Welcome to Ferndale Fare, the 115's newest column. Twice a month Jarred will bring all things local and delicious, with a focus on seasonal, real, food and drink. -Editor
Ferndale Fare: Beginnings
by Jarred Gild
Why does the Ferndale 115 need a food and beverage column, and why should you read it? There is an awful lot written already. This column is notable though, as it focuses on food and beverage available around Ferndale, and not just any edible or libation either, but those produced by conscious, caring artisans that have a passion for their craft and community. Making and consuming foods and beverages is an important part of many people's lives, and for some it isn't; but for everyone there are economic and social ramifications that are further reaching than most consumers realize. Food and drink form a large part of a place's unique cultural identity, from the geography of farmlands that surround a city, to the cuisines brought with diverse populations, even how people gather to enjoy food.
I went camping with a group of young Ferndale families. I know them from working at Western Market, and see them while walking through downtown. We spent two nights in a large cabin, cooking our food over the fire. Nearly everything in this dish was bought as a raw ingredient and prepared before the trip or over the campfire. Each dish used as many Michigan ingredients as possible for the season. Even the perfect beverage for a harvest meal served fireside was made in Michigan; Psenkova Cherry Mead is made of cherries and honey from small, family farms. It makes sense that the right beverage for braving the Michigan weather is an avid woodsman from Northern Michigan, so why would so many folks reach for something made from genetically modified corn, designed in a corporate laboratory? It may sound easier or simpler, but given the long-term effects an unexamined diet, there is much to be gained by looking wider and deeper than a supermarket shelf.
Local First, an organization in Grand Rapids, estimates that for every $100 spent in a nationally-owned establishment, $43 stays in the local economy, whereas the same amount spent at a locally-owned business keeps an average of $73 in the region. Michael Shuman, author of "The Small Market Revolution" and local-economy advocate says: "Growing evidence suggests that every dollar spent at a locally owned business generates two to four times more economic benefit—measured in income, wealth, jobs, and tax revenue—than a dollar spent at a globally owned business. That is because locally owned businesses spend much more of their money locally and thereby pump up the so-called economic multiplier." This chart from Local First illustrates how local spending can make a difference:
Every time we eat we make an endorsement about what kinds of practices are used in the food's production, distribution, and preparation. These practices can be beneficial or harmful, but it's often hard to tell what happens behind the scenes. Problems at animal feedlots, food recalls, GMOs and H1N1 have all been staples of the national and local press, but what's usually not emphasized is that these issues all exist because of the choices of the consumers. It's often easy to be unconcerned with problems that are out of sight, but it's the dollars of the consumer that allow companies to continue negligent, sometimes even deadly practices.
That doesn't mean that a consumer's choices are limited. If anything, learning about what real food is and where it comes from is quite freeing. This array of charcuterie was all handmade by people that sought out traditional means of production. They met with farmers or butchers to buy meat, read and conversed about how to smoke, cure, ferment or cook their victuals, and gathered with friends to enjoy their labors. I tried pork jowl for the first time prepared as an un-smoked style of Italian bacon called gaunciale (pronounced "gwan-chi-ah-lay"). It's that reddish, solid piece of meat near the top, aromatic and strongly flavored, but with delicate texture, and when added to a dish it contributes a certain character that cannot be achieved without it. It's not expensive or made with hard to find ingredients, nor is esoteric knowledge required to prepare it. Taking the time to explore culinary traditions is something that makes eating more enriching, more than just consuming calories for energy, especially when shared with others.
Twice a month this space will be used to explore our local food system and anything it's connected to. Stories of real people, real food, real wine, real culture... hopefully they will encourage the citizens of Ferndale and beyond to joyously ruminate on how they can enrich their life and community through what they choose to eat.
Send us your opinion or question! Your response could be in our FERNDALE VIEWS section next issue!