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Learning Local

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Growing up, Austin was my normal. My parents used canvas bags 15 years before they became mandatory. They always had a huge seasonal vegetable and herb garden. A fennel and beet salad was a normal side at dinner.  Local restaurants were the destination of choice. To me, that was normal, and the way I assumed the rest of the world lived.

LEARNING LOCAL

Yet as I grew into my formidable teenage years I could not understand why someone would want to spend their weekends tending to a garden. Who were these crazy people raising me? In their oversized straw hats, spending so much time in the dirt all for some vegetables. Taking the compost out was literally the worst chore in the world.

Yes, Austin is known for being progressive and “keeping it local” but striking up a conversation about your parents composting methods or summer tomatoes during high school English was never going to happen. And I wanted nothing to do with it.

During my college years I began to understand my parents were doing their part in living a local and sustainable life. They didn’t preach it, they lived it and they had rooted these practices in me. What can I say, it rubbed off.

After graduating and taking a job in Panama working for a sustainable development nonprofit, I got to see first hand another culture that valued living and working in harmony with the land. Upon moving back to the states and falling into the food world I gained a since of urgency to explore local living and healthy lifestyle. My upbringing and these experiences culminated into an “ah ha!” moment. I began to make manageable changes to gear me towards a healthier lifestyle. This realization was powerful yet overwhelming.

I was no expert. I lived in an apartment, where would I start a garden? Not to mention, although I watched my parent’s garden and picked up a few things along the way, since leaving for college I had little gardening experience of my own. My biggest question was where do I start? Kale and spinach juicing everyday?  Can I even afford to buy all local and organic? How can I best tap into the local food community? How can I incorporate local and sustainable practices into my lifestyle?

I believe a lot of people have a baseline understanding and interest in a local lifestyle but it can be hard to know how to make small changes to have great impact. I’ll be writing a series for this blog on how to do just that.

-Getting to know your local community
-Make it manageable & realistic
-Tweaking recipes

Let me know what other topics you are interested in an lets explore local living together.

 

 

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Eating Locally On the Road

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When I moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas, I was hardly what you would consider a foodie, but I knew enough to invoke what I call the “Amarillo Rule” – I do not eat at restaurants I can find in Amarillo.  Not to pick on my hometown, but Amarillo is not known for its culinary scene, unless you count watching people attempt to gorge themselves on a 72 oz steak dinner in an attempt to get free food, and I do not.  Even as a naive 18 year-old, I knew that I should explore the unique things Austin had to offer and save the chains for my visits home.

Twenty-six years later (stop doing the math or I won’t be able to lie about my age), I still invoke the “Amarillo Rule” in Austin and when I travel, and it has served me well. Eating locally on the road means I have to get out of my comfort zone which can be a challenge when I’ve had a bad travel day. It is much easier to hit up a known quantity when I’m exhausted than find something new, but a rule is a rule. It also means that I have to be willing to experience some duds. Ask the wrong person for advice and dinner at Chili’s starts to look pretty inviting.

The extra work and occasional miss are worth the effort and can result in a lasting food memory from an otherwise unmemorable business trip.  I’ll never forget a perfectly spiced bowl of posole from a diner in Flagstaff, Arizona or the beautiful Moules Frites (mussels & fries) from a French bistro in a Montreal suburb. I’m currently preparing for a twelve day trip to Connecticut and New York and researching where I’ll eat is high on the list of priorities.

I recently wrote an article for Edible Austin about some of the tools I use and interviewed TV food personality Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) about his strategies for finding great meals on the road.  I thoroughly enjoyed Zimmern’s insights on why learning the food culture in other places is so important and how to find the best bites in an unfamiliar place.

How do you find great meals when you are on the road?

 

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Getting organized in the kitchen with Edible Austin COOKS!

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Sometimes the most important time I spend in the kitchen isn’t cooking, but getting organized.  In Edible Austin’s new COOKS! issue, I explore two of my bigger kitchen dilemmas.

The first was how as a renter I could create a greener kitchen since remodeling isn’t an option.  The easy to implement tools I explore in the Eco Kitchens: Every Little Thing article can be used by anyone to significantly cut down on kitchen waste.

I struggled for years with how to store my recipes and actually be able to find them again when I needed them.  All of that changed when I discovered Evernote, software that allows you to store and categorize notes easily and access them from anywhere – even your smart phone.  Now, when I clipped a recipe to try someday, I could actually find it again.  I explore how you can use Evernote and several other applications for effective recipe storage in the Smart Food: Recipe Storage article.

What are some of your favorite kitchen organizing tips?

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Picking a CSA & Road Trip to San Antonio

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I am delighted to have two articles in the Fall edition of Edible Austin.   The first recounts a fantastic weekend in San Antonio exploring the real food scene on the River Walk.  I was amazed how each place had such unique character – I felt like I was walking into a completely different city with each new venue. And, more importantly, the food was fantastic. If you haven’t been to San Antonio lately, I highly recommend it for a weekend away.

The Embracing Local article explains how to pick a Community Supported Agriculture or local produce delivery service.  Many farms are still taking members for the fall season and this article can help you narrow your choice to the service that will work best for you.

You can view the entire issue online or pick up a copy at a local farmers market, restaurant or store.

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