The Case For Taste

So in the great “eat local” debate, what if it all came down to taste?

Ed Levine posts a really interesting piece today on Serious Eats debating the ethics of eating local over taste.

What if your local produce is actually crap? What if the stuff from waaaaaay across the continent tastes better than the stuff within that stupid 100-mile radius?

Almost every person espousing the 100-mile diet admits to at least one caveat (usually coffee), but local doesn’t always equal better in terms of flavour. What if we’re all missing out by rejecting the imported stuff?

Now, in most cases, local produce is still going to taste better because stuff loses flavour in transit – but what about the things that don’t?

At almost every local/slow/seasonal food event I’ve been to, I’ve been served prosciutto from a producer in the Niagara region. Personally I find his meat lacking in flavour and overly salty. Should I buy what I consider to be an inferior product to support a local producer, or should I direct my money to the folks in St. Lawrence Market who import a far superior ham from Italy?

(That goes for other stuff too, btw. My local health food store carries organic dish soap made in Toronto and stuff from Belgium. Even though it has to be shipped across an ocean, I buy the stuff from Belgium, because the local stuff sucks.)

Says Levine, “So I still pledge allegiance to Waters, localism, slow food, and sustainable agriculture, while at the same time recognizing that sometimes things just taste better grown in one region rather than another.”

It comes down to a question of hedonism. What’s the most important factor when it comes to eating – the “moral” issue of supporting local producers or the hedonistic self-interest of eating something that tastes good?

And if we choose morals, how much are we willing to give up to support the cause when even the 100-mile dieters can’t be parted from their coffee?