Sugar Never Tasted So Sweet: My Week Eating Locally | Civil Eats

Sugar Never Tasted So Sweet: My Week Eating Locally

At the Eat-In on Labor Day at Slow Food Nation, we were asked to write a small step we could take to help change the food system on a banner. Some people wrote that they would host their own Eat-In (essentially a potluck with a purpose) or that they would stop buying bottled water. I had agreed to an initiative a friend in England had cooked up called Eat the Change, so I wrote what I’d agreed to: eating mostly unpackaged, local-as-possible food for one week in September.

I figured it would be a cinch, considering I get a box of fresh fruits and vegetables from upstate New York every week, and have access to various farmer’s markets around the city with foods like fish from Long Island, cheese, eggs, honey, beans, and oats, corn meal, wheat and buckwheat grown and milled in the Hudson Valley, and even local wine. (California, eat your heart out!)

I set about to create menus: Oatmeal with pears and honey, broccoli and pepper omelets and apple buckwheat pancakes for breakfast. Kasha with onions, peppers and grilled polenta, pinto bean and tomato stew with corn bread, and roasted beet and goat cheese salad with sea bass for dinner, accompanied by a glass of Tickle Hill organic white. Lunch would have to be leftovers. Dessert would have to be fruit.

I decided up front to allow myself spices, like the sea salt acquired from South San Francisco, as well as olive oil and vinegar for salads, and baking soda for the pancakes, and tea from California. (I even let myself indulge in California buffalo mozzarella, which was delicious.) But little did I realize what I would be craving like mad after day 1: chocolate.
Avoiding sugar for a week is a serious challenge. It made me think twice about how much I eat outside my locavore lifestyle. But aside from that dubious part of the challenge, which by the way I failed to make it a week without, eating local is not so hard. It just requires some thought. Market scouring, asking the right questions (Was the grain grown and milled locally?), planning your menu, and the fun part, cooking. Maybe there is less variety, but it forces you to be creative with what is available and in season.

We’ll bring the news to you.

Get the weekly Civil Eats newsletter, delivered to your inbox.

While eating locally is the key to our future food security, I prefer eating mostly local food and supplementing when possible with fair trade, community-supporting goods that fall into line with virtuous globalization. (Yes, chocolate is back on the menu, along with its sister, coffee.) Of course, we can’t eat this way all of the time. As Michael Pollan said at the Food for Thought panel, Re-Localizing Food (You can watch it here), “Be realistic. It’s not all or nothing.”

Thank you for being a loyal reader.

We rely on you. Become a member today to read unlimited stories.

Paula Crossfield is a founder and the Editor-at-large of Civil Eats. She is also a co-founder of the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Her reporting has been featured in The Nation, Gastronomica, Index Magazine, The New York Times and more, and she has been a contributing producer at The Leonard Lopate Show on New York Public Radio. An avid cook and gardener, she currently lives in Oakland. Read more >

Like the story?
Join the conversation.

More from




In Brazil, a Powerful Law Protects Biodiversity and Blocks Corporate Piracy

An overhead shot of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. (Photo credit: FG Trade, Getty Images)

Bringing Back Local Milk, Ice Cream, and Cheese

Foggy Bottoms Boys co-owner Cody Nicholson-Stratton pictured with his son. (Photo courtesy of Foggy Bottoms Boys)

Can Cooking in Community Slow Dementia and Diabetes?

The Promise and Possible Pitfalls of American Kelp Farming

an illustration by nhatt nichols showing a hand pulling a kelp line out of the sea