Just some semi-random thoughts on the travails of buying local.
I love to support our local small businesses. Buying from local folks and sources is important to us. As much as we can, we want to support local people. Not just the local economy, but the people. If it’s food, you know where the food came from, what went into growing it and getting it ready for sale, and you promote that ideal.
But, there can be definite downsides. Buying local is not the same as buying quality. And by quality I mean ethically or naturally grown or produced; sustainability; a consciousness to take care of everyone involved in the process, from production to consumption to the environment.
I like sandwiches. When I am able, I like to check out the different local sandwich shops and delis around here. Some are better than others. Some are way more expensive than others. Sequoia Sandwich Company is amazing, with a pretty good median price range for the amount of food you get. Big Popy’s Deli is great, with a fun atmosphere, and an exquisite selection of un-crappified cherry sodas (good stuff, not the syrups and junk). They are very pricey, though, and the amount of food struggles to justify it.
But, back to the point of the post.
I recently checked out a local sandwich shop that very recently opened up two blocks away. They actually replaced a Quiznos that left. I heard good things about them. So I walked over, saw they had a Deep Pit Sandwich and wanted to give that a try. I had a choice of salsa or BBQ sauce, and I went with BBQ sauce. I also asked that it be toasted.
Done. Sandwich ordered. I walked over to to register, and I get to watch them make the sandwich. The young man who took my order grabbed what was the deep pit, wrapped in some sort of parchment paper. He tossed that into a microwave for 15 seconds. Then he walked over to the bre…
Wait. What? The microwave? Oh, that’s no good.
He got the bread ready with some sauce and cheese, grabbed the nuked meat, placed it on the bread, then ran it through the toasting contraption. While waiting, the gentleman at the register grabbed my BBQ sauce. It looked pretty good; and not in a packet. I asked, “Say, is this a homemade sauce?” He told me, “No. It’s from … um … a Smart & Final brand.”
Even though their prices were just a tad more than that of Subway or Quiznos, the quality just wasn’t there. I am willing to pay more for quality local food. But, it needs to be quality. If it costs $1-2 more for a sandwich that’s ultimately no different than that of Subway–poorly raised and processed chickens and cattle, GMO packed grains and produce, using a microwave as a heating element, and not even purchasing their produce or ingredients from local sources–from my perspective that is not supporting local businesses.
The food and restaurant industry as a whole is a complicated mess of inhumanity. There are gems out there, but they have to use street diligence and word of mouth promotions to fight against the billionaire marketing machines. I want to support and promote those local businesses that have quality products and services who are dwarfed and stepped on by the giants. I want them to have a chance.