Clara Moore made a name for herself in the St. Louis food scene when she worked as executive chef at the Local Harvest cafes. Last year she picked up and moved to the Pacific Northwest, which resulted in what she called food culture shock. She had to learn about the growing season, which is much shorter than what she was used to in Missouri. And fresh seafood! That was new for her, too.
Her technique for getting to know a new place is to go shopping at the local co-ops, mom-and-pop corner stores and ethnic markets. She talks to people and engages with the food system firsthand.
“It’s not just go to the store like a robot, take the food off the shelves, go through the line, and then go home and unpack it,” she says. “It’s really much more than that.”
Get The Most Out Of Your Shopping
First thing she recommends is to buy food more often than just once a week, especially if you’re interested in consuming local food.
“The more often you shop, the more you see things changing, the more you see new stuff and the more you can be inspired,” she says.
Talk To Your Farmer And Butcher
Who better to give you advice about local meat and veggies than the people who raised them! Engage with your farmers and butchers to find out what foods are on sale. Perhaps you could even broker a deal for a discount. Remember, farmers are business people, too, “So whatever they can do to move their product, they’re happy with,” she says.
Bring A List, But Be Flexible
Moore likes to go to the store with a general idea of what she wants to eat for the next few days but allow wiggle room for inspiration to hit. She picks up the protein she wants to build her meal around and then wanders around the store or market to see what looks fresh and delicious to pair with it.
Organic Vs. Local
“That is a mine field of a question,” jokes Moore. For her, buying organic meat is important because she feels as though there’s more life packed into proteins. She tries to buy local vegetables simply because they taste better. “You can freeze an organic chicken in Washington and send it to Missouri and it’s going to taste relatively the same,” she says. “But, you can’t pick a zucchini in a field in Washington, fly it to St. Louis and think it’s going to taste as good.”
Buy In Bulk, Use Your Freezer
She’s been cooking at home more these days than ever before in her life, so she’s learned how to be thrifty. “When you buy in bigger quantities and cook in bigger quantities, you’re saving yourself money and time,” she says.
She uses her freezer all the time, preserving batches of rice and breaking down meat and freezing individual cuts. She also now plans ahead with her cooking, preparing meals for the week on Sunday.
Food With A Story
All in all, she’s thoughtful about where she shops, how often and what she takes home with her. Moore says this gives her food depth.
“It really is about your community. It’s about economically your community but also socially, and that is an extremely important thing. It’s not always about nutrients.”
More: Clara Moore’s first cookbook is Shop Like A Chef: A Food Lover’s Guide To St. Louis Neighborhoods.