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Garlic Scape Pesto

Posted on May 31, 2012. Filed under: easy, garden, healthy, recipe, Uncategorized, vegetable | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Garlic scape pesto with garden-fresh snow peas.

One of my favorite things about my gardening hobby is that it has offered me a world of new challenges (and I love a good challenge). It’s not always a joyous introduction, as was the case of my hostile introduction to the spinach leaf miner. They are, ironically, eating my beet greens while the spinach sits, undisturbed, only three feet away. Happily, most of the learning opportunities are positive. Recent example: answering the question, “What Does One Do With Garlic Scapes?”

Last year, I grew garlic for the first time. It was a modestly successful attempt, certainly encouraging enough to try again this year. I planted the bulbs from the largest head last autumn, and (not so) patiently watched as the plants grew up this spring. I’d learned last year that you need to cut off the scape (the immature flower) when it begins to curl, so that the garlic plant could put all its energy into bulb development. I also learned that the scape was edible–it has a mild, chive-garlic flavor. What I didn’t learn last year was what to do with the edible scapes, so I just chopped them and added to whatever I was cooking. They certainly enhanced the flavor of a dish, but I wasn’t highlighting the flavor.

Last week, my friend, writer Sherrie Flick, suggested making a pesto. I’d already made ramp pesto (miss you, dear ramps) this season, and that was a success. So, why not try scape pesto?

Blend:
5 Garlic Scapes
Slightly less than 1/4 Cup Roasted Almonds
(Soak almonds in water for 10 minutes before blending, add 2 Tsp of the water)
1/8 Cup Grapeseed Oil
1/8 Cup Parmesan cheese
Pinch of salt

The pesto is terrifically versatile. I used some on grilled chicken. But the real highlight was tossing the pesto with some garden-picked snow peas and a teaspoon of bacon fat. The dish tasted like springtime bathed in rich butter; yet it was fairly low in calories and cost less than a dollar to make. Win!

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Spring Garden: Spinach, Snow Pea, and Scape Stir Fry

Posted on May 26, 2012. Filed under: easy, garden, healthy, recipe, Uncategorized, vegetable, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I feel like for the last few months I’ve been beginning nearly every post with an apology for not writing very often: “So busy with school,” “other writing projects,” “traveling,” etc. I probably need to reorganize this space in a better way, too. Point is, so sorry for not writing here for over a month, I’ve been very busy finishing school (I’m a master of studying food now), with writing projects (stories on food & the environment for The Allegheny Front, a weekly column in Pittsburgh City Paper), and traveling (mostly around Pittsburgh; it’s been beautiful here). I’ve also been spending a lot of time in my garden, and now I have some delicious treats to eat.

Ramps might be the first edible sign of spring, but spinach is one of the first garden crops to really pop from the ground. I’ve been eating from my spinach patch for three weeks now, and that’s forced me to be awfully creative; one can only eat so many spinach salads or lightly wilted spinach. Luckily for me, my garlic started to scape (see my post on harvesting garlic for more information on garlic scapes), and the snow pea plants are producing (a bucket-load) of pods. That sounded like a promising start to a new recipe, so I rode my bike down to a wonderful little market called the Lotus Food Company; they sell house-made tofu, and it’s ridiculously inexpensive. I also purchased a bottle of black vinegar enhanced with “fruit and vegetable juice.” That’s about all that was written in English on the label! It’s a wonderfully complex vinegar with apricot and spice flavors. All in all, I had the makings of a terrific stir-fry.

Add 1 Tsp. Vegetable Oil to a medium-hot pan.
Pan fry Half-Pound of Firm Tofu, cut into 2-inch squares until brown.
Set aside.

While the tofu is cooking, mix:
1/4 Cup Chicken or Veggie Stock
1 Chopped Garlic Scape
2 Tsp. Soy Sauce
2 Tsp. Mirin
2 Tsp. Black Vinegar
1 Tsp. Minced Ginger
1 Tsp. Corn Starch
1/2 Tsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
Set aside.

Wash and pat dry:
4 Cups Spinach
(Spinach should be loosely packed. Also, I didn’t measure this precisely.)

Wash, and halve:
Two Cups Snow Peas

Chop:
Two Garlic Scapes

Saute the spinach, snow peas, and scapes for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat.
Return tofu to pan.
Add sauce mixture.
Cook for 1.5 minutes, remove from heat, and allow dish to rest for 1 minute before serving.
Top with Toasted Sesame Seeds

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More Thoughts on Ramps

Posted on April 16, 2012. Filed under: foraging, hodgepodge, local, recipe, Uncategorized, vegetable | Tags: , , , , , , |

My story about foraging for ramps aired Saturday on The Allegheny Front. They’re a marvelous little plant, and the experience of waking up (VERY) early to wander through the woods and harvest my own food was pretty incredible. I’d never foraged for anything before, and memories of that morning keep popping up. Now, when I pass a forested hillside, I wonder if ramps are growing on its slope. (I’ve cursed at several “No Trespassing” signs preventing me from scrambling up the hill and checking it out for myself!) I’ve considered foraging in my urban environment–but, I don’t know enough about urban foraging to decide what to harvest (though I did enjoy a nice snack of dandelion greens from my backyard the other day). This exercise was much easier to accomplish when I lived in Los Angeles; street-side rosemary grows everywhere and fruit trees overhang many sidewalks (protip: they are fair game if they are on the public side of a fence).

Back to the ramps. I touch on this in the story, but it’s worth repeating: if you forage for ramps, don’t over-harvest; experts say you should only take 5% to 10% of what you see (if you leave the bulbs in the ground you can harvest a bit more, however). If you see ramps at a restaurant, farmers’ market, or festival, don’t be afraid to ask about where they came from. This is especially pertinent if you see ramps on the West Coast–ramps don’t grow in California, so you might want to inquire about how they got there. I’m not discouraging the popularity of ramps (they truly are terrific), but we all need to be sure to consume them in a sustainable way, or we’ll be out of luck in a few years. Ramp population recuperation time is tremendously slow, and if they’re over-harvested the land where they grow can easily be overrun with invasive species.

If you do get your hands on ramps, what should you do with them? Here are a few ideas:

Quick and Easy Grilled Ramps:

Wash and dry ramps.
Rub with olive oil and salt.
Grill until ramps are just slightly charred.
Season with pinch of salt and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

Pickled Ramps:

The basic ratio is 1-1-1 rice wine vinegar, water, and sugar–plus a pinch of salt.
Boil those ingredients and pour over (washed) ramp stems.
I also added a few black peppercorns, whole coriander seeds, and pinch of dried ginger.

You’ll just be using the stems for this one. Better make use of the greens, too, right? Render a few slices of bacon, and add chopped ramp greens to the bacon fat. Add three eggs (beaten), the cooked bacon, and handful of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
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Food, Community, and $35 For the Week: Days Four and Five, Helping. Day Six, Rain Out.

Posted on November 12, 2011. Filed under: challenge, community, favorite, Uncategorized, video | Tags: , , , , , |

My earlier complaints about hunger seem very silly now.

On Day Four, I volunteered at the Jubilee Soup Kitchen. This is the experience that will resonate the most with me from this project. During my graduate studies, I’ve taken classes on food access and talked at length about privilege, status, elitism, and all that good stuff. All of this was educational, but none of it impressed me as much as seeing people waiting outside the soup kitchen for a free meal. The biggest rush happened right at the start, but there was also a steady stream of people for the entire two hour lunch service. What stuck me most was the atmosphere of the soup kitchen–it wasn’t an unhappy place. Perhaps it had something to do with the unseasonably beautiful November day, but I don’t think so. There was a sense of community there. I’m not trying to paint a picture of unicorns and moonbeams–it was still a soup kitchen, and there were certainly a significant amount of people who seemed to be in a very challenging place in their lives. But it also wasn’t as bleak as I’d thought it was going to be, and it seemed like most of the people there were just in need of a little bit of help and kindness to get them through the day. Don’t get me started on the whole “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” business; sometimes it takes someone to feed you a hot meal to help put things back together.

One of the things that really struck me was that at least half the volunteers used to (or still) rely on the kitchen for a meal. Conservatives like to frame the impoverished as lazy scammers, always looking for their next free handout from the government. That wasn’t the impression I got at all. No one seemed happy about taking something for nothing. One woman, who used to be homeless but now had a job, told me she “needed to come back here and help, because they gave so much to me when I needed it the most.”

And what a meal it was. We have this image of soup kitchens as places of horrible food, but, at least in this case, it was different. The chef takes a ton of pride in feeding people. He prepared a hearty dish of tortellini, ground beef, carrots, and potatoes. The dish was topped with cheese. It was wonderful. Served alongside green beans, salad, and fresh fruit. Nobody left hungry. It was the best meal I’ve had so far.

I’m really glad the Jubilee Kitchen is doing what it’s doing. Without a doubt, I’ll be back to help serve lunch. You should help, too.

Later that night, perhaps the UniverseKarmaSpiritbearWhatever needed to reinforce the notion that my food woes were simply self-constructed food woes: I Dropped The Beans. Words of advice: cooking beans late at night after a long day isn’t a brilliant idea. I didn’t have much of a choice, since my meal plan for the next day called for beans. So–beans I cooked. And oh, they were glorious beans. Flavored with leftover ham and smoke, texture perfect. After I dropped them I even considered picking them up from my kitchen floor. Nobody would know, right? OK. I did pick them up from my kitchen floor. They have since been sent to the compost bin, but I really was on the verge of eating them. Even though I’m aware this project is a self-constructed situation that has a firm end date, losing the beans because of a moment of clumsiness was a remarkably sad experience. I was on the phone at the time, and was totally unable to finish the conversation; all I could think about was how I lost three meal’s worth of food. I hope I’m never in a position where I have to eat beans that I scraped up from my kitchen floor.

On Day Five I volunteered at the Environmental Charter School. My friend runs the lunch program there, and she’s always in need of assistance. So off I went. We picked up a hot meal of mac ‘n cheese (with and without shrimp) from the cafe at Phipps Conservatory, because the school itself doesn’t have a kitchen. There are a few things to unpack from the last sentence. First: mac ‘n cheese with SHRIMP?! What a strange combination. Many of the kids thought so, too. More importantly: NO KITCHEN!?

Fun fact: Many schools in the United States no longer have their own kitchens–they rely on pre-packaged meals. ECH is an example of making the best out of a bad situation; the school works with local restaurants to serve nutritious meals made from quality ingredients. Most other schools in this situation aren’t so lucky. It’s a sad sad sad thing (that’s getting better, but there is still a long way to go).

It’s possible I might be in danger of losing jobs before I even get them. The Environmental Charter School has its own food critic, Riley. This kid is good!

On Day Six, the plan was to do a chef’s demo at a local farmers’ market. It didn’t happen. A combination of crappy weather and the market losing half its space to preparations for “Light Up Night” caused the demo to be cancelled. Sad news, it would have been quite fun. But no big deal–I am on budget and ready to see this through.

I’ve been cooking. Lots of cooking. I thought I spent a good amount of time in the kitchen to begin with, but nothing compared to the amount of time I’ve spent this week. Everything is cooked from scratch. The decision to eschew processed foods (well…alright, I did have a Top Ramen snack last night!) isn’t just a financial decision, it’s also an investment in time.

I made a wonderful puree of roasted Blue Hubbard squash (from our Eden Hall garden!), carrots, and turnips. I used a little bit of butter (accounted for), the broth from boiling the carrots and turnips, and seasoned with salt and garam masala. It was wonderful! I bought a wee bit of ground beef (.27lbs for $1.35) and put half of it into a soup made with the last of my carrots, turnip greens (bonus! there were still turnip greens in my garden!!!), onion, celery, tomato, and barley. It was remarkably satisfying. I also made a breakfast sandwich from two of my eggs and a tiny bit of my mozzarella. It felt nice to finally break into my cheese stash.

And I made Baked Penne! Yes, that is a link to a video of me showing you how to make this dish. Watch the video, make the dish. Anyway, I’d been hoarding my mozzarella, and had enough money left to afford a tiny bit of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I used some of my frozen tomato sauce, the last of my home-grown garlic, and had an amazing dinner.

I’m totally going to do this. And I’m eating pretty well, too.

Total Additional Money Spent: $3.50
$1.35 for beef, $0.30 for Top Ramen, $1.50 for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, $0.35 for pasta.
Money left for the week: $9.13

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Kale and Quinoa

Posted on August 3, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’ve been eating kale all summer. Three little seeds produced a massive amount of garden-bounty. It seemed like every time I clipped it, twice as much would grow back. I’m glad–kale is delicious and it’s mighty good for you. However, it’s been rather hot in Pittsburgh, and the kale is starting to bolt. I decided I should do something a little creative with the kale that was left, and the following recipe is the result. It’s good stuff. I planted a new batch of kale for autumn harvest, but for the next month or so I might to have to live kale-free. Sad times.

Add:
1/2 Cup Quinoa*
1 Cup Water
Boil, covered, for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash and cut into strips:
3/4 Pound Kale

Boil the kale for 3 minutes.
Immediately plunge into ice water.
After kale cools, drain thoroughly.

Add, to a medium-hot pan:
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, minced

Saute for 1 minute and add prepared kale.

Cook 1 minute, and add:
1/2 Cup Mirin
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar

Cook 1 minute, add prepared quinoa, and cook 1 more minute.

*I used a combination of red and white quinoa, because I like the contrast of texture and color.

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Chorizo Refried Beans

Posted on July 25, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

What do you do when someone gives you a big hunk of chorizo? Seriously, what do YOU do, because I never cook with chorizo, and there is still quite a bit left! I knew I had to do something with the chorizo, so I asked Google what to do, because Google is good at telling you what to do. I found a totally random chorizo recipe collection, and started playing. Below is my adaptation of the refried beans recipe found on said random recipe page. Considering it was a total experiment, I was happy with the result.

If you’re unfamiliar with chorizo, it’s a sausage that is Iberian (Portugal/Spain) in origin, but also produced in Latin America. The sausage is usually made with pork, and though traditionally dry cured, it can also be found fresh. Chorizo’s flavor is characterized by the type of pepper used in preparation. Pepper type varies by geographic region, as does the type of wine and/or vinegar used. What I’m trying to say is that while chorizo has a basic flavor profile you will come to recognize, all chorizo is not made the same.

Add, to a pan over medium heat:
3 oz. Dry-cured Chorizo, small dice
1/2 Cup Diced Onion
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tsp. Vegetable Oil

Saute for 4-5 minutes.
Add:
One Can Pinto Beans
3/4 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Stock*
2 Tsp. Ground Coriander
2 Tsp. Dried Oregano
Pinch of Cumin
Pinch of Sugar

Mix everything together. Smash beans with the back of a spoon or spatula. Don’t stress about smashing every last bean.
Add:
1 Cup Frozen Corn (or fresh if it’s in season…)

Cook over medium heat for 7 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed by the beans.

*Chorizo is generally pretty salty, especially the dry-cured kind. So use a low sodium broth so you don’t overwhelm your taste buds with salt!


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Growing Garlic, Trying Patience

Posted on July 7, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the first things I did when I moved to Pittsburgh was purchase some garlic to plant. I had a yard of my own for the first time, and I was all sorts of excited to be able to Grow Things. Several days after I moved into my new pad, I attended a local food event called Rachel’s Sustainable Feast. The Rachel Carson Bridge was full of food purveyors and vendors. One of the vendors was a dude selling garlic bulbs, many many garlic bulbs. Well, I cook with a lot of garlic, so it seemed like a logical choice for me to try my hand at growing it. I figured I’d buy some garlic, bury it, and it would be ready by the first snowfall of the winter. First wrong assumption.

Turns out, I wouldn’t even be able to plant the garlic for several months. The festival on the bridge took place at the end of August, but garlic planting wasn’t meant to happen until Columbus Day. So the two brown bags with one head of garlic in each sat on my kitchen counter for two months, slowly pushed out of the way and into a tiny corner. Finally, garlic planting day arrived. I planted the bulbs and promptly made my second wrong assumption. I figured there would be no need to write down which types of garlic I had planted. For sure I’d just remember what went where. I have no idea why I assumed I would remember. Of course I wouldn’t. And of course I didn’t. Lesson: always write down what you’re planting.

Winter comes and goes. (I say that like it was no big deal. Obviously my memory of horrible, cold months with nothing but snowfall and grey sky is about as solid as my memory of what kind of garlic I planted.) Eight tiny stalks pop out of the ground. Garlic sprouts! I planted ten, but I’ll take eight. OK, seven. One died almost immediately. OK, six. Another died shortly after the first one. Then there were five, and frankly, two of them were looking pretty small. But they all kept growing. I was anxious to harvest them. But when should I do that? I assumed garlic that overwinters would be ready early in the spring. No. Garlic is ready late spring/early summer. More waiting.

Here’s how you know it’s ready for harvest:

The garlic plant will grow and grow. And then a shoot will emerge from the center of the plant. This is the scape. It will become a flower eventually, if you let it. But you’re not going to let it. Once it curls, you’re going to snip it. And you’re going to eat it–it has a lovely mild flavor. Now the penultimate test of patience begins. Once again, you’re going to have to wait. How long? About 20 days from the time you cut the scapes. And then…it’s time to pull the garlic.

Loosen the soil around the bulb, and gently pull up. There is is–after months and months of waiting, you finally get to see what your garlic looks like. For me this was…disappointing. Of the five garlic plants that survived to maturity, only one of them was what you might call a show-stopper. The rest, well, you might call them “little buddy.” At least I could put them in my pantry and enjoy the spoils of my patience. I can’t do that yet?! What? Wait.

Garlic must first be cured before it can be stored. The Final Test of Patience. One of my professors sent me a link that will take you through the curing process. Check it out. Three more weeks of waiting. Balls. Of course, you can totally use some of it right away. You only have to cure the garlic you plan on keeping around.

So, what’s next for my garlic? I’ve used the smallest head already. It’s noticeably more flavorful than grocery store garlic. The other heads have cured nicely, and are just about ready to store. I’m going to save the biggest one and replant that on Columbus Day. Patience never ends, right?

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Make Dressing. It’s Easy.

Posted on June 7, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I make a mean salad. It’s surprising, considering my non-salad eating years vastly surpass my salad eating years. But it’s true. I make a mean salad. I’ll have to share some of my salad mixes one day, but I haven’t been writing them down. Shame on me. Shame shame shame. My salads are inspired by the whims and fancy of the day. Considering that last sentence, they are also clearly inspired by pretentiousness.

What I will share is an easy dressing recipe. Why is it that we rely so much on bottled dressings? Why do we let something that can elevate a salad be an afterthought? Yes, there are decent bottled dressings at the grocery store. However, they don’t compare to a well-made, homemade dressing. All you need is a whisk (though I prefer a immersion blender), 3 parts fat to one part acid, and a pinch of salt. From there, it’s all about the whims and fancy of the day. (Oh yes, you can be just as pretentious with your dressing as you are with your salad…) My latest whim has a slight touch of curry:

Add:
2.5 Tbs. White Wine Vinegar
3/4 Tbs. Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tsp. Sugar
2 Tsp. Honey
2 Tsp. Ground Corriander
1.5 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 Tsp. Ground Celery Seed
Pinch each of Salt, Black Pepper, and Curry Powder

Slowly whisk or blend in:
5 Tbs. Olive Oil
5 Tbs. Grapeseed Oil

 

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A Visit to Frog Hollow Farm

Posted on May 12, 2011. Filed under: hodgepodge, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Last semester I took a class on Sustainable Agriculture. It’s no state secret that I didn’t really want to take the class. I’m interested in what happens to food after it’s been grown and harvested; what is available at the market, why people make the choices they make, how to get people to be less timid in the kitchen. So I wasn’t totally thrilled about driving 45 minutes to a 9AM agriculture class. What do I care about weeds that don’t, at least according to the great state of California, help my migraines? But a funny thing happened sometime during Pittsburgh’s bleak winter. I stated to care. For real. The more I learned about the complexities of growing food in a sustainable food system, about the hard work farmers have to put in to do so, the more I began to think how much these farmers needed to be appreciated. I’m never going to be a farmer, but I want to know them.

Last week I was invited to visit Frog Hollow Farm. They’re a sustainable fruit orchard located in Northern California. I wrote about the farm in my final Ag class paper, and since I was going to be home in Danville, I figured I’d ask them if I could visit. They were happy to have me. (Try asking a corporate megafarm if you could visit them. See what happens…) I met with co-owner and head farmer Al Courchesne on a sunny Thursday morning, and he took me on a tour of the farm.

A little background: Courchesne and Sarah Coddington founded Frog Hollow Farm in 1976 on a thirteen-acre lot purchased from Coddinton’s great-uncle in Brentwood, California. Thirty-five years later, Frog Hollow farm is now over 130 acres. The farm, which began as a corn, mixed vegetable, and fruit tree operation, now grows nearly 100 varieties of stone and tree fruits as well as olives and table grapes. Courchesne as also recently introduced an experimental heirloom tomato plot, something he’s quite excited about. Although they began as a conventional farm, Frog Hollow has been certified as organic by Certified California Organic Farmers (CCOF) since 1989. All the farmland is connected, they grew the farm a few acres at a time. Doing this allowed Courchesne to slowly develop the land, experimenting with sustainable agricultural methods as he did.

Frog Hollow Farm’s sustainable growing incorporates the practice of agroecology. You might be thinking, “what the heck is that strange word, Hal B? It doesn’t spell check at all.” It’s true. Most people don’t know what it means. I didn’t either. Lucky for me, one of the books I read last semester was titled Agroecology, so I was able to get a pretty good idea of what it means. In short, agroecology is a systemic approach to growing; it’s not just about the output of what’s being grown, it’s about the overall health of the land and the community that surrounds it. If you visited a conventional orchard, you’d see neat rows of trees with pristinely manicured undergrowth. It’s different at Frog Hollow.

Frog Hollow’s land is wild. Grasses and weeds grow beneath the trees, and masses of native wild flowers populate the space in between the rows. At first glance, you’d almost think it’s neglected. You’d be so wrong. Trees have deep roots, so the weeds don’t compete with them. In fact, at Frog Hollow they help the trees. Courchesne and his staff will occasionally pull the weeds. The pulled weeds are then used as mulch, helping to reduce the water needs of the trees. In an area with hot, dry summers, this is a clever way to reduce environmental impact of fruit growing. Eventually the weeds decay back into the soil, feeding the trees. Smart, right? The wild flowers? They’re not just pretty, they’re part of a native bee experiment the farm is running with U.C. Davis. See…whole system approach.

Just how integrated is the farm with the land? Well, in the middle of my tour, I saw what I thought was a small deer flying through the plants. It was actually a giant jackrabbit. Huge ears, leaping through the wild. Amazing.

(Also…terribly sorry for the lack of pictures. I was so caught up in the tour I didn’t take any…oops.)

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Spring into Green Dinner

Posted on May 4, 2011. Filed under: hodgepodge, local, review, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |


I celebrated my birthday by attending Wild Purveyors Spring Into Green dinner. The dinner was held in a barn at the Beechwood Farms Nature Preserve, and was a benefit for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. All the food was either foraged by Cavan and Tom from Wild Purveyors or sourced locally. Blackberry Meadows Farm provided much of the produce, and Horizon View Farms provided the beautiful grass fed ribeye steaks. Food was prepared by Restaurant Echo.

There were about 40 of us in the barn. It was a dreary late spring day, with temperatures in the mid 50s. Happily, we were warmed with beer, not-too-shabby locally made wine, and Boyd & Blair’s ramp infused vodka. The meal itself was a bit uneven; certain items (braised pork shoulder, luscious goldenrod honey sherbet, strawberry and rhubarb panna cotta, pickled wild ramps) really shined, while other items (I’m looking at you oddly savory and BabyFoodLike chilled pea soup) missed the mark. If the meal was uneven, why am I posting something about it? I’m not a restaurant reviewer, and it’s really not too terribly terribly interesting that I spent my birthday drinking and eating in a barn. Believe me, there are much crazier birthday stories.

I’m writing because the event itself was something important. Foraged food and respect for farmers. Each course was preceded by a little story about where the food came from. Although this might sound silly or boring to some people, it’s important. I’m not saying that every time you eat you need to hear a tale about sunlight, water conservation, and moonbeams. But it’s good to know where your food comes from. We live in a society that’s so disconnected from our food supply, and we’re not going to be able to change that unless we make an effort to connect those who eat with those who grow. And that’s what an event like this does. When you’re hearing stories about the heritage seed saving efforts of Blackberry Meadows or sitting next to the parents of the dudes who did the foraging, it’s hard not to be inspired to think more about where your dinner came from.

I should point out tickets to this were superduper expensive. I was lucky enough to be given a wonderful birthday gift and get to go for free. But the sad fact is most people who would benefit from a reconnection to their food wouldn’t be able to afford to go to something like this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for fancy-pants parties, and for having those who can afford to attend them donate to support organizations like the Audubon Society. I’m not knocking it at all. It’s good. This was a super fun evening. People who can afford events like this need to be connected to their food too, and will hopefully use their economic and political influence to make the system better. But while we celebrate spring and foraging and rainbows and pickled wild ramps, we also need to make sure we’re working on solutions to the problems food deserts, cheap calorie processed foods, and educating people that meat doesn’t come pre-packaged in a Styrofoam tray. Change needs to happen from the top-down and the bottom-up.

Finally, an update on my quest to become a Less Picky Eater: I tried mushrooms. Three times in one night. Mostly without the “I’m Not Going to Like This” face. Foraged morels. They were…well, not too bad. In two cases, I more or less enjoyed them, though the aftertaste wasn’t quite as nice as the first bite. Would I try them again? I do believe I would.

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