|Our bounty from Saturday’s Farmer’s Market run.|
A few years ago The Husband read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and it got us thinking about the seriously weird stuff we humans now pass off as food. It also got us thinking about the politics of food and life back when people were self-regulating, counting on their own — and the local community’s — enterprise to fill basic needs. Food wasn’t convenient or fast but people could pronounce the ingredients; and hardly anyone was compulsively hoarding useless chachkies from a local megamart.
|Signs of Summer.|
About that time The Husband and I also started noticing other things: the bunches and bunches of local food farms, farmer’s markets and little road-side veggie stands surrounding us; the fact that we felt better after eating fresh food rather than crispy chicken strips out of a cardboard box; that our food choices appeared to be damaging our health. We started talking about raising chickens and planting a garden and several times even toyed with the idea of making local farms our primary food source for a summer. Just for the fun of it.
It took a couple years of gradual toe dipping into the proverbial sustainability water but when spring rolled around this year The Husband and I felt ready to revisit the local food idea. In May we issued ourselves this challenge: make farmer’s markets, local farms and our own garden our family’s primary source for food this summer. We decided to try and ‘make do’ with Thursday/Saturday trips to the Skaneateles Farmer’s Market, visits to Wake Robin Farm’s store and an occasional trek to the Regional Market.
|The Husband’s Lamb, Spinach and home-made Pasta dish
from Farmer’s Market sources.
This game of Make-Do has unexpectedly turned into something fun and delicious. We’re making friends, learning how to cook with fresh ingredients, and discovering a rich food culture in our region.
Now that we’re about a month into this thing I figured I’d share what I/we’ve learned so far:
|Scape and asparagus.|
We Don’t Know Much: There are a whole bunch of edible plants growing in the region that I’ve never heard of. What the heck is a scape? Or a rabe? Or rocket? And how do you prepare these things? Turns out the people who grow and sell food are also very willing to share family recipes. We’re trying new foods constantly.
Variety Abounds:We get our whole milk, cheeses, and yogurt at Wake Robin Farms; at the Skaneateles farmer’s market we get fresh local lamb, beef, chicken, goat cheese, canned goods, breads, herbs, and all manner of vegetables, both known and unknown. The flavor is worlds, worlds better than the processed stuff. No comparison.
Eating Local Makes You Loco: I thought this challenge was going to be too difficulty to stick with but the opposite is true: we’re energized, maybe because of the better food choices we’re making, and motivated to permanently cut out as much imported and processed food as we can. We’re looking into canning and charcuterie, pickling and salting, smoking and drying, to preserve our food for the winter.
|These Andy’s turnips are delicious
blanched or candied.
A New Kind of Saturday: Saturdays have become a new kind of day – one of food preparation for the upcoming week. Delicate, leafy produce spoils quickly unless thoroughly washed, dried and wrapped; meats and veg bought in bulk have to be separated and frozen or canned; we’ve learned to cook en mass and to anticipate future need. Saturdays have become the food-prep and preserve day for the upcoming week.
You Just Never Know: We’re dependent on what is in season, and weather, and temperature, the health of the farmer — all things we never gave a thought to before. We just never know exactly what will be on our plates in any given week, and we’ve learned not to freak out about it. We’ll figure it out. This is a diabolic shift in our food consumption and our attitude about food in general. It requires us to succumb to the process of cooking what we have on hand, even if those ingredients are the same ones we made our meals out of yesterday. Developing a robust recipe collection has been key to keeping us on track.
|Beans from Ethiopia. El Salvador and Guatemala
roasted in The Husband’s Behmor 1600.
Buying Local is Socially Gratifying: Building relationships with the people who grow and raise our food has been the single most enjoyable aspect of this challenge. These people are passionate. They are knowledgeable. And, frankly, in an apocalypse these are the folks you want to know.
Exceptions: There are certain things we cook with and consume that are not and never will be produced locally: olive oil; coffee (The Husband is a home roaster and buys his green beans from Sweet Marias. He roasts in-house with his Behmor 1600 – this isn’t going to change); bananas (I love them – don’t judge).
So where do we get our food these days?
|Good Karma Garlic
Navarino Orchard– Sweet onions and potatoes, apples, strawberries, peaches, canned goods, fruit pies. (they also make barley and peanut butter doggie treats that our mutt loves.)
|Byrne Black Angus|
Byrne Black Angus– These guys do one thing: natural, grass-feed black angus beef.
Wake Robin Farm – Yogurt, artisan cheeses, and milk. Visitors usually get to see the cows just outback in the pasture.
Meadowood Farms Lamb sausage and a sheep’s milk brebis.
Susanville Good Karma Garlic – A large variety of garlic and tomatoes, and seasonal vegetables. The Good Karma Garlic keeps the fresh veg coming well into the cold season.
|An October Rose broiler smoked on
The Husband’s grill.
October Rose Farm– Free range and antibiotic free eggs, chicken and turkey.
Other Seeds of Change that got this Fat American thinking:
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead documentary
Food, Inc. documentary
How To Cook Your Life documentary
In Defense of Food book
The Future of Food documentary
Whole Larder Love blog