Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Fine Print

When I wrote my research proposal last semester, I attempted to anticipate occasions when departing from the plan would be appropriate.  These exceptions, included in my proposal, are listed below:
  • If we were unable to find a reasonably balanced diet within 100 miles, we could expand our local range - first to 150 miles and then to 200 miles - to meet our basic dietary needs.
  • We could also extend our local range in the same manner to accommodate our preference for organic produce.
  • On Valentine's Day, we would treat ourselves to dinner at the Harvest Moon Grille, a restaurant that serves food grown within 100 miles of Charlotte.  We would not obsess over the details, such as whether the food was cooked in non-local oil or seasoned with non-local spices.
While our diet has lacked variety and expanding our mileage slightly would score us apples, peanuts, and peanut oil, we have opted to maintain the 100 mile radius.  However, on two occasions we have inadvertently strayed.  Both times we were shopping without a detailed map to show each and every small town within 100 miles, and we purchased food from vendors 115 miles away, even though we could have found the items (dairy and sweet potatoes) within the 100 mile range.  Oops!

The good news is that we have found eating within 100 miles to provide a reasonably balanced diet.  And, although we still prefer organic produce, we have been satisfied with the farming methods described to us by the farmers we have encountered.  Some are certified organic.  Many use organic methods without going through the hassle and expense of certification; others say they use low spray methods.

However, you can bet your sweet potato that we did enjoy a most scrumptious dinner at the Harvest Moon Grille for our Valentine's celebration.  We were only a few days into the 100 mile experiment, and it was just the boost our spirits needed.  Our charming waiter Pete took exquisite care of us, and owner and head chef Cassie Parsons was both interesting and interested in our experience.  As suspected, most of their food comes from a 100 mile radius, much of it from within 40 miles, but the restaurant does use oils, spices, coffee, and chocolate that are non-local.  We were forced to enjoy all of the above, as the three-course Valentine's meal included everything from soup through dessert.  My main course was rabbit ragout without the rabbit - pasta with a savory tomato and carrot based sauce.  I highly recommend it!

We have made one exception that I did not anticipate.  I was invited to attend's National Leadership Summit in Minneapolis February 24-27, which was an opportunity not to be missed.  I easily decided that packing a suitcase full of local North Carolina food was not going to work, nor would I have time to source and prepare local food from Minnesota.  This required us to suspend our 100 mile experiment for a few days, and the simplest solution was to extend our end date by a few days to make up the difference.

While in Minnesota, my menu options were limited to the food provided at the conference and available in the airports.  But I did consume ice cream, pizza, chocolate, and coffee during my trip.  I'm not going to lie, the ice cream was really good.  But, overall, I did not find any of the food particularly wonderful with two exceptions.  The caterer prepared a delicious eggplant dip that rocked my world.  Also, the group had dinner out at Gandhi Mahal, an Indian restaurant owned by a Bangladeshi man.  That is the meal I will fantasize about for the remainder of our 100 mile challenge.

While I was away, Joselle suspended her diet too.  She indulged in some of her favorite junk foods, like potato chips, ice cream, chocolate, Papa John's pizza and cinnapie, but found that they were just not as delicious as anticipated.  Bummer.  The oranges and apples did not disappoint, however, and she savored every bite.  She also attended a cooking class at Harvest Moon Grille.  The single most exciting thing that happened over the weekend was that she found dried peaches, more pecans, and, most importantly, fresh greenhouse grown strawberries at the farmers market.  Hello, Smoothies!

No comments:

Post a Comment