Tampa Bay ‘menu anomalies’: If you want to eat local, move to Tunisia


Seasonal produce back in August at the Marche Centrale in Tunis

...and carrots

Are you really surprised that a Tampa Bay Times food critic has been able to provide an exhaustive investigation of the phoniness of restaurants’ claims that their food is organic, locally sourced or non-GMO?

Do you really think that good affordable fare can really be all of those things and – this is crucial – available all year around?

If so, I hope you enjoy meeting the Tooth Fairy.

In actual fact, the reality – both pleasure and pain – of eating locally would have to be something like in Tunisia. You eat whatever’s in season. When it’s not being harvested – and is not to be seen in the back of trucks parked at vantage points of the highway – you won’t get to eat it.

In Tunisia, just a week or so ago, we were eating lots and lots of oranges (the Thomson variety, which are sweet and have a thick satisfying pelt that’s easy to peel); clementines; fresh figs; cauliflower, tomatoes, fresh white onions, zucchini, eggplant. Lemons were plentiful and widely available.

Not so just a few months ago. Back in December, you couldn’t find a lemon particularly easily. Or cauliflower.

And so it goes on.

In Tunisia, even the fries are fresh

In Tunisia, even the fries are fresh

In Tunisia, your table speaks to the seasons. Occasionally, it can be frustrating, especially for those of us reared to expect limitless variety.

As Megan McArdle said over on Bloomberg View, we all claim to love farm-to-fork food but perhaps consumers don’t really want that so much as the “moral satisfaction” of expressing the preference.

This, because “modern consumers are not used to limits (such as) seasonal vegetables.” And they want food cheap.

The Tampa Bay restaurateurs, writes Ms McArdle, sold customers “what they were happily willing to pay for: food from an industrial supply chain, with a side of moral satisfaction.”