Word of the year: “Locavore”
December 13th, 2007
Editors at the New Oxford American Dictionary recently announced that “locavore” is their word of the year.
Locavore: someone who eats locally grown food.
Watching this wonderful word move into the mainstream is both gratifying and a little worrisome. Will locavore become a politicized label, like recent research reports concluding that owners of hybrid cars are active, educated and Democrat? Will locavore suffer from overuse, watered down for marketers’ convenience, as “organic” and “all-natural” have been? I hope neither. I hope, like the Slow Food movement, that this word will remain a cherished symbol of grassroots passion about the character (and food) of a specific place on earth. Namely: your own backyard. And for this reason, I maintain that gardeners at their very hearts, are also locavores.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a wonderful new book by Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver, is the authentic locavore manifesto. In it, megastar novelist Kingsolver and her family document “a year of food life,” in which they attempted to grow and produce as much of their own food as possible. And when the food doesn’t come from their own small farm in the southern Appalacians, it is supplied by local farmers who use sustainable practices. I received this book as a gift from my dear friend Britt Olson. Reading it this autumn has given me renewed hope in the power of one’s own small patch of soil — and what can be grown there.
As I’m trying to renovate a sterile, suburban backyard so that it can be planted next March, I’m thinking about all the delicious, nourishing vegetables and herbs that it will produce (not to mention seasonal flowers that I can enjoy and use in arrangements). I’ll never reach the status of a 100-percent locavore, but if I can at least grow some of my own food supply, it will be a start. It is a gardener’s obligation, I think, to grow edible as well as ornamental crops.
Cauliflowers from Underwood Family Farms in Somis, CA
The farmer’s market is open this afternoon, and I’m off to buy organic eggs (although one has to arrive at 2 p.m. on the spot in order to get the lovely blue-green Araucana eggs), fingerling potatoes, colorful cauliflowers, and autumn fruit. Perhaps I’m a locavore-wannabe, but it’s sure better than the alternative.