Living Closer To Home

07.April 2010

Travel

Funny thing…traveling around the world for a year has made me think about living closer to home. No mum, I don’t mean that I’ll be moving back to my home town. I mean I should visit the market that’s just down the street instead of going to the supermarket. I should go see what the butcher has that’s local instead of buying meat pre-wrapped in styrofoam packages. I should have a veggie garden.

Everywhere we’ve been I’ve seen markets as a large part of everyone’s day. Why do we stock up with a weeks worth of groceries, eat meat that is factory produced, and buy vegetables that  are shipped from around the world?

Fresh

market-produceHere, in Vietnam, people eat breakfast at the local Pho stand, go to the market to get lunch ingredients and then go to the market again to get dinner ingredients…now that’s fresh! And that’s what local markets can deliver – the produce likely came out of the ground that morning and the eggs laid within the past few days. Fish in South East Asia was kept in water-filled plastic bins complete with aerating hoses…pick the one you want and take it home. Food tastes better, and is better for us, when it hasn’t been hanging around for weeks.

Seasonal

some-of-the-3000-types-of-potato-in-peruThat’s why everything is so fresh…because it’s offered in the season that it is produced. No red peppers from Chile, no strawberries from California, and no pineapples from Thailand. Local markets  deliver what is available right now, where ever they are. In Peru it was potatoes  and carrots, in Germany it was radishes and lettuce and in India it was eggplant and cauliflower. When it comes to climate, some countries are certainly more fortunate that others and can produce a wide range of food all year round but seasonality provides a rotating variety of produce and lets us anticipate what the next season will bring.

Variety

market-chumphon-3In markets around the world I saw a dizzying variety of items. There was lots of different produce, many cuts of meat and plenty of fish, but there was also a plethora of other things that one may need. There is usually a stall or two selling spices, cooking oil, rice, flour, and other flavoring ingredients. Often times it was also possible to buy a knife, bowl, pan or rice cooker right there also. And always there is a booth, or two, or three selling ready made meals to enjoy on the low stools and tables nearby or to take home.

Personal

veggi-wallahMy favorite part of the markets I’ve seen is the personal nature of them. The lady behind that pile of greens may not have picked them herself this morning but she likely is related to the person that did. The eggs came from chickens that run around some ones’ yard all day. The people in the market are connected to the food they sell, and the people that buy from the market are connected to the people that produce the food they eat. It’s all personal.

Local Support

In far away markets ‘local support’ is meaningless…there is no other way of doing business other than locally, but at home going to the market means supporting local businesses, local families and a local economy. I can see the dwindling farmland near where I live – it is becoming impossible to earn a living running a small farm and yet there is a movement toward local products. The tide needs to turn faster before there is no more ‘local’ to enjoy.

Don’t worry, I’m not becoming a hemp-wearing, crunchy granola type who only eats organic produce and chickens that led a ‘happy’ life, but I am going to try to live more locally…support local farmers, find a local butcher, grow my own carrots.

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11 Responses to “Living Closer To Home”

  1. ayngelina Says:

    The food was so fresh in Vietnam it definitely made me think about how I ate. I came back to Canada and started shopping at markets more. It’s easy in Toronto because there are so many nearby but I don’t think as easy in other cities.

  2. Tahna Says:

    Even if you move back into a condo or any place without a garden – you’d be suprised what you can do with container gardening. My friend grows all her own lettuce, tomatoes, beans, carrots, zucchini etc. just in her ‘container garden’ because she lives in an apartment.

    Not that i do of course….cause, well I kill anything that attempts to grow. Not that I do it on purpose. It just happens.

    But I was just sayin… it could be done if you weren’t a black thumb.

  3. Dirk Says:

    It’s true. We save pennies with big box stores, but you lose so much.

  4. Cam Says:

    I agree with Tahna (is this the Tahna of MoT Fame)? It’s boggling how much can be grown in a small space.

    In Victoria, we are fortunate in that we can have year-round gardening, and if so inclined, can have fresh local produce year-round.

    Not sure what options are available to those in placed like Winnipeg – short of pemmican and potatoes.

    Love the photos. Makes me envious!

  5. Melanie@TravelsWithTwo Says:

    Gillian, I’m really touched by your post…having just returned from doing my half-weekly shopping at my neighborhood Trader Joe’s. Here in Southern California, we have access to incredible amounts of produce (usually grown in the center of the state or in northern Mexico) and still there are blueberries from New Zealand! Ridiculous.

    You’ve inspired me to take my friend up on her offer of sharing the overflow produce from her vegetable garden…and to research flights to Vietnam. :)

  6. Amy Says:

    I agree with all of your points above! Before we left on our trip, we were trying to make a concentrated effort to eat more local food. We live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I noticed this was a lot easier to do in the summer when the farmers markets are bustling, than in the winter when there are very few things grown locally. But it is still possible with a little bit of effort.

    I am excited to experience the local markets on the road. We went to one so far while we are in Spain. Even at the regular grocery store, I noticed that a lot of the produce came directly from Spain, which is in sharp contrast to the food at home in the States.

    I am looking forward to the markets in Asia especially!

  7. Keith Says:

    One way that we got local and fresh food at home in Philly was a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture. We bought a “share” at Greens Grow (http://www.greensgrow.org/farm/index.php) that entitled us to 5-6 fresh vegetables and fruit, a protein, eggs and cheese or butter. It was an excellent way to try new things and ensure you get a good selection of in season products from local farmers. Give it a shot when you get home.

  8. Clark Says:

    The local stuff always tastes better too. Look forward to checking out these markets.

  9. Laura Keller Says:

    Great post. Agree, traveling certainly does make you question everything, even down to weekly routines like grocery shopping.

    We’re about five months in to our around the world journey and enjoying all the fresh, local food markets has been a real highlight. We’ve tried so many foods we’ve never heard of and don’t know how we’ll ever survive without all these fresh, amazing spices of Asia. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Eva & Jeremy Rees Says:

    Love this post — we’re trying to bring a lot of the same thoughts home for ourselves now.

  11. Luanna Says:

    AMEN!
    I love reading your writings!
    Supporting local farmers is key to eating a healthy diet and building a strong immune system by exposing you to the antigens in your environment and allowing your system to produce antibodies to fight disease.
    It is great fun to create meals with the ingredients that are seasonal. Nothing more exciting to go to the docks for your fresh fish or pinch some oregano from your window sill garden.
    I can only imagine what great recipes the two of you will make recreating some of your meal memories from this past year!