Local … redefined

I don’t know about you, but I’m fascinated how language changes to reflect our societal shifts.

Today’s topic: local. What is it? Who is it for you? What was it previously?

Firstly, I think of locavores – a clever concept for eating healthy, more naturally. It’s only in the last couple years that I’d heard of those who choose to eat only foods grown / raised within 100 or so miles of their home.

A Flat World
With the further democratization found in technology, “local” can be a bit moot. I need refer only to YouTube for ample examples:

* Guitarist Cesar Huesca in Hidalgo, Mexico, and Gustavo Guerra in Brazil, each of whom have well over a million views. The guitarist in my life finds inspiration in these two, as well as instruction in technique from numerous other videos available free for view. Amazing.

* Ethnic cooking and recipes: Search for ways to cook virtually anything. For example, Nepali cooking.

* Access: Aren’t able to visit Machu Picchu and want more than travel shows and documentaries? Why not view videos posted by others?

There has been an interesting discussion going on for years encouraging consumers to “buy local.” In my understanding I would sum up the local consumerism movement as a way to benefit your own community, keeping profits nearby. But there are three pieces I have not heard addressed in local consumerism:

* Local workers for organizations based elsewhere: Certainly, profits will go elsewhere, but employee pay may still stay in the community. Workers employed by an outside organization pay their rent, eat at restaurants, donate their time and money – much of this benefiting their community.

* Local infrastructure: In a nutshell, can there be enough local work to support local consumerism? If we’re all looking for work, will we be able to find enough “local” businesses? I guess my deeper query is where the boundaries are for local consumerism – whether we limit to certain products, or also extend to services. Usually I hear local consumerism challenges regarding food, bookstores and toys; but never about appliances or vehicles and, ironically, never about large publishing companies.

* Global expertise & collaboration: Or, more negatively put, isolationism. I’m sure we’re all aware of the dangers of globalization in free market economies, but I don’t hear enough praise of global collaboration. Certainly the Fair Trade movement rose up to counter the abuse of “local” workers in a global economy. So where is the tempering of local consumerism to ensure that we don’t become isolationist?

So with our changing societies, growing (or shrinking) economies and long reach of technology, “local” has taken on new meanings. What is local for you – who is it, and where is it? Where is the local consumerism movement headed, and what ripples will it create?

Further reading on locavores and related discussion:

Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-mile Diet, Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon
Slow Food Nation: Why our Food Should be Good, Clean and Fair, Carlo Petrini
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michael Pollan
Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes, Mark Bittman

For a cautionary view on our flattening world, peruse The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny & Globalization’s Rough Landscape, Harm Di Blig.


  1. Brenda,
    I just got a review from Powell's-on the subject of Locals. This covers Portland Oregon. Thought of you.
    The Paley's Place Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Pacific Northwest
    by Vitaly Paley and Kimberly Paley and Robert Reynolds

    At Paley's Place Bistro and Bar, Vitaly Paley brings French training and international influences to bear on his unquenchable passion for the local foodstuffs of his adopted Oregon. In The Paley's Place Cookbook, he adapts his food for the home cook, tempting the reader with a casually elegant Walla Walla Onion Tart with Fresh Goat Cheese and Summer Herb Pesto, a show-stopping Cedar Planked Salmon, an indelible Crème Brulée, and many others.
    Stories of the farmers, fishers, and foragers who supply Paley's Place with ingredients and inspiration; wine notes emphasizing local wines; and photographs of the food, the restaurant, and Oregon landscapes make this book a showcase of the regions culinary riches.

    PW Review


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