Friday, May 21, 2010

Local Food, Nationalism and Autarky

There's an interesting chain of stores in Hungary that sells "exclusively high quality Hungarian products, supplied by Hungarian producers to Hungarian consumers." has a post about it.

Of course, they've got plenty of Mangalitsa products, which is how I found out about it.

The store sounds like a combination of "locovorism" and nationalism. People are attached to food the way they are attached to their tribe or county; they'll come to blows over such issues (especially when alcohol and strippers are involved).

I found this part of the Hungarian article particularly interesting:
She laughed warmly when I gently needled her over the presence of certain items (black pepper) obviously brought in from far outside the Carpathian basin - the store claims to only sell products transported no more than 120 kilometers ...

That's one issue that people run into when they restrict themselves geographically; most spices grow in specific areas, not places like King County. Look at what The Herbfarm (a serious Mangalitsa customer) had to do to make sure all their food came from within 100 miles of their restaurant:

“You only get 16 ounces of salt out of 26 gallons of seawater,” he says...

What? They even made their own flour for the month? Yes, says Zimmerman. Every single thing — they had hard red winter wheat custom-milled in a stone ground mill. They made yeast by growing their own starter. No olive trees close enough to make olive oil? They substituted grape seed oil from nearby vineyards and created citrus taste from the juice of unripe grapes.

For huge batches of vinegar, Zimmerman bought an aquarium pump to speed up the conversion of wine to vinegar and also made vinegar from wine grapes close by...

Pepper was made from rue, a hardy evergreen herb, as well as from Japanese Prickly Ash. Water used for blanching was refrigerated and reused, instead of throwing away the valuable, hard-to-make salt in it.

Cheeses were all made from local cream and milk, honey came from the Herbfarm’s own hives, and salmon was obtained from Lummi Island reef-netting operations...

They made coffee from the roots of dandelion and chicory, and liked it so much, it will stay on the rotating menus. Tea came from the bark of madrona trees from Sakuma Brothers Farms and Market Stand in Burlington, where they grow real tea. “It’s the only real tea grown and produced in North America,” says Zimmerman. Who knew?

“The whole Herbfarm staff is invigorated,” he declares. “It’s been a fantastic learning experience. I doubt anyone has had a complete meal that had no outside products in it. That must date back into the 1700s,” he says. “Even if you lived in Seattle in 1850, they still had things brought in from outside.”

Another thing that is interesting is that when it is clear that people will pay for things, businesspeople try to deliver it to them. E.g. Ron Zimmerman at The Herbfarm decided that if he did a strictly local dinner, he'd come out ahead.

Similarly, in Hungary, there's apparently a market for Székely food - so a giant, foreign chain of supermarkets is marketing Székely food:
French-owned Cora hypermarket chain is launching a "Székely kitchen" line of fifty products as part of a "Székely Weeks" promotion aimed at drawing attention to the culinary culture of the often-besieged Hungarian minority in the (now) Romanian territory of eastern Transylvania.
The Székely people (and Hungarians) are generally proud of Székely culture. A lot of Hungarians are concerned about the Hungarian minority in Romania. Cora looks at that and sees a market to serve.

No comments: