Europe's Take on American Locavores

Since starting The 250 last year I’ve done four interviews for European TV and publications, and the process has made me think hard about why my locavore lifestyle is relevant, whether it makes a difference, whether or not it can inspire or motivate others. I did the most recent one yesterday for the french incarnation of ARTE TV. They asked some excellent questions, but during the entire interview I kept feeling like there was something we weren’t quite addressing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after the interview that I figured out what it was.

All four European media interviews I’ve done have started out with my interviewer saying that Europeans are fascinated by the burgeoning local food movement in America because there is no European equivalent. Having been to Europe many times, I found myself mentally protesting because my experience was that there is a rich local food culture in Europe: so many farmers’ markets in every city and village, such a rich tradition of shopping for the best local ingredients from local vendors.

Yesterday, after the TV cameraman left, I thought, “Maybe they don’t get the enthusiasm and expansion we have here in regards to local foods because they never really needed it there.” They’ve never not had access to local foods, even with the encroachment of Migros super-supermarkets and Mickey D’s. Totally different from, for example, when I first moved to NYC as a teenager. I doubt if I could have found out where that iceberg lettuce in my supermarket came from even if I’d wanted to. Eating locally grown foods wouldn’t even have been a possibility then. But since I’ve been in NYC, the Greenmarkets have gone from a few stalls at Union Square once a week to four days a week round the block at that site and dozens more throughout the city. In contrast, the markets in Paris were there all along– perhaps taken for granted, perhaps not, but there.

After the interviewer left yesterday, another thing I thought of belatedly was that I’d had to correct him several times about the distinction between “locavore” and the local food movement. He spoke of them as if they were the same thing. But a locavore is someone who sets a strict radius from within which they intend to source their food, as I did with my 250-Mile Diet, whereas the local food movement includes people not measuring specific miles-to-plate but nonetheless very aware of the environmental issues of food miles, and getting as much of their food as they can from local sources.

One of the European interviewers I met with (from Germany), when I asked why she thought her audience would care about this subject, said that it gave them hope to see at least some Americans rejecting fast food and regaining common sense, and also that it was very cute how we took it to such extremes.

Common sense, indeed. Cute? That wasn’t quite what I was going for, but if you say so…

On a different note, for those of you who couldn’t watch my two segments on the Martha Stewart Show this past Monday, it is online now. Click here

THEN (if you don’t want to watch the whole show)

On the right side (beneath the pictures and the “1 – 4 of 8 videos” message), click “Next”, then click on
“Preserving Herbs” and/or “Indoor Herb Plants”. Those are the two segments I shot.

Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith

Not sure what this is about? Read Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet and The Rules


3 responses to “Europe's Take on American Locavores”

  1. andreayoung says:

    Hi! I saw you on the Martha Stewart Show earlier this week. I loved the segment on growing herb indoors. I have tried and failed in the past. From what you said I believe it was because they didn’t get enough light. I’d like to buy a “grow light” like you mentioned, but I’m unsure of what kind and where to get one. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  2. Miriam says:

    Exciting, Leda! I loved learning how to process and freeze fresh basil. And your point about giving indoor herbs enough light was what I needed to hear.


  3. Jill Adams says:

    When I was in France, I asked all the time — where are these vegetables from? where is the meat from? what wines are here? My questions were met with something like confusion, but the answer was always France. At the supermarket, a big section of the store is devoted to wine. I thought, maybe something from Italy at least. Nope, all French. A large island of cheese choices, all French. A whole aisle of yogurt products — all French.

    Also everyone had something edible growing in their yard: raspberries, gooseberries, currants. A true garden or just around the edge of the lawn — where we Americans would plant hostas or boxwood or flowers.

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