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A cookout for a cause

Seventh annual Buy Local Cookout showcases Maryland's finest farm products

  • By Rona Kobell on July 24, 2014
Gov. Martin O'Malley before he issued his proclamation at the Buy Local cookout (Rona Kobell) Classic Catering Co. and their delicious corn cake. (Rona Kobell) A good-looking beet salad (Rona Kobell)

It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re eating a soft-shell crab coated in cornmeal and Old Bay. Or a scoop of fresh lemon ice cream from Prigel Creamery, where the cows roam on the range just outside the Baltimore Beltway. Or fried goat cheese atop a salad of local pears and tomatoes. Or, really, anything cooked by John Shields, owner and chef of Gertrude’s, who has promoted coastal cooking with local ingredients long before it was the cool thing to do.

Perhaps that’s why everyone seemed so happy at the seventh annual Buy Local Cookout Thursday night. Policy-makers, farmers, political operators and their spouses turned out on their casual-chic best, put aside differences and celebrated Maryland’s bounty. Gov. Martin O’Malley said he and his wife, First Lady Katie Curran O’Malley, look forward to the event every year.

“Buy local is more than a slogan — it’s a movement to preserve farmland, protect the environment, bolster local economies and provide wholesome, nutritious, great-tasting food for more Maryland families,” the governor said.

Maryland’s Department of Agriculture has done much to promote the buying of local food, with promotions such as an Ice Cream Trail that maps all the state’s creameries and detailed listings of the state’s farmer’s markets. The Department of Natural Resources has done its part to promote locally grown seafood, taking a state that had very little in the way of oyster aquaculture just five years ago and building it into a robust industry with dozens of small companies along both the Eastern and Western Shores.

The cookout showcased ingredients plucked at the peak of their freshness. I generally try not to eat anything at these events, because it’s hard to eat and take notes/photos and because for years editors drilled into me that we should not. We shouldn’t encourage the image of “journalist as freeloader,” one prominent editor said, even though it’s unlikely anyone would assume they’d get favorable coverage in exchange for a crabcake.

I never believed that taking a cookie or a bottle of water after covering an event made one look bad, but I still try not to eat at events. These days, I also try not to eat after 7 p.m., and to stay away from carbs and sugar.

Corey Taylor and his goat cheese and Silver Queen corn cake convinced me to break all those rules. And it was worth it. Taylor, who works for Classic Catering, said he and chef Bryan Davis come to the event not just to promote their business, but to connect with farmers that can keep them stocked in the best local ingredients.

I also broke all my rules — including my no-sugar rule — for a bite of Prigel’s lemon ice cream and blueberry yogurt cake. It, too, did not disappoint.

There was also a beet salad from My Nature in Ocean City, and a soft-shell atop a salad from Evolution in Salisbury. I heard a rumor of local beer, wine and vodka, but I didn’t partake — I don’t drink, either, making me a not very exciting dining companion these days. (Journalist as drinker is also a stereotype best left in the past.)

O’Malley is wrapping up his last term as governor. But Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who just won a bruising primary for the Democratic nomination for governor, said he will continue the event should he win the election in November.

“This will not be the last Buy Local Cookout, if I have anything to do with it,” Brown said.

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About Rona Kobell

Rona Kobell is a former writer for the Baltimore Sun. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Read more articles by Rona Kobell

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