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(insert photo of rice stack)

My early childhood memories are filled with visiting small mom and pop shops in Astoria and Sunnyside Gardens, filled with peculiar smells of spices, colossal vats of olives and, of course, baklava. The owners of the corner spot called me Sasha and as a small girl in a city as big and boisterous as New York City, it felt cozy to be known by name. When my parents moved to suburban New Jersey, they still would stop in little specialty stores for Italian rice balls or bagels, but the anonymity of the big supermarkets won out on convenience and selection.

Convenience is number 1 when it comes to regular purchases. Even if you are interested in supporting small retailers and connecting with the people who produce your food, it is often made to be a privilege of those who "have the time". Not to mention the money: it's no surprise that products made, often by hand, in an American city cost much more than those made out in the countryside or mass produced in factories here or abroad.

But it feels like it is our natural birthright to be connected with the food that is grown and made in our immediate surroundings. When the pandemic emptied big box stores, our CSA members were happy they could count on weekly, vibrant vegetables grown without harmful chemicals and in soil that's been lovingly built. And, as shopkeepers, we were happy to have a community that kept us connected when everyone was over 6 feet apart.

My curiosity has been sparked by this conundrum. If we were to truly eat locally in Miami, we'd be forgoing American staples like wheat and oats, apples and maple syrup. Dairy and corn productions would be miniature, not large scale. We'd have to look towards other flours and starches, like sweet potato and yuca. Milk from coconuts. Sweetness of honey. This is the opposite of convenient, but in fact, it seems to be one way I'm called to reconnect us with the earth that birthed us.

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