I wanted to make a pot pie last night—an idea that probably occurs to me every year at about this time—so I went looking through Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone for a recipe. As is my habit, I found myself rejecting those that called for grossly out-of-season vegetables: no tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, or other high-summer crops. Instead, I settled on one that made use of turnips, carrot and rutabaga.
I put a whole-wheat crust on it, and it turned out quite nicely. Afterward, though, I started to wonder whether I’d really done anything noble by avoiding tomatoes. The sticker from the rutabaga was still on the counter, and it read “Canada.” I’m not certain, but I’d bet that the turnips and carrot came from somewhere far away, too.
As I wrote last week, the locavore pickings are slim, both in our household and in stores. Unless we’re to subsist entirely on grains, beans, meat and cheese, we will have to buy some produce, and it will not come from around here. Our area may have a thriving agriculture community, but it’s simply not big enough yet to obviate the need for out-of-region fruits and veggies. So isn’t it a bit artificial to insist on rutabagas, when they’re traveling just as far as tomatoes from Florida?
I’d like to think that eating in season, even if it’s not always eating local, is a worthwhile act. For one thing, it teaches us the skill of cooking sometimes unfamiliar produce—so, as our local offerings continue to grow, we’ll be ready to make use of them. (I never would have gotten interested in, say, sorrel, were it not for my interest in eating local.) For another, it’s a habit that connects us intimately to the cycles of the seasons; it just feels appropriate.
Questions remain, though. How do the rutabaga growing practices in Canada compare to the tomato growing practices in Florida? Would I really rather see Florida farmland covered with houses?
It’s too much to fit in one little pot pie. What do you think?