One of the dangers of there being a “bandwagon” to jump on is when people use the terms, but don’t actually do the work.
With regard to local food, I find it frustrating when I see words in advertising or on menus that I know are false—words like local and house-made.
Whomever is crafting the advertising or menu is assuming that I am stupid (or you are) and that I don’t know the difference between what comes from a mass-produced box or what season a particular vegetable is grown in. It’s false advertising at its worst because it’s so difficult to get to the truth.
I can appreciate that in tough times people want to use any and every means to drive business, but in the long run, lying to customers is going to bring a business down. If you’re willing to lie to me about where you get your vegetables, are you lying to me that your establishment is clean and sanitary? If you tell me you “made” something when you didn’t, what else are you willing to lie to me about?
We have a growing food movement here in Memphis and people’s palates are getting smarter and their knowledge of what’s local is expanding. I know what our local arugula looks and tastes like so don’t think I won’t notice when someone claims to be using it, but isn’t. I know exactly when the local strawberries, peaches, eggplant, okra, peppers, and tomatoes come into season here and I am immediately suspicious when I see it out of season on a menu.
And I’m not the only one.
So beware all you hucksters who see a movement that you think you can make an extra dime on without doing the work. The farmers who toil with bugs and heat and backbreaking work won’t tolerate it. The chefs who actually are spending the extra hours and dollars to source local won’t tolerate it. And most certainly, the ever-more-educated customer won’t tolerate it. The people of Memphis who are learning to look for “local” are also learning what a farm-fresh egg really tastes like. They are learning who is growing what, and when. They are learning the names of the farmers and will not be sidelined by generic terms like “local” without the farm name and “farmers’ market vegetables” in the middle of winter, or “house-made” when they see the same thing on other restaurant plates.
Don’t think that people don’t notice which chefs are seen shopping at a farmers’ market. And while many farmers go directly to chef’s back doors, don’t think that there aren’t people here who can recognize a tomato and name the farmer who grew it.
One of the great things about Memphis is that it’s a big, small town. You here it all the time—everyone knows everyone.
And everyone talks.