Local food, evangelization, and subsidiarity
I confess – I’m a food snob. I’m the guy who cringes at chain restaurants and salivates at a chance to try local fare. I think paying more for produce grown locally is worthwhile. I know the extra dollar per pound I paid for local tomatoes directly helps the farmer who grew them, and I trust he spent extra time and resources to do it without using chemicals.
Growing up, I never had any connection to where our food originated. It came from the big-box grocery store, that’s all I knew. It wasn’t until my twenties when I first tasted fresh, local tomatoes that my taste buds went wild.
Sometimes when telling people you “eat local” you get odd reactions. Many complain it’s too expensive, inconvenient, and seems like a “hippie” habit. While the current local movement has its quirks, there are too many positives to ignore. What was once the norm – shopping at the local grocer for produce, selecting cheese from the town dairy, talking to the corner butcher while he wrapped your pork loin just carved from a pig raised 10 miles away – had essentially been abandoned. But once again, we see an uptick in “buying local.” From farmers markets, to urban farming, to neighborhood farm-totable restaurants, we’re seeing a resurgence in shopping and eating “local.”
The principle of subsidiarity in Catholic social teaching says that societal problems should be addressed at the lowest level possible. Before looking “elsewhere” for food, practicing subsidiarity suggests getting what we can first from local sources.
Among the many advantages, fresher food has higher nutritional value. When produce picked yesterday only travels from north of town to the farmers market to your house, you’re getting the maximum health benefit. And it tastes much better.
Second, look at the local economic impact. A recent study showed that for every $100 spent at a local restaurant, $65 stays in the immediate economy. Compare that to only $30 when that same $100 is spent at a national chain. You might say, what’s wrong with my money having an impact nationally? If we are prioritizing subsidiarity, and our money can have a greater impact nearby, we should invest there first.
There’s one more reason to buy locally. In getting to know our corner farmer, rancher, restaurateur, chef, or shopkeeper, we can each share our lives. As they learn about you, and you become more familiar with them, they’re affected by who you are and how you personify your faith – as you may well be with how they portray theirs. As I’ve seen in my own life, this impact is worth more than all the other delectable and economic benefits combined.
CHRIS FADDIS is an author, entrepreneur, and keynote speaker and a member of the Phoenix Chapter of Legatus. Chris is founder of Bene Plates – beneplates.com and Solidarity HealthShare – solidarityhealthshare.com.
Eggplant Caponata Protein Bowls
1/3 cup olive oil
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
15oz can of diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons of currants
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano leaves
3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey or sugar
1 tablespoon of capers, drained
1/2 cup of fresh basil, chopped
1 cup dried quinoa
16oz fresh mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup of unsalted pistachios, crushed (optional)
Cut up and pre-portion all of your ingredients. In a medium-sized pot, heat the pan to medium and add quinoa. Toast for about 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times throughout. Add two cups of water and bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for about 12-15 minutes, or until all water has been absorbed. Set aside.
Next, heat olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the chopped celery and let cook for one minute. Add the eggplant and cook until just getting soft. Stir in the red bell pepper and cook for about two minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and cook until tomatoes are translucent – about four minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, oregano and currants, let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar, honey, capers, and fresh basil and stir to combine.
Place ½ cup of cooked quinoa in shallow bowl or on a plate. Lay 2-3 mozzarella slices over top. Spoon caponata over the mozzarella and top with some crushed pistachios and fresh basil.