As I said on the 1st, local food is easy enough to come by in Chicago. I should mention that I use Joel Salatin’s definition of local– the truck that brings the goods has to be able to do the round trip in a day. For practical purposes this means about 3 to 4 hours away, or no more than 200 miles. This gives me all of northern Illinois, a good chunk of southern Wisconsin and northern Indiana and little slivers of Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota to call local. So plenty of farms in there, and lots of farmers markets, CSAs and local-savvy grocers to choose from.
Plus all the food in my backyard.
But no matter how much you swear you won’t buy a bunch of stuff for a party, you still need drinks. Plates and napkins and cups. And of course we want to grill, so we need charcoal. A couple more chairs would not be amiss. And wouldn’t luminaries be cool.
I can make luminaries. I count resale shops as local, so I’ll start scouring them for trays, serving dishes, chairs, and other cool stuff.
As far as drinks I’m saved again because I live in a large metropolitan area that still has a local manufacturing base. I’ll probably have to buy from a national retailer, but I can get a terrific line of sodas from the WIT Beverage company, still bottled in Chicago as far as I can tell, with such brands as Jelly Belly soda (!), Goose Island Root Beer, Green River soda and more. Thank goodness for google, because while I knew about Goose Island (we’ll get some of our beer from them two, and from Two Brothers, a DuPage County brewery), I did not know that Green River, which I loved drinking as a child in Philadelphia, was a Chicago original.
Dishes and glasses are another issue. I don’t want to generate trash, which means buying glasses rather than plastic cups. Last year I got 50 glasses at the dollar store (5 for a dollar), but these are certainly made in some maquiladora or megamanufacturer in China. So, store’s not local, product’s not local. I’m still working on this one. Ditto plates–I got bamboo plates last year, but again, non-local product from a non-local shop (World Market) howsoever recylable and sustainable. Might have to relinquish my desire for matching plates and cups and head to the resale shop.
There’s another solution, but it brings up a localist conundrum. I live in Chicago, which has the world-wide corporate headquarters of Sears. Now, I can get what I need, at a good price, at Sears. Does that count as “local?” Target’s the same–they’re from Minneapolis. Not so far outside my 3 hour radius (okay, double the radius, but still). Are they “local” even though they are a world-wide entity and they only sell stuff undoubtedly made abroad?
Middle class Americans buy a lot of stuff. When you try to live locally, you start to realize how we have destroyed our local economies. I fear for a society that doesn’t even make dishes, for heaven’s sake. In the name of saving money, so that we could buy more stuff, we ruined an entire economic sector. After World War II we took the excess manufacturing capacity created by the war machine and turned those workers and those factories into the feed source of the Great Consumerist Maw that is the American Middle Class.
But now, aside from individual artisans-makers, who make very small runs, we not only don’t make junk that we don’t need, we also don’t make items for daily life that we do need–things like detergent, and pots, and t-shirts.
I’m aiming to make my party all local. My life? That’s a little harder.