Oberlin Blogs

Livin' La Vida Local!

March 13, 2011

Ruby Saha ’14

(I apologise for that awful, awful pun in the title, but I couldn't resist.)

As you may well know about me by now, I live in Singapore. Singapore is an island roughly twice the size of Manhattan, which means it's very, very small. There are very few farms of any kind because there just isn't any space. Almost all of the food that you buy/cook/eat in Singapore is probably imported. I eat American cereal with Australian milk and Californian orange juice for breakfast (or at least I think it's something like that; don't quote me on those, it's been over a month). So, the concept of local foods isn't really one I've thought much about. In fact, the only time I ever really cared where my food came from was when the whole H1N1/bird flu/swine flu/insert-animal-here flu epidemics hit and we would get little notices about how the pork was flown straight from Australia and therefore perfectly safe to eat.

The point of that seemingly anecdotal fact is that on Monday night I went to the Local Food Banquet as part of Oberlin's Food Week and learned about, well, local food. Or rather, local food made from local ingredients grown by local farmers.

Here's a summary of how the night went: Good food! Local ingredients! Provocative questions about the food we eat everyday! Being the only carnivore in a group of vegetablearians! Also being entertained by my dear fellow blogger Will (he finally made his blog! HUZZAH!) who teamed up with me as my paparazzo in order to bring this blog post to you.

The banquet was held in the Root Room of Carnegie, and I believe about 60 people attended, including local farmers and students working at co-ops who helped organise Food Week. We started with a brief introduction given by Caroline Fojo, the Bon Appetit East Coast Fellow, followed by one of our Oberlin Bon Appetit chefs, Dean Holliday, who explained the goals of Food Week and the Local Food Banquet, detailed what ingredients were in the food, where it had been grown and by whom, and encouraged us to speak to some of the people who were involved in organising the events of the week.

After that it was dinner time, and boy was it good. Oberlin has better food than I'd like to admit; my parents, and even my brother, would say that I was spoiled for food, having regaled me with stories of truly awful dorm food. It's true that there's almost always something worth eating at Stevie, the dining hall right across from where I live, and failing that there's always other places to eat, including spending Flex Points at DeCafe, sneaking into/being invited to a Co-op, and of course the local restaurants, which have improved vastly since the fall. But sometimes you really just crave good food, and for a $3 entry ticket, this was absolutely worth it.

It was also an eye-opening experience for me. Like I said at the start, local food has never been something I've thought about, like the apple cider that I drink everyday from the Amherst Miller's Orchard. In fact, ResEd even provides a list of the kind of food which is locally grown and where it is grown. Also, in the Oberlin dining halls, we have a little stamp next to each of the menus which will indicate whether the food was locally grown, just in case you decided you were going to boycott imported food that day. I knew all of these things, but it was interesting to think about where my food comes from and the fact that local farmers depend so much on the patronage of an institution like Oberlin College to provide a marketplace. Oberlin is all about sustainability; supporting local produce is a small crank that allows that machine to run smoothly.

Of course, it's probably cheaper for you to buy mass-produced food, and you shouldn't have to bankrupt yourself trying to buy locally grown organic produce, but next time you buy groceries at your local IGA (or wherever it is you shop), think about where that product leads back to and who and what exactly you're supporting when you make that purchase. While you're doing that, I'll leave you with a photo of Will and me, the people who made this public service announcement possible. (:.

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