Conscientious Cook: Redefining Local?

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What defines local food? Our discussion last week about organic vs. local got us thinking about how some chefs like Thomas Keller have wondered whether we need to redefine the concept of local in these globalized times. Here's a quote...

I think “local” needs to be redefined in the modern era, because local doesn’t relate to geography any more. If you truly think about the opportunities that you have and the quality of the transportation today, local for me really has to do with the quality...

...of the product. You certainly could get into the argument that local is better because of the transportation costs, how that relates to gasoline prices and the moral impact that we’re having in the Middle East. In relation to the quality of the food, local for me could be California, it could be Maine, it could be Vermont. I mean, in many cases, it is – Diane St. Clair makes her butter once a week and sends it to us the next day. Can I get fresher butter locally? Well, I really can’t.

Quote from interview at The Gilded Fork.

What do you think? It seems like he's arguing here that local really means artisan - who is the best artisan, making the most authentic and artisanal product? Is that a legitimate way to approach local food? Or is local, to you, defined purely in terms of geography?

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.