Sunday, December 20, 2009
This was a long story in the making, as I put my name on a list for a "locker" lamb (a whole animal, custom butchered) last summer. I actually had forgotten about it when I got a call from Margaret of Spring Hill Farm--did I want a lamb they had just slaughtered? Did I?! This is what I have been wanting all along!
Margaret had already sent the lamb to Farmer George, a custom butcher in Port Orchard. I spent a while on the phone with a woman there to make sure that I got exactly the cuts I wanted and insisting that they include everything--the bones, the offal, the fat, etc. Everything but the baa. Margaret has even offered me some tongues, a part she usually saves for herself; she seemed genuinely happy that I wanted to make use of the whole animal. But, of course, no? That's part of why we are doing this thing . . .
Anyway, Port Orchard is a long drive from here, 83 miles to be exact. And I don't much like driving to begin with. Thankfully, I was able to combine this errand with picking one of the kids up from SeaTac (Seattle's airport), as Farmer George's is basically right off of the highway on the way. It's just, well, it's a looong trip (minimum of five hours, roundtrip, usually six or more if the arrivee checks bags or inconveniently chooses a time around Rush Hour to arrive). I usually eat before I leave and take nuts and fruit to sustain me, but this time it wasn't enough, and both the daughter I brought with me and the one I was picking up were starved as we headed back. Ok, so we ought to be able to find something edible on the 130 mile drive, right? I like to get out of the urban traffic before even looking, as dealing with unfamiliar neighborhoods in big cities is not my idea of fun when famished.
That put us in Gig Harbor, just over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from Tacoma. It's a sweet small town, and we have had absolutely marvelous meals at Brix 25', but this time I just wanted fast, cheap, simple. Usually that means Mexican for us, where I can get a carne asada or a fajita salad and be relatively sure I won't get sick. I found a place that had pretty good reviews online--which is how I had found Brix in August (I bow to the iPhone in these situations!), but this time ended up being disappointed. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't good either. And I woke up the next morning puffy and congested (not horrible reactions--thanks, I think, to much time on the GAPS diet, but a reaction nonetheless). Enough said, as I am sure there are many folks who like the place. I just have different standards.
Which bring me to Healthy Eats Here, a healthy dining guide with restaurant reviews from around the country that is in ebook format. (Full Disclosure: the author, Holly Hickman is a friend of mine, but I was not given a free copy and she doesn't even know I am writing this. Hi Holly!)
The book sets out criteria for real food in a restaurant context and gives details about each reviewed site (quality of food, taste, cost, any caveats or serenditipites). It would be a wonderful last-minute gift for out-of-town family and friends who care about their food or who just love to eat. I can attest to Holly's credentials a Woman of Taste, a gal with a large appetite and the palate to discern the good from the godawful. And she travels, yes indeed, being a journalist and all. So she has had good reason to find food that tastes good, won't make her sick in the long run and will even support the health of the planet. Now we just have to get her to explore the Tacoma area . . .or to get me to be a PNW contributor? How about it, Holly--do you want contributors at large?
So, I have 50+ lbs of lamb in my friend's freezer (thanks E--I intend to defrost mine tomorrow if the weather cooperates), I survived the doubtful Mexican meal, and I have a source for choosing restaurants in unfamiliar towns. Not a bad week for filling in the gaps!
Monday, December 14, 2009
Compelling story: South Dakota Attacking Small Family Dairies (and take the Raw Milk Survey after you read this)
From a blog I regularly read, this is the same story of gov't's attempt to control us through our food, but the personal details are wonderfully instructive. A heartwarming story--and the bureaucratic nonsense might piss you off enough to take the survey, write letters, speak out. Yes, this is America in (almost) 2010. Keep fighting!
Lila Streff, the Goat Lady
This article came to the Journal from one of our Atlanta Correspondents, Linn Cohen-Cole. She has a good eye for developing issues in farm and food freedom. I am re-posting this letter to the Editor of the Black Hills Today News service by Lila Streff and the Streff Ridge Farm Goat Dairy in Custer South Dakota– Black Hills territory. This is because it is the finest example of a healing testimony of raw milk for her family, neighbors and friends she shares and trades with versus the government/corporate partnership that is trying to put a stop to it all. It is a story of guts and courage of a ”goat lady” standing up for her God-given rights to eat natural food, to obtain her families health with it and have a good livelihood without getting a permission slip from the state.
The location is most noteworthy. I think it might be time to head for the Hills and take part in this battle. This battle is not between the General Custer or The Feds against the Indians of the Black Hills again, but this time it is the government against the all of the cowgirls and goat ladies in the state. The timing of the state-scheduled standoff is significant– December 21– the date of the national rally in Wisconsin. If you cannot make it to this showdown, perhaps you could do your part by sharing this story.
Can you help the Streff’s and thousands of others small dairies, and those in the Departments of Agriculture and Health on our side, across the country that she is asking and praying for you to do?– Augie
State of South Dakota and Their Attack on Small Family Dairies
The Miracle of Goats Milk and Prayers
Black Hills Today Publisher’s Note: Dear readers, the following letter was mailed to me from Lila Streff of Streff Ridge Farm Goat Dairy in Custer South Dakota. I find this letter to be one of the most critical letters to the editor I have received in years and highly recommend you read it in its entirety. I am the youngest of 10 children raised in the country on real food. We had a huge garden, raised our own beef, chickens, and even a pig once. Of course we had eggs from free-range chickens, we made bread everyday, and milked cows and goats. The goats were added to the farm when I was born.
My wonderful mom, who is 85 years old now, nearly died having me. She lived through it, Praise God, but after hemorrhaging so badly, she could not breast feed me. Doctors tried every different kind of formula and store produced milk that they could find , but I couldn’t keep any of it down. Basically I was dying, is what the doctors said. Then one doctor said he thought goat’s milk might be my last hope. My parents purchased a goat and as I thrived, my whole family was also blessed with goat’s milk from that day on. We all grew up milking goats and cows learning many valuable lessons from farm life. We sold and shared milk with a whole lot of people.
My mom became the “goat lady” in our area. There were so many “real- life” stories of how people were helped by this unique commodity. Mostly I heard of those who had babies that needed it as I did. Goat’s milk digests in about 20 minutes and the nutrients are “bio-available” or “readily accessible”. Then there were those who had ulcers and found immediate relief. Goat’s milk has Alkaline Ash in it that neutralizes the acid in the stomach so that an ulcer can heal. This raw milk helped so many people. I never ever heard of anyone who got sick from it. At the age of 18, I went away to college to major in vocal music. This was when I was first introduced to “pasteurized milk”. I remember my strong dislike to the taste at first, but being a milk drinker, my taste buds finally adapted. It took me 2 0 years however, to figure out that the rest of my body didn’t do so well with pasteurized milk. I encountered regular stomach aches right away blaming it on being homesick, eating different foods and the stresses of studying so much. It became a normal routine to take antacids and I washed down spoonfuls of baking soda with glasses of water. I also developed sinus problems which as a vocal major was messing things up. As soon as spring hit that year, I was hit with what I thought was an ongoing cold. Finally it dawned on me that I had hay fever and other weird allergies showing up for the first time in my life. I began taking over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants that would cover every hour. Eventually none of these helped anymore. Three years later when I got married, my allergies were so bad, that a doctor gave me a prescription for prednisone. I finally found some relief, but couldn’t take that forever, so I was put on a cortisone nasal spray which alleviated the symptoms greatly.
The New Barn
During the next 4 years, my husband and I had moved into a mobile home on my parent’s property and brought 3 sweet little babies into the world. I didn’t like using the nasal sprays while being pregnant, so I suffered a lot. I had become a born-again Christian and began desperately praying that God would deliver me from the miserable hay fever and stomach ailments. I was frustrated and angry at times when I didn’t see Him healing me. Interestingly enough, my mom was still milking goats right next door and offered us all the free milk we wanted. We were used to the “town” stuff now and refused it, though I did give it to my babies because formulas and “town” milk made them spit up so badly. Somehow I missed what God was providing for me.
By the time I had my 4th baby, I was homeschooling and we had outgrown our little trailer. We bought some beautiful Black Hills property and built our own home. My husband had grown up much differently than I did. He was raised on main street in town and now worked in an office on computers, but I put him to work digging our own garden spot, building chicken coupes and a little barn for our son’s pet pygmy goats. I was a country girl at heart and my husband was seeing more and more of this surfacing now. I had a growing desire to live off the land.
Related Links Cops “Drop the Bucket Lady” Will Police Taser Kids for selling lemonade? What’s NextRaw Milk MythsReal Milk MythsJAMA Horrors of Pasteurized MilkPulling the Plug on PasteurizationConspiricy is not a theory in Food Health
When our 6th child was two years old, my allergies were so bad that I coul d hardly even be outside to enjoy the gardening or animals. I also was becoming very sick in many other ways too, including extreme headaches. Finally I was diagnosed with a large brain tumor the size of a grapefruit and was rushed to surgery. It was a meningioma that wasn’t cancerous, but it took a full year to recover from the surgery. Doctors really can’t give a patient a clear-cut prognosis for recovery from this, so you just live day-to-day wondering “when” and “if” all of the numerous “nightmare” type symptoms will go away. However, today (four years later), I feel basically normal except for some hearing loss. I am thankful for how I have healed. Neurologists who have looked at my MRI and Cat-scan pictures say that it’s a miracle that I am alive –much less that I can walk and talk.
(pasteurized, of course). He had been severely constipated since he was a baby. A friend of mine had recently been informed by a specialist that her son had an allergy to cow’s milk. His symptoms were identical to my son’s. It suddenly dawned on me that my son had been needing goat’s milk just as I did as a baby. I wasn’t interested in having dairy goats that you had to milk morning and night, but as several events conspired, I was convinced that this was my calling—that God had raised me up to do this. I prayed about it a lot and then visited with my husband about getting just one goat to milk. Next, a friend who enjoys organic and healthy foods asked if I had ever considered milking goats. She was not aware that I was already praying about this. Then I stumbled across a scripture in the Bible, Proverbs 27:27 that says, “You shall have enough goat’s milk for your food, the food of your household and the nourishment of your maidservants.” Oh, how I didn’t want to be tied down to this; I had grown up with the chore of milking morning and night. I knew what this would mean, but I also knew what God was telling me. Goat’s milk had saved my life and now it was time to help provide it for the health of others.
In late August of that year, I bought Ginger, a Toggenburg goat. My son’s allergies were relieved immediately and so were mine. My hay fever and sto mach problems were gone. After people heard that I was milking goats and had raw milk, they wanted this milk too. Some people were sick and dealing with health issues. Others wanted it because they are sick “of” the pasteurized product from the store. They were also deeply concerned about the hormones that were given to cows, and they wanted a healthy alternative. I hated turning people down and was compelled to find and purchase more goats. At 42 years old, I became the new “goat lady” in our area.
Streff Ridge Farm Goat Dairy – New Barn
In September, two Nubians were added to the farm and then in October, four Saanens from Iowa were added. Within two years, I was milking 14 goats. My barn was a little shack basically with no electricity, running water or heat, and it had a dirt floor. Though I was animate about producing a good tasting, clean product – it was not sufficient enough to me. I had to carry the 4 gallons of milk back to the house where I strained it and cooled it. At this time, I began getting a clear vision of a new barn and its entire layout. This would be very costly – could I do this? Again I was praying fervently. One thing that came to me was that if I were to spend this much money ($85,000), I better check with the state to see what the legalities were.
The SD Department of Agriculture informed me that under the current laws, I could legally sell “raw” milk if I labeled it as such. I was set to go, but I wanted their advice on building my barn so that it would meet Grade A dairy specs. They were very helpful and I proceeded to build a barn to meet the standards that they advised. It includes a large kitchen (16’ x 18’) with a triple stainless steel sink, cement floors, etc… The milking parlor has four custom stanchions each with four headlocks so that I can bring in 16 goats at a time. I also have milking machines now. Yay!
Well, a few months after I began enjoying my most beautiful barn, (and willingly spending every last penny to make the payments on it), the Dept of Ag decided that their interpretation of the law went a little deeper. They decided that I also had to pass an inspection and get a permit. So I worked
with them, jumping through a few more hoops, passed their inspection, and got a permit. All the while I am wondering though —why do I have to have permission to do this in a free country? Why is it their business? I have done the thorough research on goat’s milk and its benefits; and scientist have proven that raw milk is truly safe because of the good bacteria, and other built–in safety factors that were added by the Author of life Himself. Safety factors include Lactoferrin- a protein which has antibacterial/anti-fungal properties against pathogens such as E-coli 0157:H7. I have also seen the “real –life “ studies of how raw milk is life-giving and pasteurized milk actuall
y makes people sick. Naively, I was surprised to find out that the people of the Dept of Ag just can’t believe this. They actually believe that pasteurized (cooked) milk is better and safer –which it is not. They also believe that it is their job to “police” raw milk. Do they really believe that people aren’t wise enough to observe where they purchase what they consume?
Now, six months later, the Dept of Ag has decided that the existing laws still just don’t cover all of the standards that they see fit for what they call the “fears of Raw Milk”. So they have introduced some new rules. Guess what? My barn isn’t adequate anymore. I would have to build another building to house an expensive bottling machine (which I would have to purchase also). I would also have to submit numerous tests that don’t apply to the big dairies. These tests would not only be expensive, but nearly impossible to pass.
The new proposed milk rules (supposedly) are to make selling raw milk legal in SD. However, the stipulations are so strict, that the producers of raw milk will not be able to afford to offer it. We were given just a few weeks to scramble our resources before the hearing on Nov. 17th , 2009 in Pierre, SD . About 25 -30 raw milk producers and customers showed up at the hearing to oppose the new rules. Then there was a 10 day window for the public to write letters. The closing day was the day after Thanksgiving, so we lost a few days in the postal service due to the holiday.
Now we are waiting in SD for the Dept of Ag to make their decision so that we can defend our rights at the next hearing before the Rules Review Committee, which will be held on Dec. 21st, the Monday before Christmas.
As I have become more involved in this, I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t about the benefits of Raw milk –vs- pasteurized milk at all. You see, we weren’t even supposed to bring those pertinent issues up at the hearing. This is because there is way too much proof that raw milk is healthy and safe—-and pasteurized milk is neither. This is really about government regulations and who controls our commodities. Our health is our food and someone wants to control all of this.
I am now being led to ask all kinds of questions that every American should be asking. Are we to be forced into eating foods that cause diseases? Do the people of a free nation (this free nation) still have the right to pursue happiness and their health? Who is behind all of this? I am wondering: even if the SD Department of Agriculture really hears our cry, can they make a decision of their own? Do they represent the desires of the people of SD or are they being influenced by some big corporation or entity? Where does this agenda to rid the small dairies who provide raw milk really originate, because this fight is being seen in every state of our free nation.
I found out that many of those holding offices in the SD Department of Ag actually grew up on farms enjoying the benefits of raw milk. I am praying that they will find it in their consciences to override any outside pressures of big business and the lies thereof and make the right decisions; Decisions that protect the people from big government; Decisions that protect our freedoms and our health. I am praying that the SD Department of Agriculture and the current administration will listen to the “public outcry” for freedom, and that they be a leader setting precedence for all of the states -that they can make an independent decision that represents the people for which they are being paid to represent.
I challenge all concerned citizens to contact the South Dakota Governor’s office to stop this whole process. Tell them you support the sale of Raw Milk and to stop the over regulation of family farms.
Contact Governor Rounds
Office of the Governor
500 E. Capitol Ave.
Streff Ridge Farm Goat Dairy
12376 Beaver Den Dr
Custer, SD 57730
Can you help the Streff’s and thousands of others small dairies, and those in the Departments of Agriculture and Health on our side, across the country that she is asking and praying for you to do?– Augie
Read Previous Story South Dakota Raw Milk vs Big Government
Visit the Black Hills Today, a rural news service, with comments on this story and who prints some very interesting stories on farm and food freedom. http://blackhillsportal.com/npps/story.cfm?id=3554
Be sure to SHARE her great story.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
My letter to the farmers:
Dear Jeff and Sarah--
I just read the PDN article, by Diane Urbani de la Paz, about the recent E. Coli concerns that the state has attempted to link to your farm and wanted to express our unwavering support. I will be posting this letter and a link to the article and your rebuttal to my blog, and will tell everyone I meet that your milk is not only delicious, it also as safe--or safer!--than any other milk they might buy. This article thankfully did express a healthy skepticism about the state's position that the E. coli originated at your farm; I have read a lot of pieces about raw milk that were much more damaging.
Our family moved to Port Angeles in April, but we have been visiting the area for years--and all this time we have been thrilled to drink your milk. We only wish you had cream and butter too! I am going to buy enough today for drinking and to make yoghurt, staples in our home.
I am a nutrition educator and former Weston A. Price chapter leader and hope to be a positive voice in all of the chaos, as I know you are getting concerned calls. If there is anything I can do, please let me know.
305 815 4175
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Happy Thanksgiving! Fair Winds and Good Food to you all . . .
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Well, this was not what I intended to write about this morning, but here goes: I have been spammed--by some bot--with comment spam on every post I have I ever written! So, though it is a pain, I have instituted a "comment verification" requirement. You know, those annoying distorted letters and numbers that you have to try several times to get right. I apologize profusely for this, but I needed to do it for my sanity. It is taking me hours to remove the spam manually, and if there's a faster way, I don't know it. I toyed with disallowing anonymous comments, but I have had a history of positive comments from people who are not yet signed up in some way that Blogger recognizes and I don't want to shut these people out. If the experienced bloggers among you have any suggestions, I will most gratefully check them out.
On a more positive note, as it moves into winter we are learning how snug and lovely our little floating cabin is. Of course, we have taken some measures to make it thus, from the warm and inviting furnishings and colors, to the new heaters, canvas and other weatherizing tricks that keep us literally warm. Fighting condensation is an ongoing battle, but we are learning and putting cures into place, albeit slowly. I do know that the worst is yet to come, but we have had temperatures in the low 30's, pouring rain, and--as of the other night night--gusts of wind up to 62mph (depending on where--that was at the marina. Power is still out in areas of the county . . .) There will be snow, more rain, slightly colder temps, but I think we are finding that we will be able to weather it all pretty well. Check back with me on all of this in March!
And the nicest experience of the last few days day: I found a bounty of rose hips! I have been noting places with hips (or haws, as some call them) all summer long, tasting as I went along. I think that it must have been amusing to watch me learn, because it has taken me these many months to find out when they are perfectly ripe. Various online sources told me to wait till they were black, or till they were kissed by frost, or when they were a certain color . . .but yesterday I just knew the ones I found were ripe by looking at them. They had a certain milky look, verging on translucency, and they squished between my fingers if I pulled too hard. My fingers got numb from the cold, which was a good thing as there were abundant thorns. Nevertheless, I happily picked about a quart. I will go back when there have been more frosts, as the hips most exposed to the sun were not ready yet.
Rose hips are a wonderful fall and winter food to forage--high in vitamin C and full of tart-sweet flavor, they are a perfect balance to the dense and rich foods we have started to eat as fortification against the nippy and damp weather. They help keep our immune systems in top form as we go into cold and flu season. And they are just lovely to look at.
This afternoon I processed the hips into an uncooked jam sweetened with honey. I used a recipe in Keeping Food Fresh as a jumping off point, tweaking it for my tastes. I ended up using half the honey and adding flavor several ways. To a pint of the strained pulp, I added one cup of honey, a few tablespoons of bourbon, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a few drops of organic lemon flavoring (which is simply lemon oil).
Here you can see the hips being sorted after rinsing. Since I was using a food mill I decided not to be fussy about the stems and sepals--they are all strained out by the mill. But that job was more than the "tedious" I has read in various places. Turning the mill was hard work at first--it is a thick mass--and it took quite a while to get a decent amount of pulp. But it got easier, and I think I might have gotten as much yield as can be expected.
This is the pulp and the seeds after separating. I think I will try to simmer the seeds with a bit of water and see if I can get some more when I strain it through a sieve. I see that Becca over at Swamp Yankees From Outer Space tried this successfully.
And this is the finished product, so thick because of the natural pectin in rosehips. I think it actually got thicker as I stirred, and I could have used cider as part of the sweetener to loosen it up some (thanks Joy, for that idea!) I'll have to try it with the next batch.
Funny thing, all of that backlighting in the last shot, because it has been raining (and grey, of course) for days. No matter, now that I know what to do with these little rubies, I am eagerly anticipating more frosty mornings, more grey days. And more time in the galley creating yummy treats that happen to be incredibly nutrient dense . . . . I have yet to live through a full year here, but I can already tell you that the seasonal changes are sustaining--when the current weather or vegetable or lack of light gets to be too much, all we need is a reminder of the next short-lived pleasure to keep going. Rose hips can give us a glimmer of the flowers to come next Spring, while they get us out into the nippy Autumn air. A perfect combination of exercise, sustenance, and the rhythm of the season. All real, no Spam. Maybe a bit of wind. Thank goodness for small pleasures . . .
Friday, November 13, 2009
Even though I feel we are living in the land of plenty (by which I mean Clallam County specifically, not the USA as a whole) the issues in this article are pertinent even here. We have a wonderful local dairy, many viable produce farms, and local meat and fish.
But don't have local cream and butter, due to the vagaries of regulation that would make our dairy farmer a food processor if he had a cream separator, which would make him subject to all sorts of onerous requirements. He would have to pave the parking lot of his small on-farm store, have handicapped parking, have public restrooms. And that's just the beginning.
The fact that farmers can't slaughter the animals they raise means that custom butchers have to do the job, raising the price of the meat and giving the farmers less control. They don't even get all of the parts of their animals back, and who really knows if they are getting their own well-raised beasts back at all? After investing so much time and energy into pasturing animals the way they were meant to be raised, does it seem right to send them off to some other place in the end?
If we don't have local processing, we don't really have a local foodshed. We add transportation costs, the labor of outside processors, possible contamination, and all sorts of other complications. We have to take control back from the conglomerates--who created the rules that are keeping our local farmers from serving us directly. The rules may have been put into place in the name of efficiency and safety, but the reality is that they only serve the interests of huge agribusiness.
Buy local, and insist loudly that it be TRULY local, made and processed close to home. Know your farmer!
Monday, September 7, 2009
I have attended two recent talks that you presented that were set up by Linda. I am writing to thank you and let you know what a fantastic change my family has undergone since we have started implementing our new eating habits. I have a four year old daughter who has been very difficult for the past two and a half years. Everything was a melt down, she was rude to other children at times, rude to adults, difficult to please, whining a lot, would hardly eat and was picky but in a bizarre oppositional way, something she liked yesterday she wouldn't want today, etc. Her favorite foods have always been eggs and butter, but when I took her to have bloodwork done a few years ago the pediatrician told me that her cholesterol was high and that I needed to cut back on the eggs and butter, so, not knowing any better I did. Since I saw your presentation we went back to eating eggs and butter every day (and enjoying it very much). I have observed a complete transformation in my daughters attitude toward things and general behavior as well as appearance. She is MUCH more easy going, she is a pleasure to be around again, she doesn't complain anymore, she is getting along well with children her own age, saying hello to everyone and helping around the house. It is absolutely amazing! Besides the change in behavior I have also noticed that she is eating a much more varied diet and larger quantities and she looks much healthier now. A change in my daughters behavior was the last thing I was expecting to happen when we implemented these new eating habits but it is a wonderful thing!
My husband told me that I should call you and thank you for giving us back the joy of eating.
I really appreciate all the knowledge you are so willing to share with all of us.
I can't thank you enough!!!!!"
In the end, all I can say is, it's not me--what made the changes possible was recovering the Wisdom of the Grandmothers . . .
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Really important information! I am happy to see this research being broadcast in the mainstream media, as gut dysbiosis is the key to so many conditions today. Fecal transplants are one method of addressing this, but there are other, less medicalized (and perhaps more mentally palatable) ways of changing this condition.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Three fried eggs on a bed of sauteed red dandelions, purple spring onions, wildcrafted glasswort, all from within 15 miles of here (thank you Joy for the bag of glasswort from your forays to the beach!). Delicious and Nourishing . . .
My friend Nan asked:
"I've never hear of glasswort...sounds,,,crunchy. How does it taste, Justine?"
Good question(s?) which I really ought to have answered in the post, but I was rushing because we were getting ready to drive to Seattle to pick up Abigail Rosalyn!
Glasswort is a lot like sea purslane: a bit crunchy and salty--think of a cross between cucumber and olives. Glasswort is smaller "leaved" than sea purslane, in fact it almost looks like horsetail, with it's jointed stems.
The name comes from the historical fact that it was used in glass production by reducing it to an alkaline ash (which is used somehow in the glass making but that part I don't know about, so look here for info and a photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasswort)
Ugh. Why mess with children's food? Just for the cosmetic effect? It seems that the food industry in this country can't leave any stone unturned in the way of interfering with the natural way of things. I say eat food that's knobby and misshapen along with the perfect specimens--that is, it real food the way is comes to us. We need to stop expecting total perfection and to accept the variations in food (and people!) that make life interesting and nourishing.
Monday, July 20, 2009
So when Tropical Traditions approached me about reviewing their new Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil I said yes, but with those reservations intact. I knew I would have to write whatever my truth was, and that they might not like that, but that I will not compromise my beliefs just for some free product.
They sent me a quart jar and a book on coconut oil. Very trusting, I'd say. They don't know that much about me. They don't know that I have told people in the past that theirs was not my favorite product.
What I learned very quickly was that they have reason for this faith: the oil is really good. No, great. Smooth and delicately delicious, it has a coconut scent but does not smell like suntan lotion (my husband's usual complaint). It disappears into dishes but adds a gentle richness. In short, it has all of the best attributes of a coconut oil and none of the drawbacks. Click over to Tropical Traditions' explanation of how this oil is made, because I found it very enlightening; it seems to make a lot of sense as a process.
I tried the oil straight out of the jar (yum!) and in many dishes. I tried it on friends and family. And we did blind taste tests against other brands, where I had people give me their impressions without knowing what kind they were tasting. And this oil passed all of those examinations with flying colors.
Most of you are probably already using some coconut oil and understand it's potential benefits. If you choose to try the Gold Label oil out, do mention that I referred you (my ID# is 5015484). I may be cynical, but I am practical: I like the stuff and I would love to get some more!
Enjoy, and add some coconut goodness to your meals and your life.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Who knew we were living in the Lavender Capitol of the USA? Well, ok, close to it--Sequim (pronounced "skwim"), with its Mediterranean climate, is the next town over from Port Angeles--about 15 miles away--and it is indeed Lavender Central this time of year. The third weekend in July is reserved for the annual Lavender Festival, which draws people from all over, not just our little neck of the woods. There is a street fair with art, music, food and lavender products of all sorts, farm tours, demonstrations. And this year we were actually lucky enough to be here for the fun!
Eli and I wandered the street fair yesterday: we sampled Lavender Lemonade and Lavender-Mint Iced Tea, we bought some bulk culinary lavender (and a few gifts that won't be mentioned), and I found a really cool pair of earrings by Meg Jones (like the Boney But pin on this page for a birthday present to myself. It was sunny and breezy--a perfect Pacific Northwest summer day!
In honor of the festival I made this Lavender Sage Roast Chicken for dinner when we returned:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
I didn't measure (as usual) so I will try to guess how much I used, but (as always) I recommend tasting as you go along to see if you like the balance of flavors. My tastes may not be the same as yours!
2 Tbs. dried lavender flowers
1 Tbs. fresh sage or 1 tsp. dried
1 tsp. sea salt (or more)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. soft butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. coconut oil
(or just use one of the fats if you like)
Place the chicken in roasting pan. Loosen the skin over the breast of your chicken by carefully sliding your hand beneath it, wiggling your fingers until you free the membranes--do this slowly so you don't tear the skin. Put most of the herb butter under the skin then spread it around by massaging the outside of the skin, distributing it as evenly as you can. Rub the rest of the butter on the legs and wings, then squeeze half a lemon over the chicken. Put the squeezed lemon half in the cavity.
Roast for about an hour, basting every 10-15 minutes. The chicken should have crisp skin and clear juices (look in the gap between the thigh and body) when done.
We served this with mashed cauliflower, which I was tempted to season with lavender-- but opted instead for nutmeg. The pan drippings were wonderful on the cauliflower, and we had a "farmer's market" salad (whatever I find in the fridge that I collected from the market this week: greens, herbs, fruit, veg, whatever).
Sometimes I feel so spoiled here with the riches that surrounded us. I don't want to gloat, so you need to let me know if my meal descriptions are welcome as inspiration or not . . .
Which brings me to tonight's dinner, a product of today's market (our farmer's market runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the summer) and a box of elk from my father-in-law. I'll just leave you with a menu--if you want how-to's, let me know.
A Typical Saturday Feast:
Wine and cheese
Baked oysters with melted butter
Braised elk steaks with mushrooms and carrots
Buttered English peas (thanks for shelling the 2 lbs of peas Eli!)
Field greens salad with nasturtiums and marigolds
Raspberries and chocolate with cocoa
We don't eat like this every night, but most Saturdays we have oysters and/or fresh fish from the market, along with the tenderest produce that won't last. I am hoping to make a trade with a neighbor for some Dungeness crab tomorrow, so maybe Sunday's dinner will be a feast as well (keep your fingers crossed for me!) . . .
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Ah, Spring! We have had so many treats since moving to Port Angeles (and there are so many blog posts I must do to share them with you). The Farmer's Market is small, but always abuzz with excitement and joy. When I recently traveled to Miami for Eli's graduation, I returned on a Friday night. Going to the market the next morning was when I truly felt I had come home: I saw friends and friendly farmers, I heard fiddle music before I got out of my car, I touched and gathered the food from our immediate community. I came back to the boat bursting with contentment.
Last week, I bought lovely peonies and hollyhocks--the peonies are still on our dining table. On Wednesday (yes, we have the market twice a week during the summer--we are spoiled indeed) every booth, it seemed, had more gorgeous strawberries than the next, some so tiny the fairies must have been dancing around them the night before.
And yesterday the highlight was morels, those highly prized mushrooms of spring. I had never cooked with them, but reading up I found I should make a simple reduction sauce for steak for our first experience. I sauteed them with onions in butter, added a bit of my fruitcake liqueur and a jar of homemade stock, and simmered the whole until greatly reduced. I swirled in gobs of good butter at the end, added a bit of salt, and served it with grilled flank steak. Honestly, I think we would have been happy with just that, but we added some simply cooked baby broccoli with butter and a green salad with mizuna, radishes and chrysanthemum (leaves and flowers)--all from the market, of course.
It's almost embarrassing to recount these meals, as they seem so indulgent. But there you go, that's the privilege we have here: local food that great urban chefs go to great lengths to source for their customers. We ARE spoiled and we know it!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
"It's weird I had to solve my own medical problem," Terry told CNN affiliate KOMO. "There were just no answers anywhere ... I was always sick." I'd say it wasn't weird at all--rather, business as usual in modern Western medicine. Too bad she doesn't have the same feeling about the treatment they will offer her. That's where solving her own problem could save her life . . .
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
reading Little House on a Small Planet.
Sitting in this small home we have made, looking out at the clouds and the signs of wind or absence of it, listening to the rigging of neighboring boats, I feel enlarged not cramped. My abode is as big as I want it to be: our boat, the marina, our small town, the entire peninsula . . .
We watch our neighbors come and go. The delicate etiquette of the marina provides for privacy and community both. People wave as they go by if they are feeling gregarious, or keep their heads down if they want privacy or need to get somewhere. Rick has remarked more than once that we are many times more social here than we were in Miami, and comfortably so. It is so easy to welcome others into our home, perhaps because there is less physically separating us from them. It could be because we all share a way of life, but I think that's not entirely so, as we have entertained landlubbers as well, with almost as much ease (there is less spontaneity, as we have to invite them into our world).
Despite our heightened social activity, our small personal spaces are womb-like, protective. We feel snug and serene in a cabin the size of many "normal" bathrooms, in a way one never does in the yawning rooms of modern insta-mansions. It might be hard to fathom if you have never experienced the comfort of an enveloping "hobbit hole", or gnome-hole, as my girls call their cabin, but a small space has a way of wrapping around you like a shawl, providing just the right amount of security.
Some say that finding this ease is a matter of developing one's interior space, of becoming mentally calm and oriented. With the richness of an inner life, it is easier to take or leave the physical stuff we tend to accumulate. This is definitely an ongoing process, not a goal to be attained at once--or ever. It is something to practice daily, finding the interior which is so huge that it frees us from attachments to things and outcomes.
My sweetheart and I have conversations about the stuff. We got rid of a lot of it before moving, but it seems we kept quite a bit as well. We have tools, things we use (clothes and kitchen items fit here as well). We have books, which are mostly tools, but some are entertainment. We have artifacts, for pleasure, for memories. Some things are all about potential: art supplies, fabric, things that "might" prove useful.
Where do we draw the line? I gave away so much fabric, buttons, art supplies, but still have much left--it is in storage. The storage dilemma caused an argument last weekend. If everything is crammed into the storage, it is essentially unusable--because you can't find anything when you need it. So you might as well get rid of it. Or organize it, which may call for a bigger space. And, is that what we want? How will we use it? Will it just amass more stuff? Or can it be a complement to our lifestyle, allowing us to keep the boat relatively uncluttered, while still being able to use the snowshoes when we like?
And that brings me back to community: part of what we are able to do by keeping a small home profile is to utilize our larger surroundings for Living. Instead of pacifying ourselves in a home theater or exercise room, we can and must get out: biking, playing on Hollywood Beach, snowshoeing, exploring tidepools, just walking around town. Or we have people in, and create community here.
Here, we are together more than we are apart. Rick "comes home" from his sailboat office for a snack, for lunch, and finishes work at 3:30. We work together on fixing and maintaining our home. We rise and sleep more in rhythm with the sun. We all have the freedom to come and go, but we tend to do that together or in pairs, preferring each others company over absolute solitude.
Maybe I was always meant to live this way. I grew up in an enormous apartment in a tall building in New York City. I gave my parents fits because I was prone to hiding and really did not want to be found. I would hide behind or under furniture or in my walk-in closet. My favorite spaces for playing were the tiny maids' rooms (the building was built in 1926 and we had 3 rooms intended for live-in help) or my card-table play house, a screen-printed fabric tent that showed an idyllic country cottage with green shutters and white picket fence. The opulence that surrounded me was unfathomably large to a tiny girl, a place of adult parties or enormous silence when my father was at work and my mother off shopping. I used to fill it bouncing a rubber ball against the walls of the foyer, or roller skating down the long hallway. I had all the privacy I ever wanted, but no community.
As I write, the kids are working on projects in the salon--the space that is part library, part dining and living room, part galley (kitchen). They are singing Irish drinking songs taught to them by Captain Gary over many nights of cozy dinners in our snug space that is truly a "family" room. They called me in to see the Maritime Maid, a neighbor on the pier pull out of it's slip on the way to the fuel dock.
We are both in our space and of the larger world around us, and it is effortlessly fluid.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Now that we are settling in on our boat-as-home I want to share some of the ways I will be making real food here. At first glance, it might seem that I am operating under some disadvantages on the boat: our galley is small by kitchen standards (though quite spacious compared to other boats), my equipment is necessarily limited, and it can be quite cool here (no insulation and we are in the Pacific Northwest) which can make fermenting tricky. Over time I will share tips and strategies that I believe are making me more creative and resourceful as a cook, things that are applicable anywhere and might especially help any of us who have small spaces or limited resources.
Today, for Real Food Wednesdays (hosted this weed by Ann Marie at Cheeseslave), I want to show you what I am doing about fermenting--and what happened to the microwave.
When we took possession of Whale Song last summer it was the repository of kitschy nautical clutter, conventional cleaning supplies and scented candles, disposable and plastic kitchenware and a huge microwave. In the first 24 hours I managed to basically de-clutter, but that microwave remained, mocking me, who stands for things authentic, not rushed and nuked into submission. It was installed in a such way that removing it seemed more of a project than I had time for on a vacation, so I made myself forget about it until our return last month. Instead, we used it as a cabinet for tea.
As we were moving in and I was looking for places to put everything I might need to live, not just camp on vacation, I decided to rip the thing out. As a storage cabinet, it was a huge waste of space--not something one needs on a boat, or anywhere really. After wrestling with molding and screws and the sheer size of the hulking contraption, I followed the cord and discovered that there is an outlet in this new cabinet above the fridge that I had excavated. Hmm. Power in a large storage space? A seed was planted . . .
After a couple of weeks here my kimchi and water kefir schlepped from Miami had run out. I had gone through a huge jar of pickled turnips, a gift from Joy, my neighbor on the pier. I had bought some kimchi from the Korean woman at the farmer's market, and while it was good, it wasn't as tart as I like. It was high time for me to put up some ferments. I gathered some makings for sauerkraut and kombucha and got going. But where would I put these things to ripen? Last summer I had jars arrayed across the helm--a passable solution, but now Sammy is using this as a home for her dollhouse.
The gaping hole above the fridge called out. I put a wire shelf in it to accommodate small jars and installed the kraut (topped by stones from the mouth of the Elwha River) and my huge vat of kombucha. It was warmish (from the fridge) but would it be enough in this cool climate, next to the external wall of the boat? At least the helm in summer got sunlight during the day. Joy suggested a heat lamp for the space, plugged into that convenient outlet. My husband pointed out that there are bulb sockets that plug in, to be had for pennies at the hardware store, so off I went to Swain's, which Has Everything. And yes, they had such an outlet, for a mere $1.38. The bare bulb threw off a lot of heat: I was in business!
I have since added a thick curtain made from scraps to keep the heat in and a thermometer to gauge the temperature--it has been quite warm, in the 80's F, so I may have to use a bulb of lesser wattage. And my ferments are SO happy! The kombucha has a healthy new mama growing (last summer it took weeks to do anything) and the sauerkraut, purple cabbage flavored with cumin and mustard seeds, may be the best I have made. In addition, I have made beet kvass (sparkly!) and spicy mint chutney (from Nourishing Traditions).
I am so excited to try new ideas for ferments now that I have a perfect setup--maybe even better than what I had in Miami. I can opt for slow, cool, fermentation, or I can add more warmth for those things that are craving it. And with the incredible offerings at our farmer's market, I know there will be plenty of material.
Join me in Happy Fermenting (and now we all have incentive to get rid of the microwave!)
Monday, May 4, 2009
Well, if you knew the content of the many blog posts I have written out in my head over these last weeks, you would not be wondering at all what I have been up to. Seeing as I have not actually committed these words to cyberspace yet, I can understand your wondering. I truly appreciate your patience in the face of such silence. And so you are wondering still-- therefore I owe you the first of many descriptions of what has been happening and where we are now.
The story begins, according to Cap'n Gary, "So there we were . . . and then," as any good sea tale ought. So There We Were, in St. Louis, packing our things for a morning departure, kissing our grand-baby goodbye, And Then: Rick's phone rings. It's Port Security, in Port Angeles. We have a leak in our boat. After Rick's heart nearly stops, Cap'n Gary commandeers the phone from the Security Guy and explains the situation fully: Never mind that we are slowly making our way across the country to live on her, never mind that there is not a thing we can do from Missouri. Whale Song is taking on water from a failed through-hull (one of many holes through the hull for things like propellers and water intake for flushing heads/toilets) and she needs to be fixed NOW. And Gary (our neighbor) needs to get to work, so we need to figure it out from here/there. He had already exercised his inner hero by discovering the leak at 6 am after the noise from our bilge pumps irritated him out of his last minutes of sleep.
Phone numbers were exchanged, calls made, permissions given, and Whale Song was in the boatyard by 11 am. She had all of her through hulls checked, the failed one repaired, and had a good cleaning and bottom painting for good measure. All of this while we traversed the land of Winter between Spring in St. Louis and Spring west of the Cascade Mountains. There are more tales there to be told, but that is for another day. The conclusion of this segment is that we arrived three days later to our floating cottage back in the water, as if nothing had happened.
And Then: we found that the 38 year old refrigerator had died. That is why our first day in Port Angeles was spent searching for that rare breed: an apartment-sized refrigerator. So we could, you know, put the food away. And get to unpacking everything else. After looking in six stores in two towns, we found one in the independent appliance shop practically in our backyard. Chalk one up for small town service. We navigated that fridge down the ramp in a dock cart (picture that!), over the rail of the boat (with some able-bodied assistance) and through the narrow spaces (removing doorknobs as we went). And it worked!
And all went well, as we unpacked, tore out the space-hogging settee and the 70's era carpeting. We had shelves built and new flooring put down. I painted everything rich browns and reds and yellows. We unpacked some more, shuttling between the storage locker and the dock. It was starting to feel like home, so we ventured to the farmer's market and indulged in all of the spring offerings--greens, wild and planted, root veggies from storage, oysters and halibut, orange-yolked eggs. We brought the bounty home to prepare a feast . . .
And Then: the 38 year old stove died. We went back to the appliance store and bought a range to fit the small space left by the old marine stove, wrestled it down the ramp in a dock cart and over the rail and into the galley. . . and, well, it didn't work. It was the wrong sort of power (220 vs. 110--why didn't we think to check?) Moreover, we couldn't find a 110 stove anywhere, even on the Internet, that would work for us. And you know how vital cooking is to me, to us. We bought a hot plate and thought about our predicament. We used Gary's stove--a brawny beast of a marine stove, fueled by propane. We debated propane and it's pros and cons--gas is great to cook with--I have been lamenting electric stoves for years-- but on a boat it can (due to it's heavier than air property) accumulate in the bilge and can (to quote Cap'n Gary yet again) cause the hull and the deck to forcibly part ways when ignited by a wayward spark, such as from the bilge pumps doing their job.
And so, of course, we decided upon propane--with a many layers of protection to make the setup viable from a continuing-to-live standpoint. But these things take time. The stove had to be ordered and converted from natural gas to propane. The tanks were purchased, hose fittings and connections created, housing for the whole assembly built. The solenoid that would serve as a fail-safe had to be ordered and mounted, power sourced and wired. We installed a propane detector in the bilge. All of this involved many kind people, paid and unpaid (the unpaid ones have been promised much roast turkey). All this work, and still no roast turkey. Weeks later, we are just now, maybe, going to use the stove tonight (I will let you know). It seems that we neglected to add one more fuel regulator into the system (who knew you needed two? We are learning so much with every project.) This may explain the lack of gas to the stove and the lack of food on the table (just kidding there--it's amazing what you can do with a hot plate . . . but it does explain the lack of baked goods).
And then, somewhere in there, one of our heads (toilets) died. No joke. Really. We learned a lot about "open-head" surgery (Gary's phrase, again). Rick replaced the macerator pump. Then it clogged and wouldn't flush one day when Rick was at work. It was my turn to do the dirty work. As the former owner said, since the hands that repair the head also make the salad, think twice about what you put in there--only that which has gone through your body should go into a head. Even so, there I was on my hands and knees, wedged into the tiny space, next to the rubbish bin filled with used toilet paper, taking instruction over the phone as to exactly which part I needed to dismantle. In the end, I figured it all out (it isn't the rocket science aspect that makes it a dreaded task) and got the head working better than ever. Did you know that a one-way valve/gasket on a head outflow pipe looks an awful lot like a a heart valve? Picture one of the three-part valves in black rubber and you're pretty close . . . interesting. Ok--I will cut the mental chatter out . . .
So, anyway. You'd think we'd had enough excitement in the span of three weeks to keep us yarning for years, but life, as always has a way of laughing at us when we come to such ridiculous conclusions.
We all know that Fairy Tales begin with "Once Upon a Time", and end with "They Lived Happily Ever After". Not so with a Sea Story. Sea Stories begin with "So There We Were" and end with "And Things Have Been Messed Up Ever Since . . ."
So. There We Were, unpacking, fixing, painting, eating, coping.
And Then: Sammy started coughing. And whooping. Oh yes. Cough-cough-cough-WHOOP. As in Whooping Cough. Pertussis. The Hundred Day Cough.
And we are coughing still . . .
Post Script: While all of the recorded events are indeed true (and we are coughing still) things are not messed up. We are having the time of our lives, loving the friends, the food, the weather. I will write more about the incredible food and resources we have had the privilege to enjoy, but appreciate my tale until then.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
A fitting return from my moving break: a call to action! Please help, because this bill sets a precedent--and because Gov. Sebelius is on her way to DC to begin driving policy . . .
Monday, March 23, 2009
Lucky for me that my kids are great cooks or we would all be wasting away over here. And lucky for them too, I guess. At any rate, I am still supposed to be the household shopper, so today we hit a wall--made of onions. All I really had in the larder was onions. And a lot of broth in the freezer. So of course I thought onion soup was the obvious solution. "Not so fast", says my family. "Onion soup is an appetizer" says my sweetheart. "Back me up", says I. "I want meat!" says my petite 17 year old. "We don't have any", says I. She fumes all the way into her room, muttering that she will have to cook herself something if I insist on making onion soup for dinner, that I have planned so poorly that she will starve. The two middle kids quietly finaigle an evening at a friend's house.
Crisis looming, I retreat to my bedroom. No longer a sanctuary, most of the comforts are gone; it is now filled with things I must pack--mocking my slow pace. Dinner is none of it's concern. There is nowhere to turn, so I begin to mutter myself. Sweetheart picks up on the tenor of my rant and offers dinner out. Hmm. This would mean Fuming Child will get her way. But I won't have to cook, or even think about cooking. Well, maybe, just maybe, we can make this work--for my sanity, that is. So, after an appropriate cooling-off spell, my saviour makes a loud announcement of the plan and off we go for carne asada at the college hangout across the highway.
It pains me to eat out, but at least there's a place or two that we can fall back upon when things get too hairy around here. There may be more of that in the coming days, as we count down to Friday's departure. It actually seems, though, that we will be eating a lot of homecooked meals on our trip. We are staying with family and friends as we make our way along the path of the Lewis and Clark expeditions (at least, after St. Louis we will be on their path), and many have offered to shop in advance of our arrival for a communal meal. That is a huge relief for me, knowing we will have real food at the end of each day, made with love and eaten in good company.
I will try to keep you all posted as we go along, but know I that I am HERE, as well as on my way THERE.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
We can participate in stopping things like this by avoiding GMO foods: buy organic, buy from small farms where you know the practices, avoid the foods we know are GMO-- corn, soy, canola, cottonseed, Hawaiian Papaya. See http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/Home/index.cfm for more information and a shopping guide.
We have to muster our outrage, to think beyond our health and our families . . .
Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
This creates some issues that affect our way of eating as well. I am busy sorting, making arrangements, packing. And I am dealing with sadness of abruptly leaving our friends and family after eleven years here, all in this very apartment--where my youngest child was born. I am taking a leave from school and just keeping up with other things. I would like to blog my way through the move, focusing on my favorite issues, such as eating well despite difficulties or unusual circumstances, and being thrify and mindful while we do this. If you have any questions or ideas for posts related to my move (and living on a boat and a budget) please do let me know. And be patient with me, some days I am just so played out from deciding whether my kids' art projects have to hit the trash that I can barely string a sentence t gether . . .
So there are two things going in my mind now related to food. I have to figure out what needs to be used up--no waste, remember? And, I have to juggle needing to eat well while I go through this process, with needing to get things packed. I suppose that will mean that I pack the kitchen stuff last, after sorting and selling what we will not need on the boat. This is a difficult bit of guesswork though, because I have never lived aboard for more than a month.
My experiences on boats so far could been seen as closer to camping than to living full-time. Moving onto a boat means I have to analyze each item: Will it fit? Does it do more than one thing? (it is my policy that everything on a boat needs to do double-duty, especially if it's a space hog) Do I absolutely love it? Do I absolutely need it? Can something smaller/simpler do the job? Will it last in a marine environment? Can I replace it inexpensively (read: can I thrift it?) if need be?
On our last, month-long, stay I did do quite a few ferments and made stock and other staples. I haven't yet figured out the storage for being able to do these things in the quantity that will make my life easier. It's one thing to show off making beet kvass on the bridge, but how to make a season's worth of sauerkraut? Will I need the mason jars I have accumulated? What about my lovely huge kombucha jar? My stock pot--where will it live? I am thinking to take the items that were a big investment (the Le Creuset stock pot) and eyeball it when I am standing in the galley unpacking. Maybe if I stick a cushion on it (with the lid upside down) I can use it as a stool? This might irk my husband, but he does like to eat well, so I will have to keep reminding him of that. Either that, or I will be making stock every few days in very small batches.
Using things up here is another matter. I have so much delicious cream in the freezer that I personally cannot eat doing GAPS. I had thought to throw an ice-cream party for our friends, but the ice-cream maker died a sad death in the summer rains, left outside after a birthday celebration (we have an antique hand-cranked one waiting in the hold of Whale Song). I may resort to making yoghurt with half cream and half milk--which will make the kids and my husband happy, I am sure. The things hiding in the recesses of the fridge have to be incorporated into meals for real now--no impulse shopping when we have a stocked larder. I can't hope to use it "someday"--someday is today! I hope to only buy fresh fruit and veggies over the next few weeks while I cook through our store of pastured chickens and grass-fed meat. I might have to sneak some liver into a meatloaf or two--shh!
After we consume enough of our stored food for me to really assess the situation, I wll have to cook as if we were on vacation (buy small amounts and use them up) and prepare travel food for the 3400 mile drive. Every time I think: "whatever--let's just eat out" I remember that this is a vulnerable time, where I need to keep everyone healthy (especially me!) by cooking and eating the best food possible. Moving is exciting--full of the promise of the new, but it is also stressful--like weddings. Now is the worst time to cut corners!
In fact, I think I need to start extra cod liver oil for everyone . . . because there's another bottle in the pantry, and after all, it will help us all stay strong as we prepare for our sea change.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Umm. No. Not for me and mine. Yes to the stars, the walks, the fires. But the food, as always, has to be Real (not that we never eat a hot dog in our house, but that's a breakfast or a snack, not a dinner--and it has to be of the highest quality).
When we camp, as whenever we travel, we cook real food and find great pleasure in it. And we continue to use what we have and let nothing go to waste--the Frugalista part of me does not "go on vacation" (or, to be more accurate, she goes with me on my vacation.) Depending on your roughing-it sensibility, you may think that we take a ridiculous amount of kitchen equipment with us, but if you were to come camping with us, I'd bet real money that you'd be among the group that ends up at our site enjoying the wine and cheese and homemade crackers. And maybe staying for the Moroccan chicken . . .
Last weekend we went camping with the kids and another family. We had planned to share the cooking of a few dinners, but I brought lots of extra food, as there is something in me that can't do food in any way except in abundance. I do always sketch out the main meals, but I like to leave room for little serendipities by having an array of choices for lunches-- including leftovers, a few items that keep (such as dry chorizo and canned tuna), and hoping for the kids' fishing expeditions to be blessed by the Cane Pole Gods. My friends brought several dozen of their amazing eggs and some of the bounty from their garden (remember, February is peak growing season in SoFLa).
Our dinners were lovely standby dishes: grass-fed beef chili, Moroccan chicken--with figs, dutch oven chuck roast with dried and fresh mushrooms. All with salads that had Mary's fresh greens with her wonderful salad dressings (inspired by Nourishing Traditions). We also served other vegetables swimming in raw butter. We had flowers on the table, thanks to my sweetheart and Valentine's day. While dinner was simmering, we did have that wine and cheese, also some Belgian beer and pate brought from Europe, and a bowl of Mary's tomatoes and radishes (with raw butter, as I remember from my student days in France).
By bringing the foundation fixings and being flexible, we end up with some great daytime meals. I baked some coconut flour crackers the night before we left, using the bread recipe in Bruce Fife's Cooking with Coconut Flour (when it is cool, I slice it thin and dry in a low oven overnight). I brought a leftover roast pork shoulder, some bacon, lots of eggs, coconut flour and seasonings. There was plenty of fruit: apples, bananas, clementines, strawberries, and Mary's homegrown papaya. In addition to the tuna and chorizo, lunch-y stuff included cheese, hard-boiled eggs, nut butter and raisins.
The deities must have been smiling as the fish were hoppin' this trip:
the kids caught 13 fish between the time we arrived at the campground and breakfast the next morning. This is what we ate for our first breakfast: I cut the pork shoulder, fat and meat, into 1/2" pieces and fried them until really crisp. These got scooped into a bowl and the fish got a turn in the wonderful fat left by the carnitas--dredged first in seasoned coconut flour. I should point out that the kids all clean their own fish, so what I was working with were whole clean small fish, minus the heads (which I did not save because it was so warm the ice was rapidly melting and I was nervous to put anything so perishable into my coolers--normally I would have made stock from them). After the fish were brown and the tails crisp as chips, I fried eggs in the leftover fat. We ate all of that with a fruit salad and tea. Mmmm.
Sunday we only had one fish--a bigger one, so while I did fry the rest of the pork shoulder the same way as the day before, I also made a dish of sauteed green apples and onions, accompanied by scrambled eggs (and the one fish). By Saturday, the dads had arrived--they hadn't come with us the first day due to work obligations. So we had coffee out of the camp percolator pot Sunday--a rare time I allow myself coffee because it just seems to be right, standing next to last night's smoldering campfire.
Our final breakfast was eggy coconut pancakes (no measuring, always different) with local honey and raw butter, bacon, strawberries and papaya. And coffee. Which does not make me jittery at all when we camp--interesting, no? I spent the afternoon sketching and painting--so serene in the breeze. The more intrepid amongst us hiked to the spot where Rick had found a large Diamond-back rattlesnake and got a taste of the Wilderness That Will Not Be Tamed (despite the only 50 or so miles to Miami). I contented myself with the photographic evidence and that fact that I didn't end up driving anyone that 50 miles for antivenin. Yikes. Are pancakes enough fortification for that?
Lunches are more relaxed at Camp Belly-full, as the kids come and go from fishing and the grownups graze between walks and reading in the shade. The little ones (7 and almost 4) made themselves "ants on a log" (nut butter in celery sticks topped with raisins), the grownups had leftover-fish-turned-into-salad and hard-boiled eggs, the teens had cheese, chorizo and fruit. I soaked some calabaza (a winter squash) seeds in salted water the first night and pan toasted them two days later for a nibble. We had crackers, cheese and pate for afternoon tummy grumbles. Somehow, all the bellies did get fed.
A couple of highlights particular to this trip:
Mary brought black-ripe plantains, which she and Sammy proceeded to roast in peeled sections over the campfire each night like marshmallows on sticks, until charred and caramelized. Though they lost a few into the blaze, it was both treat and entertainment--something I need to remember for the future. I know the kids want me to bring my homemade marshmallows on a trip sometime, but this was so easy, real food, and even GAPS-legal. Now, that's a treat!
The other cool thing was a miserly-healer-mama's dream: the kids found that our fire ring was surrounded by fire ants. How fitting. And they found this out the hard way, as kids will, with multiple bites to their feet and legs. Ouch. As we were pondering what to do to relieve the pain for our screaming little ones, we remembered the papaya--or more specifically the seeds. Crushed to a chunky paste between two small cutting boards, the seeds made the perfect dressing for the inflamed bites. Did you ever hear of the Florida Cracker remedy to use Accent on bites? The enzymes in the Accent "digest" the toxins that insects leave behind, relieving pain and perhaps preventing the little pustule that red ants bites always seem to create. Well, papaya has these enzymes naturally.
I did get a head-shaking response when I saved the calabaza seeds, but the papaya seeds were acknowledged as a wonderful use of something that would have been thrown away. They actually had been saved to use as papaya "pepper" once dried (see Nourishing Traditions), but the kids were very glad they had such odd and frugal mamas once the seeds were commandeered for first aid purposes.
I really don't want you to shake your head wondering "how does she do it?" because in reality it ends up easier than cooking at home. I bring a camp-stove and a small table, one large cast iron skillet, a dutch oven, and a light enamel pot (for veggies, tea water, etc). I have two picnic hampers with seasonings, tea, coffee, the percolator, a tablecloth, utensils, flatware, cups and enameled tin dishes. Two medium coolers held the perishable food for five people for almost four days, with lots left over, and there were two cloth bags with dry things (the wine, olive oil, tuna, chorizo, nut butter, raisins, etc). Yes, it involves some planning and preparation, which I did the day before we left. But once we are there, I just make the meals we have with us, none takes too long, and anything eaten in the outdoors is delicious.
You may have to come with us to believe me, I know, so let's plan a trip to the Outdoors. We can leave our kitchen perfectionism behind and enjoy real food, however it turns out, under the stars.
And don't worry, there were no snakes in the campground. Really. Gators, now that's another story. . .
Friday, February 6, 2009
So last night was one of those nights. I had thought we'd have the leftover oxtail stew, so I didn't defrost anything. But my sweetheart helped himself to some of the stew for lunch--now that he's working from home I have little control over what he fixes himself, try though I might to influence his choices. And I can't really get away with feeding him the same thing again for dinner--not if I have other options. This called for regrouping, but instead I sat at my computer and ignored the impending disaster until around 7pm. Yeah, very late. Too late to work much magic.
Finally, after being asked by one too many kids what would be for dinner, I peered tentatively into the fridge. I was looking for a couple of small lamb steaks I remembered, that I was hoping were shoved into the back. They were there, untouched--ok, a start. Some leftover mashed cauliflower with garlic, some other fresh vegetables, but how to make the whole thing hang together? There wasn't much meat, and though there were plentiful veggies, that would not impress my carnivores one bit.
In the end, I turned the meat into carnitas by cutting it into 1/2 inch cubes and frying until they were really brown and crisp. I mixed a couple of eggs and a handful of coconut flour into the cauliflower puree (one 1/2 cups maybe) and fried dollops of the mixture in a cast iron pan greased with lard--they brown like pancakes but are a bit firmer.
The broccoli was steamed in florets, and I tossed the green pepper strips on top at the end, to soften them a bit. These were piled in a serving bowl, surrounded by artichoke leaves (from the one leftover cooked artichoke I found somewhat forlorn in the fridge) and topped with a basket of sweet cherry tomatoes. Even the veggie haters had to admit it was pretty. The veg were served with a garlicky mayonnaise on the side. And, as always, there was kimchi and water kefir (my kombucha is taking forever in this cool weather).
It wasn't the most elegant or coherent of meals, but it was nourishing and satisfying. Nothing was wasted, we had fun dipping veggies in copious mayo, and we topped it off with Florida strawberries (hard to believe, but they're in season!) and raw cream.
Easy Garlic Mayo
1 garlic clove
1 cup of oil (I used 1/2 olive, 1/2 cold-pressed sunflower)
Sea salt to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
In a blender, blend the egg and garlic for 10-15 seconds. Start pouring the oil in the thinnest stream you can manage. Some blenders have a smaller hole that makes this easy, or you can keep the lid partially covering the opening; in any case be careful of splattering, or you will find mayo on the underside of your cabinets the next day. As you pour, you will hear the mayo thicken; it will sound like the blender is choking. At this point you can add the oil slightly faster. When it is all incorporated, add the sea salt. I may have used about 1/2 teaspoon, but I didn't measure. I taste it! Start with a bit, you can add more if you need it. Add the lemon juice, being careful to avoid the seeds, as they are bitter. Blend to mix in the salt and lemon. That's it. Now you don't have to buy mayo ever again! Leave out the garlic to make the plain stuff. Add a bit of honey if you are used to those sweet brands.
I won't say that homemade mayo is cheaper than the regular boughten stuff, because I have never costed it. I do know that it is cheaper than the commercial mayo of equivalent quality, with no additives and using real food ingredients. And it tastes better, is better for you and you have no jar to throw away in the end.
This morning my husband commented that most of the makings of that meal would have gone to waste in many homes. Everything was in our house in bits and pieces, some of it salvaged because I am unable throw anything away, some of it purchased to be part of my usual staples. It was the perhaps the mayonnaise that was the glue that held the meal together, as it added flavor, the satisfaction that good fats give, and something to physically do.
Or maybe it was just the Imperative of the Frugalista that made it work. Either way, they ate it. And that is a thrifty Real Food victory.