Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Inherent Contradictions of Local Food

Barry Estabrook has a pretty interesting, if short, review of The Town That Food Saved over at The Atlantic. The book is about a former granite town, Hardwick Vermont, that had fallen on pretty hard times, and has since reinvented itself based on local food culture. To the author's credit, it doesn't sound like the book is quite the local food cheerleading exercise the title implies. Artisanal cheese and a co-op aren't a magic elixir for economically depressed small towns, and indeed there are some unanswered questions:
Undeniably, their efforts have brought 125 jobs to an area where every job counts. In doing so, they have created a vibrant, mutually supportive community centered on food. But Hewitt is also well aware of the ironies and shortcomings of the locavore trend and its upscale cachet. In a town of 3,200 that still has a median income 25 percent below the state's average and an unemployment rate 40 percent above it, real locals are more likely to buy processed cheese from the Grand Union supermarket than pick up a piece of artisanal blue cheese from the farmers' market, and more likely to dine on $3.38 chicken fried rice at the Yummy Wok than venture across main Street into Claire's, a "community supported restaurant" that features local fare and offers nine-dollar vegetable tagines and 24-dollar grass-fed steaks that can be washed down with a selection of decidedly non-local wines.

Sounds like an interesting book.

photo by flickr user trrpngirl used under Creative Commons license