For the past week we have been taking a mini-break from our strict regimen as we decide how to move forward for the long term. We ate bread, chocolate (fair trade organic dark chocolate) and sushi (more on that later) and each indulged in non-local treats almost daily. Chris ate out twice for lunch and once for dinner (he had pizza, which he had really been missing), and I had coffee three times. I also ate some Skittles at work where people seem to be incessantly stocking every corner with forbidden treats. But even with all of these deviations we are still eating a mostly local diet. And we are extremely happy to continue with our experiment, especially since our “treats” were mostly disappointing and expensive.

We fully expected to be reluctant to return to our local diet after reminding our taste buds how the other half lives. I was looking forward to eating Asian food as much as Chris was looking forward to pizza, but both meals were unsatisfying. I don’t know the details of the pizza fiasco, but I do know why Sushi Ten disappointed me: The iceburg lettuce salad was sadly devoid of color, nutrients, and flavor; the miso soup tasted old and drab; and the soba noodles basically tasted like undercooked pasta with overcooked vegetables drowned in soy sauce. The squid salad tasted fresh and yummy, and Chris’ salmon roll was satisfying. But overall it was not the party our taste buds were anticipating. We have been far more impressed with our own cooking than with Sushi Ten’s offerings that night. And it’s not that we’re spectacular cooks (although I’d argue that Chris is a spectacular cook); it’s just that our food is fresh and actually tastes like food. The flavors in our home-cooked meals are diverse, distinct, and rich, unlike the conglomerate of meek tastes and textures dictated by restaurant foods that are either harvested too early so they can weather the 2,000 mile journey to Tucson, or are produced en-masse days, or weeks, before being served.

I’m not saying that all processed, non-local foods are unappealing to us. We fully enjoyed the chocolate bar, for example. We don’t intend to deny ourselves every luxury in the long run, and as we determine how we will redefine the rules of our experiment we are allowing for regular special treats. The following is a description of our modified rules for the experiment for the near future.

We will be allowing ourselves balsamic vinegar (eventually we hope to start making our own), yeast (until we have both a steady source of flour and a working sourdough starter), and spices (in moderation) on a regular basis. We feel that these items will greatly enhance our enjoyment of our food without compromising the spirit of our experiment. We will allow ourselves to eat the food that we still have in our fridge and freezer from before we started the experiment. Also, if someone visits us, bearing gifts of food local to their point of origin, we will gladly accept- and eat- the food. For example, my parents gave Chris a lot of organic honey from near their home in L.A. We will be devouring that honey! In addition, we will allow ourselves one treat each (i.e. a chocolate bar, a cup of coffee, a danish) every week. And we will occasionally eat a non-local meal if we are invited to a friend’s house or feel the deep desire for a night away from the stove. It should still be easy to eat at least 95% local foods, which is our long-term goal.

Now that we know we can thrive on a 99.9% local diet we don’t see any reason, save convenience, for eating any other way. Of course, sometimes convenience speaks louder than good health or flavor. But generally speaking we are proud to have successfully shifted the focus of our eating habits away from international corporations and toward the people in our community. We are excited to seek new food items from our region, and we look forward to experimenting with making our own vinegar, ice cream, dried fruit, yogurt, and sourdough starter. We’ll be continuing to blog as we make new discoveries.