(Image from here)
I’ve been pondering the Australian made and grown dilemma a bit more than usual lately, as I take part in Linda’s Tuesday Night Vego challenge. One of Linda’s rules is that the ingredients of the dish must be locally in season together. As a rule I don’t buy fresh produce that’s not Australian – though occasionally something does slip through my generally careful examination of labels, like the bean shoots I quickly grabbed at the last minute in the green grocer the other day – but does Australian grown make it ‘local’? I think probably not, especially considering the size of our country. There are a lot of kilometers between here the the mangoes grown in the Top End or that sweet Queensland pineapple. I’m certainly not maintaining a 100 mile diet! There are a lot of things I really like to eat that simply would not be possible if I was to stick to a stricter idea of buying local than my usual criteria of Australian grown/made. I’m not sure I’m ready to sacrifice some of those delicious tropical fruit or tomatoes grown in Queensland long after they’ve finished in Victoria (not that they’re anywhere near as good as home grown ones).
Then I come to the even bigger compromises I find myself making: Greek feta, Californian walnuts, Thai fish sauce, imported pine nuts. These are all things that I either can’t find a locally grown or made product or, in the case of the feta, the local products I’ve tried to date are just not as good (although I will look out for the Barambah products as recommended by Sarah). Most of these products are coming from the other side of the world, as someone concerned about what’s happening to our planet, should I also be eliminating these items from my shopping list?
Finally there is a small list of foods that I actually look to buy imported versions of, mostly because they are foods I don’t think we should be growing in Australia or because they support grass roots communities in developing nations. These include rice (though I have heard that there are now varieties that require far less water to grow which might make me change my mind), coffee, chocolate and many spices. I am happy to buy (hopefully fair trade) products that are going to support communities struggling for survival and overlook the environmental impact of importing those goods.
With every trip to the supermarket, green grocer and deli I find myself making a series of compromises between buying the things I want and sticking to my principle of buying local or at least Australian. I would love to shop around more, going to smaller retailers where I’m sure I could find more local and Australian products than either of the big two supermarkets stock, but that would mean choosing to spend a whole lot more time shopping than I currently do. That’s not a compromise I’m willing to make, giving up some of my gardening, cooking or family time to shop… definitely not appealing. So does the fact that at least some of the ingredients for pretty much every meal come from my own backyard (can’t get more local than that) make up for the other items coming from much further afield? Where do you draw the line and what compromises are you willing (happily or not so happily) to make?