It’s midnight and I’m still in the kitchen, struggling in my quest to make my own local bread. After weeks of searching I’ve gotten my hands on some flour milled only minutes away and ground from wheat grown just over one of the hills. I’m using the farmer’s recipe, augmented by Julia C’s. I’ve kneaded and proofed and made numerous batches. Last night’s loaf was tasty but had the weight and consistency of a large doorstop. But tonight’s will be perfect. As I approach the final minutes of the baking phase—as directed—I open the oven and splash hot water on a ceramic pan in order to create a succulent crust.
Suddenly though, as I lean into the oven, there’s a loud explosion. The ceramic shatters into a million glittering shards—in the oven, on the kitchen floor, fortunately missing me, but sadly in the bread.
Tomorrow we’re eating Orowheat.
And I remain: The Inconsistent Locavore.
I’m hungry for the real, and my appetite concerns more than food. I want to believe that life can still be vivid, and that wine, carrots, cream and figs, can taste of place instead of plastic. In the same way I want to hear music that doesn’t stream through Clean Channel and art that isn’t mass-produced in China. I still believe in craft. I want experience rather than reality T.V.
I’m on a quest for authenticity.
But my quest also has to be possible for a regular person. (I’m not spending a year in a one-room cabin eating nothing but raw root vegetables.) And my search has to make my world bigger and richer, not more constricted. I’m not against real Parmesan or Italian leather. But I want these things to be real.
I want to meet artisans and the man who charms his bees into giving me honey. I want to taste the one hundred kinds of apples that are in danger of extinction, and to experience a perfect peach.
But here’s the thing: in a perfect world—or at least perfect for me—my backyard would be a suburban Eden, complete with heirloom apple trees. I’d rock sleepily in a hammock made for me by a local artisan weaver. In my hand I’d hold a book purchased at an independent bookstore somewhere in town, perhaps from an owner who shares my interest in food.
In my dream all of my own food is locally sourced. In the summer I’d sweeten my pies (fruit and flour from the farmers’ market—unless, of course, I grew it all myself) with honey, and in the winter I’d feed my family from an assortment of glittering glass bottles that reflect the gallons of organic produce that had been “put up” and preserved. I love this vision.
But the truth is I live between worlds. I’m committed to localism—both in the culinary sense but also to the larger meaning of the word. I want to support—no, I want to be part of the local community of artisans, artists, cooks, builders, writers, workers, fishermen and just plain loafers. Yet, I divide my time between California’s Central Coast and Southern California. I work. Sometimes I eat in the car (gasp). I will never give up coffee and I love bananas. I liked Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid, but even then I never wanted to wear gingham (whatever that is) and cook bear meat over an open fire.
And yet, I’m doing my best to go local.
That’s what The Inconsistent Locavore is all about—finding a way to celebrate all that’s real and authentic in a region. Here we will explore the abundance of the Central Coast, as well as the tensions between the regional ideal and what is possible (at least for us ordinary folks). If I can’t bake my own bread I’ll find a fabulous local baker.
Keep reading to learn the rules.