I prefer to buy organic fruits, veggies and meats. Rarely can I afford that, however, so I at least want it fresh. If I can’t get it fresh, the next acceptable level is frozen. If I can’t even get it frozen, I’ll accept canned, depending on what’s on the label.
I’m particular about how and where my food is made. If it’s a name-brand item or chain restaurant, I feel better knowing it’s as local as possible. I’m not just talking about a preference for juicy Georgia peaches compared to those hard, tasteless things shipped here from California.
I’m talking about the peace of mind I get in knowing the food I’m eating was grown, processed, packaged or cooked close to home.
That’s why I buy my honey at the Hinesville Farmers Market. I never accept honey from Brazil or Argentina. Maple syrup, though, isn’t produced locally. And though I look for the words “pure maple syrup” on the label, it also has to say Vermont, Maine or New Hampshire. If a maple syrup label says it’s made in Arizona, I don’t want it.
In that sense, I expect my Idaho golds to be from Idaho, but I want my new (red-skin) potatoes from Georgia soil.
I actually prefer the taste and creaminess of Duke’s mayo, especially knowing it originated in Greenville, S.C., and now is manufactured in Richmond, Va. I also look for peanuts and pecans grown right here before I’ll accept something from across one or more state borders.
According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia produces more peanuts and pecans than anybody else. I also know South Carolina produces a heap of okra, and North Carolina is known for producing sweet taters, pork and poultry. The Tarheel state also is the source of Texas Pete, Bojangles, Golden Corral and Krispy Kreme.
Local residents already are excited about the news that we’ll soon have our own Zaxby’s. Few realize the chicken franchise started in nearby Statesboro. Most probably don’t know that Chick-fil-A was started and still is headquartered near Atlanta. Georgians know a lot about cooking (and eating) chicken.
Applebee’s is also a Georgia-based restaurant. Chili’s though is based in Texas, along with Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Ruby Tuesday’s is from the Volunteer State, and Panera Bread is from Missouri.
I will not drink orange or grapefruit juice from anywhere but Florida, which also keeps our family supplied with fresh fruits and veggies during the dead of winter. The Sunshine State also gave us Firehouse Subs, Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill and Darden Restaurants (a.k.a., Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Longhorn Steakhouse).
Most of the beef I buy is raised here in Georgia and Florida, though I also like grain-fed, western beef. If the label on a pack of country-ham slices, bacon or smoked country sausage says it’s from Montana, I’ll pass. Sunset Farm Foods in Valdosta and D.L. Lee & Son’s in Alma provide my household with great country sausage, so why would I want a fancy name-brand sausage produced in Illinois or Wisconsin?
At this point, my copy editor will be asking me the source of the above information. It’s right there on the label if it’s processed in any way. If it’s fresh meat or produce, quite often they’ll tell you the source. If they won’t, I don’t buy it. I may not be able to afford organic, but I’m willing to pay a little more to avoid food products grown and processed in China.
When I go to a local seafood restaurant, I look for the words “Georgia white shrimp” before ordering. Why would I forego the best shrimp anywhere for something produced on a poluted fish farm in Indonesia?
It’s worth it to me to do my homework before grocery shopping or dining out. I’m not trying to be a food snob, but I insist that local is usually better — unless it’s German, Swiss or Belgian chocolate, but that’s another story, which I’ll talk about next week.