Monday, March 22, 2010

Homemade vs. Local

What I'm struggling with right now:

  1. When does something that's homemade or homegrown count as local?
  2. Does local mean it has to be homemade?
Consider these 2 examples:


Last weekend I bought a whole bunch of bagged starts at Lowe's on clearance. I came home with rhubarb starts, onion sets, blueberry plants, and seed potatoes.

The likelihood that they're all from the Pacific Northwest is pretty dim. But the food they'll produce will come from my own yard. Rhubarb is a perennial, and I plan to keep my own seeds from here onward.

Local or not?


Gene and I went out for dinner tonight to celebrate my new job in Tacoma. I wanted a juicy burger and some kick-ass fries. We ruled out Red Robin because it's a national chain, and opted for The Ram because it's a family-owned local* chain and has a water view.

I decided against the Parkway Tavern because they don't have fries (though their burgers are among the best I've ever had). Didn't go to Katie Downs because I think they're overpriced, and I didn't feel like trying to find a table with a view in The Spar's teensy back room.

I totally spaced about The Harmon until it was too late. DOH!

The Ram's fries lived up to expectations but nothing else did. What a disappointment. I felt like we should have known better. I also felt like we should have taken our $30 and spent it on a really great cut of meat or seafood at Met Mart.

Does local mean it has to be homemade?


*I thought that The Ram is a small chain of sports bars in Washington's Puget Sound region. Turns out they have 17 restaurants across 5 states.


  1. Then again, Red Robin was founded in Seattle so wouldn't that be local?

    I'm not sure the local argument is as worth worrying over as the organic argument, in many cases. The starts you picked up have already made their carbon footprint getting to Lowe's. There's a good chance that they came from close by, but I would consider them local from here on out since they're growing in your yard. Gotta figure more starts than full-grown fruits/veggies could be transported per load.

    Are you musing or is this keeping you up at night? :)

  2. It's more musings than midnight twirling fishes but I have to admit to thinking about it a lot, especially as I mentally prepare blog posts and collect topics throughout the day.

    UPDATE on the starts: The local Lowe's manage called me this morning (nice touch since I contacted corporate). He told me that that company that provides those starts gets most of their product from...

    ... are you ready?? ...



  3. .... Yeah. The other problem with "keeping your own seeds" is that a lot of plants are now engineered so that they're sterile -- so you'll have to buy seeds every year. (Not sure how much of a problem this is for backyard gardeners, but it's a big problem for farmers.) OR, for various genetic reasons, the seeds you save won't produce a fruit or veggie like the one from which they came. (Don't try to plant an apple seed and expect a tasty apple from that tree, for example. Doesn't work.)

    And, for good burgers and fries: E-9 has tasty ones; O'Malleys has terrific burgers and home-fried potato chips that are KILLER.

  4. Also keep in mind really locally owned has additional advantages...both Parkway and E-9 are really locally owned (Tacoma or past tacoma residents). Red Robin is NOT locally owned. They are based in Colorado and so not locally owned that they decided not maintain the original Red Robin because it was too expensive to run. Perhaps a good business decision, but is there any difference between them and Applebee's now?

  5. Speaking of locally made.

    I saw some of these being delivered south on I-5 today and I had immediate greenhouse envy. Incredibly spendy, but they look awesome and you know where they're made? Tacoma.