I keep finding reasons to put off my post about our meals; I’m waiting for some fabulous meal I know we are planning, or I keep forgetting to take pictures of the meals, or something else just comes up that I want to write about instead. But today I realized, I can simply do multiple posts about food – it doesn’t have to be the one great food post of 2010. This is a blog, after all. I don’t have to get it all down perfectly the first time.
Seems like we are pretty much always thinking about food here, which anyone who knows me well would say suits me perfectly. It isn’t just thinking in anticipation of the next tasty meal we’ll prepare with all these fresh, locally (as in, about 25 yards from the house)-raised ingredients, though there is a lot of eager enjoyment at mealtime. It isn’t just thinking creatively and thriftily about how to use what we have, though we’re having a lot of fun with that too. It is also the simple fact that everything we do, every day – whether turning compost, mowing a pasture, petting the calf, picking beetles off the asparagus, or keeping moles out of the peas – is about the food that sustains a family.
From the very beginning, the moment we touch a seed or pet a calf, it is about food. We’re thinking about how to maximize the yield, how to “put by” for the winter, how to keep toxic chemicals out of our bodies and the environment, how to treat the animals that will provide meat as humanely as possible, how to use the garden beds this year to improve them for next year. This may seem quite obvious, that working on a farm would be all about food. But when you are used to eating out 2-3 times a week as we were in Albuquerque (not something we are proud of, but something we enjoyed immensely), it is easy to not be mindful of what you are eating: what is in it, where it came from, how it was raised, and how much work went into getting it to your oversized fancy restaurant dinner plate. Ever seen those bumper stickers that say “No farms, No food”? Isn’t it strange that we should need that ridiculously obvious message? But I remember distinctly the last time I saw that bumper sticker feeling like it was a revelation.
At any rate, you’ll get a lot more on the ethos of the kind of farming we’re doing here from T in his recent posts on permaculture. I meant this post to be fun, not preachy. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m having fun thinking so much about food – imagining how good the butternut squash will be and all the ways I could prepare it, the crunch of the cucumber, the fragrance of the sun-warmed, vine-ripened tomato, the sweet waxy feel of fresh cream on the tongue, and yes – appreciating how good homegrown grass-fed beef can taste.
And for someone who ate out 2-3 times a week before, learning to make use of what we have, and – gasp – use leftovers, is a big change. It’s embarrassing to admit – I know some of you (especially in our parents’ generation, but not exclusively them) have always been thinking in this way. My parents are probably shaking their heads wondering what happened, since I was raised by an excellent cook who knew how to do all these things well and hardly ever, it seemed, had to throw away some left-over or vegetable that had grown a new life-form in a dark corner of the fridge. Maybe I’m idealizing my memories. But I’m having a lot of fun and imagining my parents and grandparents being very proud of me as I use last night’s mashed potatoes as a base for potato pancakes this morning, or extra sautéed onions and mushrooms from this morning’s omelet as toppings for my sandwich at lunch, or sautéed lambsquarters as a side-dish for dinner and then as filling for a quiche. You get the idea.
A lot of what we are using so far are things that M put by from last year. We’ve had a wonderful home-canned vegetable soup that M says contained just about everything from her garden last year.
There are lots of shallots and garlic from last year too, which we enjoy in just about everything. Another community member has an apple orchard, so we’ve had lots of applesauce and apple butter, one of my favorite condiments on the planet. Lots of last year’s beef is still in the freezer, and we’ve had an amazing roast, tenderloin, a little ground beef, and home-canned marinara meat sauce, which we put on pasta, sloppy-joe sandwiches, and mixed in with soups.
In addition to lambsquarters, the garden has already put out lettuce, a little asparagus, and some snap peas.
Things are going to really get cooking, so to speak, when the vegetable garden starts to crank out tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, beans, beets, broccoli, watermelon, squash, potatoes, chard, collards, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, garlic, onions, and shallots. You already know about the rooster, which I have great plans for, and we’ll be having more chicken soon.
I suppose any post on meals is only appropriately ended with dessert.
* “Cornbread and Butter Beans”, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, album “Genuine Negro Jig” 2009 – please check out this amazing band – they have a really cool story and I am currently obsessed with them.