Fresh food inspires regional cuisine

A little over a year ago I took a trip to visit a friend in Japan. The culture around food there was so different, so deep and so ancient. What impressed me the most wasn’t just their complete awareness and understanding of the seasonality of food, but also their complete dedication to the regionality of food. Different places were famous for different foods and people would travel miles to get that specific food, like a specific chestunut sweet or a specific fish sauce made a certain way with a regional fish.

Importing from out of the region has two side effects. One is that to travel long distances and store for long periods, food is processed to death. Think plastic wrap and no nutrition. The other side effect is that food that is fresh has to be picked before prime so as to endure the journey. Nutritional value, taste and quality all are at rock bottom.

The Japanese culture around food simply is honoring what we all already know. Fresh food in season is best.

So it is no surprise to see restaurants in Homer boasting when they have local ingredients; it means they care about the quality of the food they serve. Some places have a list of the farms they buy from on a chalk board to change daily. Some have the “Alaska Grown” symbol on their menus next to regional specialties. I even noticed the “Alaska Grown” twist tie was left on the little bouquet of fresh lavender in the table’s centerpiece.

Sometimes it’s not obvious to the customer, but farmers know. They will speak of the restaurant with gratitude and respect for their dedication to buying local produce. And when you talk to a foodie who knows the local food scene well, those qualities of freshness, creativity, and a menu adaptive to the season are apparent in the praise heaped on them by loyal customers.

So support our dedicated restaurants when you eat out and source your own local food down at the Homer Farmers Market out on Ocean Drive Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or Wednesdays from 2-5 p.m.

Kyra Wagner is the coordinator of Sustainable Homer and the Homer Farmers Market’s biggest fan.