I wouldn’t call it a local food movement — yet. Right now, a lot of pieces of the “big picture” of a more locally self-reliant food system are developing — from community supported agriculture to the great farmers markets and community gardens in our area, to the school lunch programs, restaurants and retailers including The Store in downtown Orono, and to local organizations such as Sustainable Orono and local food buying clubs such as the Orono Local Buying Club, of which I’m a member.
While communication between producers and consumers about the food we eat has grown a lot in recent years, to become a local food movement there must be a critical mass of people getting together to achieve a common aim.
In helping to move that process along, we’re holding tastings of Maine foods at Hunting House Gallery at 76 Main St. Orono, owned by club member Sam Hunting.
An April 1 “No Foolin’ Cheese Tasting” was deemed a big success by those who dropped by the gallery to sample the cornucopia of cheeses. Crown O’ Maine , the club’s largest supplier, also was impressed. It donated the cheese, which came from three of several dozen Maine producers the company represents. Its 12-page product list includes organic tofu, tempeh, dairy products, flours, grains, honey, oil, frozen berries, fresh produce, and a host of “value-added” foods made from Maine ingredients.
A second buying club event, a salad tasting, will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 17, at Hunting House Gallery. Anyone interested in joining the buying club or supporting a local food system is invited.
Debe Averill, the club’s event coordinator and a professional caterer and cooking instructor, explained the concept: “It’s a salad tasting, but we will be using ingredients that folks may not be familiar with. Using your imagination to put together great fresh produce and other items from your local farmers market, a community supported agriculture delivery, or a local food buying club can be so much more than just ‘making dinner.’ Visit your farmers market as a family and talk about what you find and how you might use it.
“Crown O’ Maine provides us with wonderful locally produced items that can be used imaginatively,” she said. “Buying locally and organically aids your health, gets you outdoors and supports our local economy. It’s a win-win-win situation.”
Recently, Crown O’ Maine named the Orono club as “hands down” the fastest-growing one in its statewide network, helping to shift the bulk of its sales from Whole Foods to local markets.
For the salad tasting, the buying club will use items donated by Crown O’ Maine and local suppliers, as well as from vendors at Orono’s farmers market. Averill plans to make creative and different salads and dressings.
“We’ll also be using wheat and rye berries from Aurora Mills, ginger carrots from Thirty Acre Farm [in Whitefield], ricotta cheese from Tide Mill Farm [in Edmunds] and [from Turner] Nezinscot Farm’s feta.”
Averill, whose day job is head librarian at Bangor High School, said she’s looking forward to spending more time this summer dreaming up tasty dishes for her family. She offers these ideas for this summer.
Mediterranean Kale Salad
1 large bunch Lacinato or other kale variety (washed, ribs and stems removed, coarsely chopped)
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 red onion, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
Juice of one lemon,
Ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Place vegetables in a large salad bowl. Mix dressing ingredients except for olive oil. Add oil in a thin stream while mixing with a wire whip until dressing emulsifies. Pour over greens, toss and serve.
Creamy Roquefort Dressing (with no cream!)
1 cup yogurt (from Olde Oak Farm, Appleton Creamery or Smith Family Farm)
1/2 cup cottage cheese (try Nezinscot Farm Dry Curd Cottage from Crown O’ Maine)
6 ounces Roquefort or other blue cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
hot pepper sauce to taste
1/3 cup capers, drained, chopped
Place all ingredients except capers in food processor (or mix by hand). Add capers and stir. Excellent on buttercrunch lettuce from Stone’s Throw Farm or spinach or mesclun mix from the Orono Farmers’ Market. For a great variation, replace the capers with finely chopped green onions from E-I-E-I-O Farm.
What is The Orono Local Buying Club?
The Orono Local Buying Club operates out of The Store/Ampersand at 22 Mill St., which also is a club member. There is a club bulletin board at the front counter. Every other week, members place a group order.
The food is delivered to The Store by suppliers, broken down into individual orders, then picked up by the members. Orders can be sent to the order coordinator through e-mail or entered using an online Google spreadsheet. Members also can drop off a written list at The Store. The club is ordering every other week and welcomes new members. For information, contact Jane Livingston at email@example.com.