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Alaska Food Challenge Kick-Off

June 23, 2011

It’s one hour before the start of the kick-off party, and I can’t go into my garden to harvest greens for the frittata because a news crew is in there broadcasting live about our event.  So I help Matt set up some tables as the sky threatens to rain.  Costco was out of EZ-up tents, so we are crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.  Luckily the sprinkles never materialize and the news crew retreats temporarily to their mothership van.  They will never notice a few missing spinach leaves…

Matt helps finish the frittata and light the grill for the salmon as people begin to arrive.  Everyone is excited about what they brought to share, and the tables begin to overflow with Alaskan bounty.  We begin by letting everyone explain what they brought.  The dishes are as creative as they are varied.  Root cellar carrot casserole, dandelion coffee, fettucine with smoked salmon and fresh tomatoes, deviled eggs, rhubarb pudding cake sweetened with honey, wheatberry salad, popped barley, and more.  My mouth is salivating as each dish is lovingly described, where the cook obtained the ingredients, and how they made it.  Besides salt, pepper, and a little olive oil, all of the ingredients are Alaskan.

The sun comes out a little, as if appreciating the efforts we have gone through to convert this Alaskan sunshine into food.  We begin to feast.  Conversations are rich with people sharing information about their ingredient sources and techniques.  We compare the progress of our gardens and lament already-missed opportunities for wild foraging.  There is a buzz of excitement as we consider the opportunities for adventurous eating in the next year.

After we eat, we share our pledges; how we intend to commit to eating local food for the year.  Some are simple: “I will go to the farmer’s market before the grocery store.”  Or “I will eat all-Alaskan breakfasts, and try my best with the other meals.”  Others are more in-depth.  Matt and I wrote a whole page describing why we are embarking on this challenge and how that informs what we will eat.

Every person has put a lot of thought into their food habits and diet and has seriously considered how to add more Alaskan food. It’s not so important whether people are ready to give up coffee and sugar, but that they are ready to make some change, big or small.  We are all inspired by each other’s commitments and convictions, and are ready to begin our food adventure!!

Here is our pledge:

We pledge to make every effort to eat all-Alaskan and as close to home as possible for an entire year starting tonight, June 20th, 2011.  We are doing this to lessen our carbon footprint from the food we eat as much as possible, to prove to ourselves and others that it can be done thereby demonstrating how abundant food is in Alaska, and to support and enhance our local food system.

In the spirit of this challenge, we will adhere to the following guidelines:

 1. Waste-not:  Whatever we start with in our cupboards is fair game… we haven’t stocked up, but that does include a couple liters of olive oil, a few pounds of sugar, flour, dried beans, etc.  Whenever we run out of something we will try to come up with a substitute or do without.

2. Exceptions: Items such as baking powder, salt, and pepper which are impractical to do without (or find locally) and aren’t significant weight-wise to our food carbon footprint will be allowed.  Also allowed will be things like cheese-making cultures, mother-of-vinegar, beer and wine making supplies which will allow us to make our own products as long as we source as many of the ingredients locally as possible.

3. Socialization: We love to socialize and entertain, so for each all-Alaskan meal we serve up to a friend, we can eat a meal at a friend’s house or out at a restaurant without insisting it be all local.  This will allow us to make friends instead of loose them.

4. Support Local Producers: In order to enhance our local food system, we will support local food producers whenever possible.  If products are not made with 100% local ingredients, we will work with those producers to find local sources.

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