Searching for the Livingston County Lunch
Several years ago, the term "locavore" had not yet entered the vernacular of even the trendiest eaters. As the notion of eating locally gained increasing news coverage and attention, however, the term has become widely known. Locavore is a snappy buzzword referring to an individual who chooses to buy the bulk of what they eat from sources within a 100-mile radius, cutting transportation costs and contributing to a more sustainable economy.
Perhaps most telling of the strong push to eat more locally is its appearance on the Livingston County Tourism website, where an entire section is devoted to area offerings of food from Barilla-brand pasta to vegetables, mustard and syrup from Livingston County farms. This list of specialty foods isn't meant for the occasional tourist or gourmand, though: highlighted at the top of the Web site is the "Livingston County Lunch," a locavore-oriented meal of bread, peanut butter, and jam from area providers.
Eating locally has been a notion on the rise since Jessica Prentice, founder of a grassroots locavore community in San Francisco, coined the word in 2005. Prentice now runs a Web site, www.locavores.com, which connects users with others trying to be conscious about where their food comes from. The benefits of eating food from nearby producers vary; according to the New York Times article, "Preserving Fossil Fuels..." locavores enjoy the fresher-tasting food as well as the comfort of contributing to a more sustainable practice. According to the article, food that is not from area farms could have traveled up to 1,500 miles before reaching one's dinner table. Eating solely local foods is a challenge, though, and those who choose to do so may not have the luxury of items that are not available locally year-round or are grown great distances away, like bananas or coffee.
The "Livingston County Lunch" brings the idea of eating locally down from the national sphere to a more digestible size. The notion behind this sandwich, it seems, is to demonstrate that something as trendy as eating locally can be practical and accessible to all Americans. According to Lisa Burns of the county tourism website, she devised the lunch as a way of offering a combination of local products for notable visitors to the area.
"In the tourism industry, we recognize that visitors love to feel they are experiencing something that can't get back home," Burns said in an e-mail.
No lunch is simpler or more universal than that of peanut butter, bread, and jelly, and according to the tourism website all three items can be found within the 640 square miles of Livingston County.
Though local eating has entered both the consciousness and the kitchens of the population, carrying out such a practice still has its roadblocks. In the interest of academia and what seemed to be a delicious, flavor-rich lunch that could only be found in the Genesee Valley area, I set out to gather the various components that dictated my locavore Peanut Butter and Jelly.
I found the bread easily. Monk's Bread, made solely at the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, NY and distributed in the Western New York region, is available at the nearby abbey as well as several area supermarkets. Its accessibility makes it a simple, local addition to the Livingston County resident's kitchen. While I couldn't get a ride to the Abbey itself, I picked up a loaf from the Geneseo Wegmans.
Sadly, just bread does not a sandwich make, so I strode to the opposite end of the store to see if the Turkeys On The Hill jelly and Once Again Nut Butter were available to complete the triad of easy local eating. Unfortunately, I was only met with the usual name-brand fare, finding specialty jams imported from as far as France, but none of the products that the Livingston County website so lauded.
Once Again Nut Butter is produced about forty minutes from campus in Nunda, NY, where the company runs a relatively small operation producing natural and certified organic nut butters, bulk nuts, and honey. Without the time (or vehicular transport) to make it to Nunda, I was luckily able to pick it up at the much closer Abbey of the Genesee, which stocks it along with Monk's Bread. Buying food at the Abbey instead of Wegmans, however, did make me feel more connected to the people who made it and thus the practices I was supporting - small scale, sustainable businesses that were located right where I lived.
I set a time the next day to travel to Conesus, NY to investigate the source of the Turkeys On The Hill jelly to complete my sandwich. Though it required more planning than a mere trip to the supermarket, it seemed that putting together a simple meal from solely Livingston county products was possible. As our car approached the turnoff for the Turkeys On The Hill farm, though, an ominous sign prevented us from going forward: ROAD CLOSED. Remember those roadblocks to local eating I mentioned earlier? The farm in Conesus where I had hoped to find jelly had literally put one up. Lacking the knowledge of other nearby jelly-making farms, I admitted defeat, turned around and went back to campus.
If you don't have a convenient means of travel or the time to visit the often spread apart farms and independent food producers, buying locally becomes somewhat trickier. The supermarket Wegmans does carry some local products - along with the Monk's bread, the produce section features a changing selection of vegetables and fruits that are brought to the store by local farmers, according to Geneseo produce manager Ken Foster. When I spoke with him on the phone, Foster noted that locally grown grapes, peaches, and corn, among other products, have an improved taste and freshness compared to imported produce. In addition, Lisa Burns of the county tourism informed me that Once Again Nut Butter's "remarkably good" products are sold to Wegmans and labeled as Wegmans' brand natural peanut butter - another local product conveniently available for purchase during a standard trip to the supermarket.
At home, I sat in my kitchen and mulled over my locavore peanut butter sandwich. Though its taste was pretty similar to a standard, supermarket-supplied sandwich, the thought that I didn't need to travel more than a couple of miles for it was somewhat gratifying. Sure, I was missing jelly, and the lunch was technically incomplete. However, for Livingston County, it was a start.
1. "Locavores" - http://www.locavores.com
2. "Preserving Fossil Fuels and Nearby Farmland by Eating Locally" - http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/25/dining/25loca.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
3. "Eating Better Than Organic" - http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1595245,00.html?iid=perma_share
4. "Livingston County New York Tourism" - http://www.fingerlakeswest.com
5. "Monks' Bread" - http://www.monksbread.com
6. "Once Again Nut Butter" - http://www.onceagainnutbutter.com/
7. "Seasonal Ingredient Map" - http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/seasonalingredientmap
8. "10 Reasons to Eat Local Food" - http://www.lifebeginsat30.com/elc/2006/04/10_reasons_to_e.html