Eating & Buying Local: The Sean Brock method

I'm kinda sorta keeping it local

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Made a fabulous local dinner tonight using some very simple ingredients

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But after interviewing Chef Sean Brock at Husk yesterday, I'm starting to realize that I'm far from being exclusively local. At his new restaurant Husk, he is attempting to source ALL of his ingredients from the South (which includes Florida and Texas). That means salt, lemon, olive oil, sugar. He admits finding such basic ingredients has been a Herculean effort, causing countless amounts of stress. But interestingly enough, he's found olive oil from Texas and Georgia, salt from the Tabasco folks in Louisiana, and sugar from Florida. It makes you realize that buying exclusively local for all of your ingredients is nigh impossible. Unless you're Sean Brock, that is, and your local is a bit more broadly defined.

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For dinner tonight, I purchased Mepkin Abbey ($5) oyster mushrooms and fresh Rio Bertolini fettucine ($4) from the Pig. I had a block of asiago cheese ($5) from Happy Cow Creamery that I purchased a few weeks ago at Thornhill Farm in McClellanville. But the building blocks of the dish — the salt, lemon, black pepper, and cream — came from the grocery store. Yes, The Pig is local, but the most specific location I could get with items like Boston and romaine lettuce was a generic "USA."

When looking for a loaf of bread, I realized that I should have stopped by Normandy Farm for some locally baked boules, 'cause Merita may be from nearby, but it sure ain't artisanal. As for local lemons, every once in a while, my neighbor across the street will drop off a basket of lemons picked from his tree in the backyard. But I'm pretty sure it's not in November.

During our interview yesterday, Brock was talking about the difficulty of finding all of his ingredients from around the South and actually said: "It's really hard. I challenge anyone to spend a week just trying to buy ingredients from the south at the grocery store."

I told him I'd made my own Buy Local commitment and had been trying to keep it as local as possible. But now I realize how limited my efforts have been. I've been counting my shopping trips to The Pig as part of my buying local/eating local project, but my grocery bags are stuffed with bread from N.J., toilet paper from who-knows-where, and beer from Belgium. Perhaps I need to take a new approach and shop like the Europeans do, stopping in at bakeries, butchers, and markets as I need items. It sounds great, but the time it takes to follow through on that scares me, particularly since I don't live in a place where it's convenient to shop that way.

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