Thursday, November 29, 2012

Local Food Summit!

Try to contain your envy, but I get to attend a local food summit this weekend out at green door. I am super excited to go and hear the speakers and meet new people and hang out at the green door all day. I am so excited for Saturday! I can't wait to go and meet fellow locavores and hang out with like-minded people for a day.

Sylvia said that about half of the day is intended for consumers (people like me) where they'll talk about eating locally and cooking seasonally and the other half is for producers (people like her) where they'll talk about biodynamic farming or planting tens of acres of crops at a time. I'm hoping to learn tricks and tips for doing what we're doing only better.

I'm especially curious to see what people suggest for the winter months (jan-mar). That's only 5 or 6 weeks away, you know. Winter is coming like a freight train and I am excited to see how well we, squirrels that we have been, have prepared our freezer and pantry to get us through those 3 months while compromising as little as possible. I would like to limit Trader Joe's/Kroger to the items we currently get from there but only time will tell if that's actually possible.

I'll report back all the goings on at the summit sometime soon b/c surely I'll have all kinds of wonderful things to tell, but for now I wanted to post about my *excitement for it.

*And, for the record, had you told me a year ago, I would be writing this, I would have laughed in your face. and they say people can't change. What do they know?

and the light bulb comes on. Finally.

Just a quick post to say that I am completely and hopelessly addicted to butternut squash! I know people are all excited about pumpkin right now, but it's only because they haven't tried roasted butternut squash yet.

I was so mourning the loss of tomatoes (by the way, how is it that some places still have "local" tomatoes by the truckload?) and all things that come from fresh tomatoes when the butternut squash stepped into my kitchen! Fear not! I will survive the winter after all.

I'm hoping this is what local eating is all about.

I think, maybe, you're supposed to be so very sad to see 1 thing go, so that you treasure it more when it reappears in its own season and you know not to take it for granted.There is an importance and value found in missing something. It's nice too, that just as you are bidding farewell to something, a new, and fresh, something arrives to take its place.

I also think it's the core of what locavores have known that the rest of are overlooking, unaware of, or willfully disregarding: you aren't supposed to eat the same thing every day of the year. Food, like life, comes in seasons, and there needs to be rhythm and a balance to them, and, like the moon should come in phases. There needs to be a waxing and a waning of all things found in nature.

Perfect example: I actually find myself daydreaming about taking E to pick strawberries. We had just begun to wonder about local food at the very end of strawberry season and unfortunately the season this year was extremely short and supply was markedly low due to weather at the time. We were able to pick enough for some treats that lasted about a week and I luckily made some strawberry ice that we froze. Sadly, there wasn't enough for jam/jelly (thought I wouldn't have known how to make it yet.) or freezing in bulk (but we weren't really into that at the time) so we had only the tiniest taste of anything strawberry. I can't wait for strawberry season and I intend to make up for this year for sure (while hoping not to turn us into crazy, strawberry hoarders). The point is I am looking forward to them b/c we don't have them.

I'm learning that local eating is about the not-having as much as the having. It's about discovering new tastes that your tongue has been allowed to miss. It's about relishing something b/c you know it won't be around forever and it won't be available when you want it. It's about eating on nature's time table rather than your own. So far, it's about celebrating ebbs and flows of all things rather than a constant stream.

With all that said, I encourage you to put away the tomato for just a meal and try roasting some winter squash. You might be more ready to welcome a new season and new flavors than you realize.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A new take on an old friend?

I've eaten a lot of pecans in my life and never have they tasted so good.
No one is treating their pecan trees differently and I think pecan farming is a good example for this. Pecan trees grow and produce pecans, some years more and some less. If you spray the trees for pest or growth hormone I am totally unaware.
That being said, I believe the pecans I'm eating now to be just like the ones I ate as a kid. What is different? These very well could be more fresh but I think a lot has to do with the fact that I haven't had soda or anything super sweet in a long time. Is it possible that those things cloud our ability to taste mother nature's treasures for what they are? Who knows and for the time being pecans are my favorite between meal treat.

Because now you want some pecans too... Admit it.
We got our pecans still in their shell at Green Door Gourmet. She had a medium-sized basket of them from a friend. We got 2 pounds thinking it was a ton at the time. Sadly, now that they're almost gone, we're wishing we had picked up many, many more.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving... In with the New!

I just have a second and want to record my pre-Thanksgiving thoughts. We ordered 2 turkeys from the CSA. They're coming from a farm about 45 minutes from us and we are excited about them. 1 of the turkeys is for a gathering on the big day and it's going to feed about 10-12 people. When telling our friends we wanted to bring the turkey and describing the farm, he said, "Oh. A turkey with dreadlocks. Awesome." I think that sums it up nicely. The other turkey is just for us to have and nibble on for some time.

It'll be nice to have a change from chicken or beef for a little while. I am also excited to have our first big "food" holiday since we switched to local food. I can't wait to make my first from-scratch green bean casserole. I may be a little lost not needing my can opener. (Speaking of which, we could probably toss him. Haven't eaten anything from a can since April, maybe??) I have only ever made the 5 minute version my whole life. 2 cans of green beans, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, and the grated cheese with bread crumbs on top. This will be a whole new adventure and I'm excited. I am also pondering the idea of making a corn casserole using some of our frozen stash of corn, but we'll just have to see.

I have a lot of produce saved up and frozen, but I haven't used any of it yet. It feels too soon to me. I worry that come January we'll be out of it and won't have more until it comes back around. We're really trying to make our pantry last and the problem is that I have no concept of how much we need or how to portion out what we have in order to make it last. The best advice I got on this was to take good notes. Sylvia told me to write down how much I had on hand and when I used it/how much so I would know what to save more or less of next year. It's going to be an interesting winter and I am curious to see how we make out in general, but for now I am super excited to dip into the reserves and whip up some new holiday traditions.


For starters this is way overdue for me. Erin has been on me to contribute for awhile. Since we talk about this adventure a lot at home, she felt I should write down my view of what has been going down in the cooking/eating aspect of our lives. So here you have it. I've covered a lot of ground in my head about what to write, but the first thing that I think of when I think about food is quality. To most people it is not important. Speed and convenience are king. I used to be in that category and felt like I wasn't overweight, as well as I ate pretty healthy. I felt like I made a little effort by not eating much fast food and making decent choices when we did. The problem was I was eating the bottom of the pile as far as quality food goes. Subway and Sonic, although convenient and cheap on the front end were not the best options for helping my rig go. Getting past fast food, the items we would buy at the grocery store were mostly convenience items or frozen versions of meals that were already cooked and had lost a lot of nutritional value. We had no idea how much better it could taste if we made a similar version from fresh ingredients or from scratch. We keep talking about the many facets of the local/seasonal diet and it hurts me that it took so long for us to figure it out or learn what we have in the past 5 months. The most important facet is our health. With Eliza growing so fast, she needs quality nutrition for those quickly dividing cells and to have a solid foundation for all things ahead. We hope she continues responsible eating once she has to decide for herself. I'm very proud of how she eats at 4 years old and her mother is mostly to praise for that. Erin made all of Eliza's baby food and quite honestly that was the catalyst for all of us to start eating better. Our food journey really began 4 years ago with the revelation that we wouldn't feed this food to our child, so why were it eating it ourselves? After many meals out, it has become obvious to me that quality of food is not always very important. I just assumed that other people would make changes if they knew what we knew, but this it not the case. It's interesting to see the assumption that this is a natural order of growing up, but it seems that choosing what to eat is more about habits and lifestyles than anything else. Further, the definition of quality when talking about food is very subjective. We really don't eat out much anymore but when we do, we try to make it local. For us that means 2 things: the mom and pop local, or small businesses, but also trying to limit what we eat to food made within 100 miles of us as much as we can. We have tried to find restaurants that share our values of local/seasonal produce and meat and we have found several. Mitchell's Deli in East Nashville is a favorite of ours. It is a dollar or so more per person than say Panera Bread but the quality of the food served is top notch. Given the choice I can't imagine anyone would rather go to Panera Bread when Mitchell's is available. The food didn't ride on a truck across the country and the majority of the produce and meat came from local farms. (We are big fans of their potato salad with Benton's bacon, for example.) The same is true for Burger Up. It's a few dollars more than other burger joints, but the beef is so fresh they claim you could eat it raw and not get sick. Pretty sure others would not make that claim. It's interesting to me that buying local food is so closely linked to supporting small businesses. I have learned that spending a little more money on our food to get local items has been very fulfilling. I've been able to meet some of the people that grow the food I buy as well as experience their passion for what they do. These farmers put lots of sweat and hard work into growing non-modified produce and raise chickens and pigs that run free and eat what God meant for them to eat. I have great respect for that. If everyone supported local farms instead of cafo beef from grocery stores and fast food the economy would likely be a different picture. Unfortunately quality isn't important anymore. As far as our health/energy, Erin and I haven't felt better. Our energy level is as high as it's been since we've known each other. We aren't crashing at 6:30 with fatigue, rather at 10-11 at night we still have gas in the tank to tackle the dishes or laundry even after starting the day at 5-6 am. I feel better than I have my whole life and I'm in better shape than I was after 3 years of running cross country in high school. I can't speak enough about how great it is to eat local and seasonal. Try it! Know where your food comes from and enjoy the journey of finding local farms that allow visits and help spread wealth and wisdom within your community.