When we travel to distant cities, foreign countries, faraway places, the compulsion to “do what the locals do” is strong. When we see Anthony Bourdain on TV sipping the local drink of choice while digging into the culinary history of a certain place, we understand that to truly experience that place, one must take some small part in the local eating and drinking scene. If I’m in Portland, you better believe I’m drinking Stumptown coffee, trying local microbrews, and scanning the wine list for Oregon pinot noir and pinot gris. It’s all about experiencing what is unique to that place, what is shaped by and in turn shapes that place.
Back home in the South, here in Atlanta, Georgia, we have a burgeoning “eat local” movement fueled by weekly farmers markets, by Whole Foods trumpeting which produce is grown in the region, by so many restaurants who are now subscribing to a Southern “farm to table” philosophy. Eat local. Support local growers and food artisans. Keep Southern food traditions alive (and evolving). For the good of the local economy and environment, for the good of the food itself. Amen.
And, now, trailing in the wake of the “eat local” movement, the “drink local” notion is also taking hold. Not that it hasn’t existed in some form for many years – we love our locally brewed beer, our Sweetwater, our Terrapin. Octane in Atlanta even offers a discount on the Georgia-brewed beers on its small but excellent beer list on Saturday nights. The number of coffee houses that feature locally roasted beans has blossomed. It feels good to know your cup was crafted in the hands of Southern roasters rather than in some far-off mega-corporate warehouse. This, of course, assumes that the local product is good and worthy of our choice, worthy of spending our local dollars on. Does it deliver the joy and satisfaction that an “imported” alternative could? That’s the cost of entry – if our local brewers/ roasters/ growers don’t produce a great beer, roast a mean bean, or grow a great tomato for that matter, they are not going to win a lot of support from the “eat/drink local” crowd.
Georgia and the South in general is definitely there on the beer front, definitely there on the coffee front. Georgia wine is well on its way, and craft distilleries are starting to pop up around the state as well, making vodka, gin and other spirits. So after you’re done picking out some local okra at the farmstand or choosing a selection of Southern cheeses, stop and think about picking up a six pack of good Georgia beer, a bottle of good Georgia wine, or some coffee beans that are at least roasted here in the South that will make for a great cup of coffee. It won’t always be the best choice, but now, often enough, it’s at least a very good choice, a choice worth making.
Photo: Georgia Peaches
Top Photo, clockwise from top left: Piedmont Park Green Market. Terrapin Rye Pale Ale from Athens, GA. Westside Creamery Truck at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Montaluce Viognier from North Georgia. Sweet Auburn Curb Market in Atlanta, GA.