Salt is one of the three “trade item” exemptions on my 250-Mile Diet, and salt provided the climax of Mackinnon and Smith’s book on local eating, Plenty. And yet I live in a state that was once the largest salt producer in the country. Who knew? I didn’t until motivated by this self-imposed local eating imperative to find out. Turns out the entire city of Syracuse, NY was built around the salt mining industry, and salt is still mined from saline wells in the Finger Lakes district, which is at the far western edge of my local eating circle.
So I can cash in my salt exemption for citrus or chocolate, right? Not so fast. I’ve been able to track down local sources of salt for de-icing roads, but nothing food grade (let me know if you find a source!).
This just highlights something the 250 has been teaching me: just because a region can produce something doesn’t mean anyone is doing it on a commercial scale, i.e. providing a local product that you or I can buy. Salt is one example, the vinegars I wrote about in my last post another.
On an entirely different note, I’d just like to say that so far this is a tremendously fun adventure. Every day is a treasure hunt: Running out of parmesan means looking for a comparably sharp, local grating cheese (Sprout Creek Farm’s Barat–delicious! They are at the Union Square farmers market in Manhattan on Wednesdays and at Eli’s on E. 80th and Third everyday). Running out of canned beans means trying all the shell beans–canellini, cranberry, flageolet–that are available at the farmers markets right now. If butter was a protein, that would describe these beans after cooking them with a bay leaf and a clove of garlic till meltingly tender but not mushy.
But wait a minute, actually many minutes. Doesn’t it take a lot of time to shell beans?
Time is the number one obstacle people keep asking about when I tell them about my local eating experiment. It ranks above inconvenience, chocolate deprivation, and cost. Time. The one thing none of us has enough of.
At this past week’s CSA distribution, a fellow member asked me about canning vegetables. After I gave him a brief description of the process he said it sounded like it required a lot of time. To which I replied, “Yes, but it’s life, you know? There are worse things to do than daydream while you chop tomatoes.”
“While listening to music!” another member chimed in.