’s manifesto The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Eating foods locally grown and produced feels like the right choice. Local eating supports local economies and small farmers. It reduces the use of dangerous fossil fuels used to process and transport food products around the world and fresh foods picked or preserved in season just taste better. I didn’t need any convincing about this because as a child growing up in rural southern Delaware, eating locally wasn’t a social movement a bunch of hippies came up with to save the planet, it was our normal way of life and always had been. The thing is, I don’t live in rural Delaware anymore. I live in largely urban, densely populated South Florida and I live in an apartment, so plowing up my yard and sowing a row of pole beans isn’t exactly a viable option being that I don’t have a yard. In fact, I don’t even have a balcony for a container garden. I wondered if because of these constraints, I might be excluded from the local food movement.

I began to research Locavorism. Just Google the term and you’ll find thousands of results. You’ll find websites directing you to different businesses and farms, instructions on how to grow apples right in your yard, blogs about other Locavores’ experiences and you’ll find hundreds of testimonials about how great eating locally is for the environment, your body and some say even your soul. But pretty soon I began to notice a disturbing pattern. Every single one of these websites, blogs and articles described eating locally in a temperate climate and none of them even considered how the lifestyle might play out in parts of the country that don’t experience the distinct, traditional four seasons. Sure, we have seasons here in Florida, but they’re the Rainy Season, Hurricane Season and Tourist Season. In Palm Beach they experience another season known as the Social Season, but like the others, it doesn’t have a lot to do with growing your own food. I wondered if it was only possible to be a Locavore in New England, Northern California or the verdant Pacific Northwest.

I spent a few days sulking about this. I felt disenfranchised and left out in the same way that I feel when I see TV shows, greeting cards and commercials depicting white Christmases; kind of jealous at first and then mad that the media just assumes everyone lives in a temperate climate where leaves redden in autumn, snow sugar coats the winters and summers look like a Hidden Valley Ranch commercial. It’s discrimination, I say. They’re all just Temperists, looking down on all those other, lesser, alternative climates. I figured to the Locavores, we here in the sub-tropics either didn’t count or maybe eating locally down here didn’t exist because it couldn’t be done.

Soon I realized though, that eating locally is entirely possible in a tropical climate. People in the Caribbean have been doing just fine for hundreds of years on local diets, so clearly it can be done and if it can be done then I can do it too. If I were to adopt a local eating lifestyle I knew would have to be creative and learn about what foods live and grow best down here. So now, on January 2nd, I'm beginning my experiment in earnest. I've been experimenting already a bit here and there for a little over a year, but now I'm getting serious.

Unlike some, such as Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon, authors of Plenty: Eating Locally on The 100 Mile Diet, I'm not willing to take a pledge to eat nothing that isn’t produced or grown near my home. Ultimately this is ideal, but I don’t yet even know if that's completely possible where I live. I'm not about to take that kind of a risk, making a promise I might not be able to keep. Instead, the parameters of my experiment are going to be a lot looser. I'm going to actively research and seek out the foods indigenous to my tropical environment. I will try to adopt a more native diet and I will try as many new things as possible. I will be conscious of my food’s origins and try to give up as many foods shipped from far away as I can. Without a guide or a website on how to do it, I’ll have to put in more effort, do some research and expand my ways of thinking about how and what I eat. I hope this blog will ultimately become a guide for others in South Florida seeking to do the same thing and not knowing where to start.