In just a few short days Locavore will open its doors, and since we are often asked about the name “Locavore” and why we chose it for our store, I thought I’d reflect a bit on the word. If you’ll allow me to indulge my former professorial self for a moment, we’ll begin with some etymology. Etymology is the study of the origins and history of words. As a college professor, I often subjected my students to lectures on etymological things, since I am both a historian by training and a wordsmith by nature. I won’t bore you here with my fascinating and ever-so-witty lectures on the words “nature” or “divinity.” But I will tell you that “locavore” is a very recent addition to the English language. In fact, it was reportedly coined in 2005 by chef and author Jessica Prentice, and Oxford University Press voted it the 2007 “Word of the Year.”
Chef Prentice, who authored Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection (2006), came up with the word “locavore” as a way to provide a name for enthusiasts of local foods. Something of an etymologist herself, Prentice explains in Oxford’s blog that she turned to “etymology websites in search of roots and affixes drawn from either Latin or Greek that might convey the idea of ‘local eaters’ with a bit of elegance or style.” Finding the Greek term phagein, which means “to eat,” less than aesthetically pleasing, she instead derived “locavore” from the Latin words locus, meaning “place,” and vorare, meaning “to eat” and from which we get the word “devour” (as exemplified in the image below).
According to Prentice, the movement to eat locally—of which our store, Locavore, is a part—conveys not merely eating foods from your local area, but also entails “a sense of place, something we don’t have an English word for,” but which the French call terroir, which “implies the sense of place that you get from eating a particular food or drinking a particular wine.” It also connotes the sense of community that emerges when we eat with others. It celebrates the relationships we have with others, and the relationship we have with our food and the earth that produced it.
In short, being a locavore really just means that we think before we eat. Locavores try to be intentional about learning and knowing where our food comes from, and make informed choices about what and how we eat. And we celebrate the local community.
In his 1948 book A Sand County Almanac, conservationist Aldo Leopold advocated what became known as his “land ethic.” Expressing what indigenous peoples had observed for centuries, Leopold urged Americans to expand their understanding of true community to include not only human residents, but also “soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.”
Perhaps if our land ethic begins in our own community, with attention to the food we consume and the land upon which it grows, we locavores can together build a healthier world for ourselves, our land, and for families and land elsewhere. But it has to begin here, with us.