Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Some Musings on Local Food and Maple Ice Cream

The recent buzz about the importance of eating locally has grown to a roar, with at least four articles in local papers on the subject today. Here’s a link to a good resource on the topic: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/wol/challenge/Newsletter/Seven.asp, which addresses the dilemma: which is better, organic or local? (The answer? Organic and local is best, but if you have to choose, pick local.)

The impulse that draws me to the idea is equal parts gourmand and do-gooder. There’s something satisfying about the ability to provide familiar, comforting food where none existed. It’s the same impulse that drives my baking, taken one step further. While I’m aware that it’s the farmers who do the greater portion of the heavy lifting in this scenario, it feels survivalist and safe to be able to go directly to the earth where the food is grown to procure it. It feels like I deserve extra credit (and maybe a second helping) for making the effort.

Also, there are no more mysteries in the food chain. I know my produce wasn’t sprayed with something to make it green, or picked when unripe and chemically prodded to fruition. I can see where it grew, or talk to the farmer who raised it and picked it. There’s more trust because nothing is concealed.

The more research I do, the more thrilled I am with the possibilities that exist locally. Southern Ontario has such a wide variety of produce available year-round, and most of the staples I couldn’t do without grow here. I was worried for a while that we had no local salt since I thought it required a body of salt water but actually, the world’s largest salt mine is located here in Ontario. (Hey, I learned something new – I’m glad I got up today!). It’s a little further than 100 miles away, (134 to be exact) but better than I thought.

I’m excited to head out to the farm when rhubarb and asparagus season starts in May, but in the meantime I plan on visiting some local markets and seeing what year-round products I can get my hands on. The Dufferin Park organic market is on tomorrow and I think I’ll make a pilgrimage.

Yesterday’s maple ice cream turned out well. It was more substantial than the blueberry which had a good flavour, but a texture more like frozen whipped cream. I made the maple without any nuts since I really want to perfect the bases before expanding into add-ins. It still needs a little tweaking. It tastes richer that the blueberry, but maybe a little too rich. Now it feels like the egg is overwhelming the added flavour. Today’s batch will be salted caramel, and one of the egg yolks will be replaced with an egg white. I actually made the batter yesterday and it’s chilling in my fridge. Tonight I’ll be making a mocha-almond recipe by special request. After that, I’ll have to slow down as I’m running out of freezer space.

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