I’m really happy to welcome Edith Maxwell to my blog today! Edith writes the local foods mystery series, and, as Tace Baker, Speaking of Murder, featuring linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau. She’s offering a giveaway today of A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die to one lucky person who leaves a comment.
Thanks so much, Connie, for having me over! I want to share my impressions of New England food. I’m a fourth-generation Californian, but have now lived longer in Massachusetts than I ever did in Temple City, my quiet suburb of Los Angeles.
I love to cook and I love to eat locally produced food, so it was an easy fit to write a cozy mystery about murder on an organic farm north of Boston, especially since I once owned and operated a similar farm.
I think many non-New Englanders think first of clams, lobsters, maple syrup, and Boston Baked Beans when they think of local foods from this region. But for me what’s most special is that first mid-May taste of freshly picked asparagus after a long winter.
A juicy June strawberry warmed by the sun. Crisp peapods on the Fourth of July (if you or your local farmer has planted them early enough). An ear of sweet corn in August picked minutes before and steamed just enough to warm the crunchy kernels. A local peach dripping with flavor made into a tart with plump blueberries. A crisp heirloom apple variety like Spartan. Brussels sprouts and carrots sweetened by the frost. None of the supermarket facsimiles even come close to matching the flavor of any of these local crops.
New England has real seasons. Southern California, not so much. Sunny and not so sunny. A little bit of rain vs. blistering heat. Orange blossoms and then smog. But when you’ve gone through the short dark days of late fall and December, frigid windy winter storms that dump three feet of must-be-shoveled snow, and the mud-season weeks of March, you rejoice in spring flowers and early mixed greens and you can’t wait for the first real tomato.
Mind you, I love the seasons. Fall makes you want to put on a sweater, light a fire, and knit with a hot toddy at your side. I’m a three-decade convert to the joys of cross-country skiing on sun-sparkled snow. And as I said, spring brings real joy. But it’s the intense summer growing season that makes it all worthwhile for a foodie, partly because you know it’ll be over so soon.
We belong to a farm-share program at a small organic farm nearby. We also have the choice of selecting food from a big farm stand a mile away, a thriving weekly farmers’ market a few miles away, and my own backyard garden. From late May through October we buy very little at the grocery store: TP and paper towels, olives, crackers. We can get milk, eggs, cheese, meats, and all our fruits and vegetables locally. We even get coffee locally roasted, although of course it isn’t grown here.
Of course, if we ate exclusively locally, the winter and early spring would be pretty grim. Aging winter squash, sprouting potatoes, limp carrots, and lots of frozen, canned and fermented vegetables, fruits, and sauces. Not to mention no rice, no coffee, no chocolate, no olives. So I don’t go that far.
My third book in the Local Foods Mysteries series takes place in the winter and I’ll be drafting its synopsis this summer. I wonder how the members of the Locavore Club enjoy what Cam Flaherty can produce on her farm during the cold months.
Readers, what about you? Do you make an effort to eat locally? Can you even get local foods in your area? Is it all too expensive or too much trouble? If you’ve belonged to a CSA, did you enjoy your weekly share or did you find you just had too much kale for a person to tolerate?