A Locavore's Guide to Fast Food
What does fast food mean when it’s February and I’m eating a 250-mile diet? It sure isn’t a stop at the corner deli to grab a bagel on the way to work, or stopping at the salad bar on my way home. But I have just as many times as anyone that I’m tired or running late or just plain don’t feel like cooking.
The short answer for instant appetite gratification during a local foods diet in winter in the Northeastern U.S., is:
a piece of cheese
popcorn (if I’m home, feeling lazy, and deciding which Netflix DVD to watch)
If I’m running out the door with no time to make lunch, an apple and cheese are the easiest things to grab. I learned the hard way that if I headed out for a long work day and hadn’t packed lunch, I’d be one hungry locavore by the time I got home. Unless work that day happened to be near a farmers market, in which case I could run out and get my apple and local cheese there.
More often, even when rushed I can dig into something I prepared back on a day when I did have the time and energy. Leftovers have become a big part of my local eating strategy. Though I live alone (excluding my cat G.T.), nowadays I almost always cook for two or three or four. I either eat the remainders for lunch the next day or freeze them for future fast dinners. I also try to keep myself stocked with bread, crackers, and pasta–all homemade with local ingredients. For example, I make big batches of homemade pasta and dry what I don’t eat right away to have on hand for quick meals later on. Doesn’t always work though. I ran out of bread yesterday and just didn’t have the time today. I won’t have the time tomorrow or the next day either. So bread will have to wait until I can bake some on Sunday. Have I mentioned that planning is a big part of this locavore business?
Popping open a jar of food that I canned back when the ingredients were in season is another “fast food” option. I am so grateful I put up lots of pasta sauce, soups, beet salad, dilly green beans, ratatouille, and salsa. Now that I have dry beans again, I’ve taken to cooking big batches of them. I freeze some of each batch in one cup amounts for a quick thaw and reheat when I don’t have time to cook from scratch. It’s almost as convenient as canned beans.
But back to those apples. I like apples. I really do. And they travel well in my work bag. But since they have been the only fresh local fruit available for several months, I am really grateful for all the other fruits I put up when they were in season: peaches, nectarines, blueberries, pears, elderberries, currants, mulberries, plums. I don’t have any more strawberries in the freezer, though. I finished them up this week as an act of faith because strawberries will be the first fruit to ripen here in June. I suppose when that season comes around and it’s been nothing but strawberries for a few weeks, I’ll be glad to mix it up with some of the applesauce I’m canning now. But I bet that first strawberry is going to taste really, really good.
Meanwhile, the apples I’ve dried in my food dehydrator are another favorite grab-and-run snack.