Food for Thought: When You Shouldn’t Order Local

At a recent visit to Table 31, I had a tomato and burata salad. It’s not typically something I’d order this time of year, since it will still be more than a month before we have local ripe tomatoes. I feared the tomatoes would be the local but flavorless hothouse-grown variety, but these were ripe and juicy. Executive chef Chris Scarduzio confirmed they were brought in from Florida. And, in this case, from a flavor point of view, that was a good idea.

In our communal zeal for all things local, it’s easy to overlook the fact than any restaurant or home cook relies on a battery of non local items. Chef Shola Olunloyo made a list at his Studio Kitchen blog this week of 50 things he cooks with that are “definitely not local.” His list is packed with ingredients that even the biggest local food enthusiast would rather not live without. (Salt, wine, and olive oil, to name a few.) It’s responsible to eschew supermarket peaches flown in from Chile during the height of our own peach season, but you can’t totally boycott nonlocal ingredients and get as much pleasure from your meals. It would mean giving up most cheeses, for example — for life. A conscientious appreciation (and awareness) of imported ingredients can and should coexist with our own seasonal bounty.

What nonlocal luxury can you not cook (or eat) without? Let me know in the comments.