For years, I kept hearing people talk about “local” produce, but didn’t give it much importance at the time. This was back when I had no idea what sustainability is and couldn’t be bothered to care. To me, it seemed perfectly normal to buy whatever was available in the nearest market and had no idea where it was imported from. And didn’t care. Whatever was comfortable was “better”. I never understood why buying produce made in my country was such a big deal. I do now.
Ever since I became increasingly preoccupied with everything related to eco-friendly living, I began thinking more and more about the impact of everything I do on a daily basis. It’s become sort of a habit. My mind goes straight there, no matter what it is I’m doing or what I’m buying, I will instantly think “how big of an impact does this have?”. As a consequence, I started being more conscious about where I buy the things I need. As much as possible, if I can choose a local product I will choose that, instead of an imported one. Of course, I still buy a lot of imported stuff, but I try to be mindful. Two things I’ve been purchasing exclusively local are vegetables and eggs.
A few years back I discovered a platform called Cutia Taranului. This is how it works: you pick a city and a family of your choice. Sometimes there is a waiting list, but you will be contacted shortly once there is an open spot. The products are delivered right to your door by the family. Each seller (family) offers a wide variety of edibles ranging from vegetables and greens to meat and dairy products. I highly encourage you to eat a more plant-based diet and avoid meat and dairy, but if you do decide to go with the corpses and baby cow food, at least buy local. It’s better for the planet. Some families also sell honey, syrup and one even has delicious raw cakes. I chose the Butyka family. The box (bag) is 50 RON and even though they say it is destined for a family of 2, trust me, it’s for a family of 4. There are so many vegetables that I had to split the box with a friend, so we each pay 25 RON per week. Every Tuesday I wait for Mrs. Butyka like a little kid waiting for Santa, wondering what I’m gonna get this week. See that’s the catch. You don’t get to choose what you receive. The vegetable boxes vary from seller to seller, but they are all based on what is in season at the moment. Which is great. Because eating seasonal food is actually much healthier than eating strawberries in winter. Eating local fruit and veggies is also much healthier than eating weird exotic shit because we’re hipsters now and we all like avocado toast, suddenly. Your body was designed to best digest the food that is specific to your climate and area. Now, clearly, you won’t be unhealthy if you don’t eat local, but trust me, local is better.
Not knowing what I will get made me a bit reluctant at first, but now I absolutely love it. It literally forced me to diversify my diet, because I had to adjust my cooking to whatever vegetables I got. I have never in my life purchased celery. Ever. Or parsnip. Or turnips. I know, I’m weird. But I just never found them appealing. And I could not for the life of me think what the hell people cook with these things. I hate celery in soups. Of course, I can never actually taste it, but I hate the idea of knowing that it’s there. So I just never ever cooked with celery. Well, after about 3 weeks of getting my vegetable boxes I ended up having a shitload of it, so I had to do something, because I didn’t want to throw it away (no food waste, duh). Luckily, my dear friend Anna came to the rescue and she gave me a recipe for a celery spread which was delicious. Another recipe I got from her was an apple and turnip salad with mustard, sour cream and honey dressing, which is now my all-time favourite quick salad. It is absolutely delicious and I make it all the time. So you see, just by not choosing my own vegetables I expanded my diet, as I was forced to make dishes I didn’t even knew existed or wasn’t curious about before.
So here is what I get: onions (regular as well as green), potatoes, cabbage, bell-peppers, squash, turnips, celery, parsnip, parsley, raddishes, garlic, cucumbers, beetroot, peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, salad, fresh mint, spinach, apples. In cold seasons, the lack of vegetables is compensated with pumpkin for pies, dried beans, pickles and pickled cabbage, jams, tomato juice for cooking and zacusca. And trust me when I say, after years of eating only store-bought tomato juice, when I tasted this home-made one, my entire childhood came back in an instant. It doesn’t even compare to that store crap. The same goes with everything else. The vegetables actually taste like vegetables. I also love that Mrs. Butyka not only agreed to bring the veggies in my reusable cotton bag, but told me that most of her clients give her their own textile bags because they want to reduce plastic waste. How cool is that? She also brings me eggs every few weeks, as I stopped buying them from the store. It’s not ideal, but I’d much rather know that the chickens are living a normal life, not being tortured and brutalized.
Now let’s get to the part of why buying local is important. Firstly, all the negative impact associated with the transportation of the produce from whatever country to here is eliminated. So is the ridiculous plastic packaging, like the one you see on cucumbers. If only cucumbers had a natural packaging that was also edible. Oh wait. I can’t even. I can’t even look at that crap in the store anymore, it just seems absurd to me at this point. Buying local means you can buy in bulk, which is way more sustainable. You also know where your food comes from and how it’s grown. You can simply ask the farmers.
Secondly, buying local products supports the local economy. That means that your money stays close to home, not going to some other country. Why would you buy import potatoes when you have potatoes here? Supporting local businesses and farmers is extremely important, especially in these fucked up times, when so many lost their jobs and are now struggling to make ends meet. I would much rather give my money and appreciation to people who neet it most, doing honest work, than to big supermarkets. They’ll be fine. I’m sure they can continue to be a perpetuator of environmental clusterfuck without my support. I’ve recently seen a post about farmers giving away cucumbers for free, because they are unable to sell them. It made me sad and angry. Apparently a lot of farmers throw away up to 5 tons, TONS, of vegetables because they are simply not sold. It’s absurd. So please, buy local produce, these hardworking people deserve our money more than the supermarket chains.