Archive for the ‘Tales of Eating’ Category

The passage of S. 510 has left me rather depressed, I will admit. Very depressed, in fact. I have been very prone thus far in my life to making lots of excuses for not doing the things I say I very much want to do, and now I have an even better one for not farming: S. 510! But let us talk no more today of that dreadful subject. I want to talk instead of the reason I will continue to make excuses for not farming and fight the good fight against encroaching government crackdown.

This past Thanksgiving, I was very thankful for raw milk. I was thankful for the thick mug of hot chocolate made with raw milk that I drank over the weekend. I love the way the cream rises to the top as the milk cools, so that there are swirls of white amid the deep brown of the cocoa. I love walking to my fridge at night and cutting off a hunk of raw milk white cheddar cheese, and standing in my kitchen, not really looking at the pile of dishes I haven’t done yet, and reveling in the salty smooth bite of a good cheese.

I love going to the farmers’ market, so much so that I will smile for the entire day, and so much so that I will go even when there is nothing I need to buy. This past Saturday, there was a Christmas parade, and over night the Christmas decorations had gone up in town, and there were wreaths and ribbons on all the lampposts, and one of the farmers was selling evergreen boughs. I bought a gallon of cider and a loaf of bread and later pulled off pieces of bread to enjoy with my cheese. I love that I can’t just “run” to the farmers’ market, as it takes me a good twenty minutes to say hi to everyone I know, and another twenty if I stop to talk to anyone. I love that I can walk up to someone and introduce myself and name several mutual acquaintances and within minutes we’re fast friends. I love that all those people are willing to stand out in the bitter cold for hours so I can buy some brussel sprouts. And that they love it too, and know what I bought last week, and will probably want this week, and ask after things they know are happening in my life.

I am so overjoyed that our local baker, who has until recently been selling his bread at the farmers’ market only, has finally opened his own bakery. When it opened, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I rushed down the block to go in and buy a loaf of bread, and was nearly in tears because I was so happy for him (and for me, now I can have croissants whenever I want). I loved the smell of bread baking. I was so in love with the loaf of bread I bought I almost didn’t want to cut it up for stuffing (but I’m still loving the stuffing leftovers, so all is well).

I loved making stuffing for Thanksgiving, because I loved all the ingredients so much. Bread from someone I hesitate to call an acquaintance, as I hesitate to call all the people I know in town acquaintances, because I care so deeply for them, even if I only see them for a few minutes a week at the farmers’ market. Apples and scallions from other farmers I know. And chicken broth made from a chicken I got from yet another farmer who I chat with every week, whose farm I have visited several times, who, even if I don’t always agree with him, I trust to give me a good chicken. And after I baked the chicken and fed it to my friends, the bones went in a pot with the fat and some other bits, and boiled and filled the whole house with the glorious smell of chicken, and I poured the liquid into a jar and froze it and pulled it back out for Thanksgiving and poured it over the stuffing knowing that the nutrients inherent in homemade chicken stock would nourish my family, as would the raw butter I put on top of the whole thing.

I loved that I was able to serve squash that a farmer had given me, just because they had too much. I loved that my cousin, who had until the day before Thanksgiving been farming in New York for the summer, brought home squash from the farm, carried it on the bus in fact, and made mashed squash with garam masala for dinner. He also brought me several enormous garlic bulbs, tied together with twine, looking almost too good to eat, and I almost cried over that too, because I missed him so much while he was gone over the summer and also because the garlic looked so gorgeous (and delicious), but mostly because I was so happy that he had spent the whole summer farming with people that he seemed to really get on with and that he looked so happy, finally.

I loved spending the entire day in the kitchen with another cousin, while we chatted and chopped and mixed and kneaded and our fourth and final cousin’s voice played on the stereo and we sang along in perfect(ish) harmony and we both missed her so much we could barely stand it, but with her voice playing it was almost like she was there, and I was so proud to have a cousin who is more like a sister with a voice that could make my heart break that it nearly did. And another cousin who is just like a sister who would spend the whole day with me in the kitchen talking about the best way to knead rolls, and why some fats are better than others, and how she showed her seventh grade class Food Inc. and talked to them about how whole foods are better than processed foods and I thought I would nearly pass out with the happiness that I have been so blessed with this amazing family.

And when we sat down to dinner, laughing and teasing and exclaiming over all the dishes, and we clinked glasses and toasted to another year of being together, and gave thanks to everyone who helped cook (almost everyone at the table), I looked down at all the foods on my plate, almost none of which had come from a store, and most especially had not come from a box or a can but from ingredients we had assembled and mixed and baked and served, and those foods would be so filling we’d all end up on the floor for a good hour after dinner, trying to recuperate, and gave thanks to all of the farmers who had provided the meal. All of the farmers who I could name, and see in my mind’s eye, and picture their farms as well, and feel each of their handshakes the first time we met, and the grins of their kids or their dogs or whoever made up their family, all of whom I knew as well, and who had spent the entire year out in the sun and rain and heat and cold to produce this food that graced our tables, and then had stood at the farmers’ market in the cold to sell it to me (or give it to me, in some cases). Because they wanted me and my family to be well fed, and that mattered enough to face all the obstacles.

And this morning when I woke up I remembered that S.510 had passed, and that it would probably become law, and nearly burst into tears again wondering how long it would be before all that was gone.


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I feel like I should have something exciting to say, because it’s Friday, but all I can think about is going to see Harry Potter tonight. Is that wrong? Does that contradict all my speeches about economy and small scale this and that?

So you’re getting a picture instead. Last Thursday, we played host to the podcaster extraordinaire, KMO, of the C-Realm podcast. He is on tour promoting his new book, Conversations on Collapse. And so we had a little gathering for him to speak about the book and the topics contained within. And that means… food!!

I of course forgot to take pictures while I was cooking. You can blame this on the fact that I was trying to prepare three dishes at the same time. I also forgot my camera, and had to rely on Ms. Zumba for the use of hers, as we were also gathering at her house. Because I made all fried foods (finger foods), my dishes were displayed in tupperware with paper towels. Not very attractive.

I made spring rolls for the first time:

They were quite delicious, and a lot easier than I thought they’d be. It took longer to chop up the cabbage than anything else. I used cabbage, carrots, peppers and scallions, all of which were briefly stir fried with some seasoning. I bought spring roll wrappers, which all the instructions I could find online said you should just be able to fold up, but I found I needed to brush them with a little water to soften them up first. All of my spring rolls were different sizes and kind of lumpy, but whatever. I’ll get better. And they tasted amazing.

I also made gobhi kofta, which is kind of a cauliflower dough, rolled into little logs and fried. They are usually served with a sauce, but the sauce didn’t really turn out, alas. So we just ate them as is, and they were still delicious. Kofta is an Indian dish that just means these little vegetable patty things, or logs, or sometimes they are more like balls. I’ve had them with all sorts of vegetables, and you could make them with almost anything.

Here is a picture of the whole display:

The other foods are beer battered broccoli (made by me), pumpkin (?) sushi and delicious, addictive kale chips made by Ms. Zumba. I am really going to have to try the kale chips this weekend, because I just couldn’t stop eating them. Yuuuuuuum.

So all in all a wonderful evening of eating well and talking about the collapse of civilization. Yay!

Also, I should mention that S. 510 did pass the Senate yesterday evening. I can find no indication yet of whether it passed with any of the amendments. Apparently it still has to be put to a final vote, one way or another. Both MD senators voted in favor. If you have a moment, and want to let them know your thoughts on the matter…

Update: apparently the amendment is attached to the bill, with some changes. Find out more on grist: Tester Amendment

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Ok, so I had intended to write a very thoughtful post on honesty for yesterday, and then today, and now it’s going to have to be tomorrow. Because I’m sitting at home drinking my breakfast glass of raw milk and having epiphanies.

I get my gallon of milk once a week, and try to drink most of it right away, or at least use most of it for cheese or yogurt right away. Sometimes this doesn’t happen and I still have a little left to finish off the morning of my next gallon. Depending, it seems, on the particular fattiness of the milk that week and whether I’ve hauled it with me to various locales (as I have this week), the milk may or may not be very good by the end of a week. I’ll tell you right now, this milk doesn’t look all that fantastic. The fat (or what I think is the fat) has separated out, and what’s left is a milky, watery substance with a lot of little blobs of white cream floating on top. I’m having trouble drinking it just because it looks so unlike what milk, in our industrial consciousness, is supposed to look like. This milk is never uniform to start with- I always shake it up before I pour. But this morning I’m finding it particularly challenging.

I’m tempted to go off on my usual rants about homogenization and fear of fats, but I’m going to avoid that for a moment to be a little frank about this whole foods thing. I may ramble on and on about the benefits of drinking raw milk and eating lots of healthy fats from grass fed animals, and avoiding processed foods and all that, but I will admit it to you, dear readers: sometimes this is all a little weird.

Look, I love the taste of raw milk. I love that it tastes like something other than sugar water, and that I can taste the cow and the grass and the sun in a single glass. I love that it’s nice and thick and fatty. But then some mornings it looks a little funny and even though it still tastes fine, and doesn’t smell bad at all, I find I have to force myself to drink it down with my eyes closed because it just looks weird, no matter how many times I shake it up.

And I cook with butter, but I hate the smell of cooking butter, and always have to cover my nose. And I get really grossed out by raw chicken. Butchering it was one thing, but for some reason cutting it up at home for parts is just weird. There are all those little globs of blood, whatever they are (veins? Does anyone know?). It freaks me out when I open a bag of meat and there are two inches of blood floating around in the bottom. And to be completely honest, I still hate raw vegetables. I don’t care how good they are for you. I won’t even get into all the stuff that Nourishing Traditions suggests I eat- I’m still way too petrified to try brains, or for that matter, liver. Organs of any kind. Sorry.

I grew up eating Kraft mac and cheese, and hot dogs, and pre cooked packaged breaded chicken breasts. My favorite food was plain noodles. Scalloped potatoes came in boxes. I ate toaster streudel for breakfast, and drank 2% homogenized milk. But I’ve also always been a glutton for punishment. The harder it is, the better I seem to feel about it. Recycling was fun when we were defying the administration by carrying it out despite their refusal to allow it. Protesting was fun when it seemed like we could be arrested at any moment. There was even a point when energy saving seemed like a great challenge- trying to keep the heat off as long as possible, and driving thirty minutes to the one store that carried CFLs. I still try and keep the heat off as long as possible, but now it’s more because I can’t afford to have it on. And I still recycle and all that, so the point isn’t that I’ll only do things if they’re difficult. I think the point is that having a heaping tablespoon of a tendency toward self punishment goes a long way in encouraging you to switch to all these “farm fresh” foods.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who switch to raw milk because they really do just like it better, and like all the benefits. 90% of the time, I would say that is why I switched to raw milk. But that last 10% is made up of the simple fact that I’ve always hated being a middle class white girl. Felt guilty for it, I should say. Felt guilty for being able to afford things other people can’t. Middle class guilt is a well documented phenomenon. And like so many other people with middle class guilt, I’ve tried to assuage it by doing all the things that liberal middle class people do: eating vegetarian, shopping at Whole Foods, buying things that are fair trade, wanting to drive a hybrid (though I am too lower middle class to afford one). I just go a bit farther than most people, because I’ve got liberal middle class guilt on top of regular middle class guilt- I feel bad for the years I spent being snobby about walking everywhere, even in completely ridiculous conditions when it would have made more sense to drive, and about eating vegetarian and shopping at Whole Foods and the rest. Ugh. Now my guilt has driven me into such great heights as driving hours to Pennsylvania all the time to get raw milk, and drinking it even when it looks really funny.

Which is kind of ironic, when you consider the walking thing.

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While the blog posted automatically last week, I was busy eating. For once. One of my favorite people in the world, my sister-cousin Miss Clickclack herself, was staying at my house with her partner and I actually had people cooking food FOR me. It was amazing. I would get up every morning, do some work while they were still asleep, and emerge from my room to the delicious smells of something curious cooking on the stove, whether it was leftovers from the night before mixed with some new ingredients to spice them up, or some unusual combination I never would have thought of in my life. This is the thing I love most about cooking with two people who are just as into cooking as I am, and who like all the same foods. Never in my life would it have occurred to me to combine eggplant, broccoli, onions and black beans- with some kind of spice combination I couldn’t even puzzle out. But it was delicious.

I was I had taken more pictures, but I was too busy eating and playing endless games of Carcassonne (my new addiction) to remember to take too many. There’s just this one:

Of my plate just before I started to devour it, when it suddenly occurred to me there should be some evidence of the week. I only wish I had had the brains to turn off my work email for the week, so I hadn’t spent half the time worrying over whether the students were taking care of things or not. One of the things I have always loved about hanging out with my sister-cousin was the feeling of freedom, of not worrying about much of anything, and it has since occurred to me that this is likely more to do with usually being in Germany when I hang out with her than anything else. In Germany, I can’t even access the internet regularly, and when I do I very rarely fuss with work at all. Alas! That I allowed myself to be distracted.

None the less, it was an excellent week all around. I can’t even describe to you the simple joys of saying, “is this too much garlic?” And every time being answered, “no, put in more.” Only a true member of our family could tolerate the quantity of garlic that we consider normal for a dish: usually an entire bulb. And eating it raw is certainly not out of the question. We had a discussion about our love of garlic, and how it rarely occurs to us that this might be strange to some people (for example, that they may find it strange that we constantly smell strongly of garlic, a smell that we, garlic devourers that we are, rarely even notice except as a mild pleasant aroma that says: delicious). I will have to admit that clickclack’s tendency to eat raw onions as if they were apples was a little disconcerting, but all in all I’d say she’s a lot healthier for it (as I am for eating raw garlic).

I will heretofore attempt to list the wondrous things we ate last week, if my memory will permit:
– The most delicious pumpkin soup I have ever had in my life.
– Some kind of bizarre stew that I kind of wished I hadn’t made, though I have a good excuse: I had a terrible head cold and couldn’t smell a thing.
– Pad thai.
– Many interesting things made in pans: the aforementioned broccoli/black bean combo, some kind of potato/onion/eggplant(?) combo, more mysterious stir fries involving eggplants (of which there were many in my fridge).
– Several very typical German breakfasts, or at least the sort I’m used to: good hearty bread, blocks of cheese, spreads, butter, juice, coffee. I had to laugh as we hacked off pieces of bread from the loaf and arranged slices of cheese from the blocks on top, as this is something I have only ever seen Germans do. Americans are not accustomed to bread they have to slice themselves, or cheese that comes in a big lump.
– A very spicy pepper-onion-carrot combo, served with spaghetti squash and butter, green beans, and kale.
– Noodles! Well ok that one wasn’t terribly exciting, but we dumped lots of garlic over them so it counts.
– Loads of fresh apple cider, and some intriguing drink that included vodka, ginger beer, and cucumbers.
– Popcorn! Homemade of course. With nutritional yeast, butter, and lots of sea salt.

Sigh. It was a week of many things I love, and many things I constantly lament not having in my day-to-day life: having other people to cook with, having other people to eat the things I cook, having other people to help with the dishes (thank god for that), having other people to eat with, rarely having leftovers (and when there are leftovers, not being chastised for leaving them on the stove for a day or two until they disappear), eating ridiculous amounts of garlic, sharing a loaf of bread and cheese. I love having lots of people around. I love not having to eat alone. I love sitting up nights playing games and watching movies and talking and laughing and sitting on the porch. It is such a very very very immense shame that this week things are back to “normal”, that I am back to work, and that I will be eating dinner tonight alone.

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There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning and thinking, damn, that was too much wine. Thankfully it does not happen to me nearly so much as in my college and just after college days, but every once in a while, when having dinner with a good friend, the conversation is so good that you think, oh, certainly a second bottle of wine is a good idea. Let me tell you, readers.

The second bottle is rarely a good idea.

That is, if you only have two people drinking it. And we only had two people drinking. So, this morning, I woke up dying for water and with that peculiar sensation of the wobbles, as I like to think of them, in my stomach. And what does one eat on such occasions? Most college students opt for the Royal Farms breakfast sandwich, or, if they are braver (and a little older), a full out Ellen’s breakfast. Ellen’s, for those of you unaquainted with our small town, is a tiny hole in the wall diner sort of place. The food is basically grease with some bits of other things thrown in for substance. And it is absolutely perfect for soaking up hangovers.

I, however, can’t find much to eat at Ellen’s considering the meat is unidentified. And so on these mornings I am left trying to figure out what is appropriately greasy while still being quick enough to cook that I can make it to work on time. Usually I opt for box mac and cheese (organic at least). On this particular morning, I had none, so I opted for a few slices of bacon, which I almost immediately regretted, as they didn’t do so well with the gallon or so of water that was sloshing around in my stomach.

I’ve always wondered why it is that hangovers cause us to crave greasy, fatty foods. I’m sure it’s because we’re depleted in some way, but I have yet to figure out what exactly we are going for when that wonderful, terrible slice of pizza starts looking so good (OO might have to get one for lunch). Does anyone know? I speculated for a while that maybe we need salt so we can retain water or something, since the principal cause of hangovers is dehydration. But maybe it’s some kind of vitamin or something. No idea. Maybe the fat helps to restore the brain cells that are killed off by all the drinking.

All I know is, now I am really, really craving pizza.

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As I mentioned, I spent all of last week away for work. We were staying in historic Williamsburg, to visit Colonial Williamsburg (which is essentially a theme park) and the actual site of Jamestown, which is mostly an archaeological excavation site. I took lots of pictures and video for them (which is essentially my job) and even got in a round of putt-putt with the students, so all was well. Except the food.

I pride myself on attempting to eat well, even when on the road, but my determination to not eat meat unless I’ve met the animal first puts a damper on the options available. Also, when it comes down to it, I’m just flat out picky. And I hate salads that aren’t in season. And I’m too stubborn to pay for different food when I have the option of getting it for free- not that I would have had a lot of other choices even if I did choose to drive off somewhere looking for food. And so, alas, I ate extremely poorly for three straight days.

Each day started out with the complimentary breakfast at the hotel. White flour bagels, white flour waffles, terrifying looking scrambled eggs, and a selection of mini Yoplait yogurts. I opted for the yogurt, thinking it would be the least offensive item on the menu, until I read the ingredients:

Ew. The second ingredient is sugar. This is followed by several more varieties of sugar. It’s yogurt, people. You know what the ingredients of yogurt should be? Fucking milk, and active cultures. And not pasteurized, cultured milk either. Raw milk, please. Maybe some fruit or honey. High fructose corn syrup my ass. Though this paled in comparison to the chicken I thankfully was not eating at lunch at one of the taverns in Colonial Williamsburg. I had opted for a very sad portobello mushroom sandwich on some very soggy white bread. The mushroom wasn’t cooked right and was therefore about the same consistency as rubber. And yet I still preferred this to what one of the students ordered. A caeser salad with “rotisserie flavored” chicken pieces. Check out the ingredients on this one:

Could someone please explain to me why there are so many terrifying sounding ingredients on what is supposed to be a bunch of chicken pieces? And yes, those are the chicken pieces at the bottom of the bag. Does that look like chicken to anyone else?

To make matters worse, the various “historic” taverns had attempted to add vegetarian items to their menus. I guess that’s what they were doing, at least. You would think this would be a good thing, but these kinds of places haven’t the faintest idea how to make an appetizing vegetarian meal. My one and only option one night (aside from salad, sans chicken) was a pasta dish. It sounded ok on the menu, but I wasn’t expecting much (even though this was a $20 plus per plate restaurant). Sure enough, it was pasta floating in some kind of sickening separated cream sauce. Apparently these sorts of restaurants were never informed that it’s a bad idea to put a cup of oil in your cream sauce, because they will separate. Leaving you with a mess of lumpy semi melted cheese and a lot of oil. The vegetables in this dish were just as pathetic- some very sad possibly sautéed peppers and carrots and broccoli. Ugh. I would have taken this meal again without question, however, after I saw the menu the next night. The only thing on the menu that did not contain meat was a suspicious sounding “crock of cheese.” However, I have been known to enjoy the occasional crock of queso, and thinking this must be some sort of colonial version of queso or at the very least cheese fondue, went for it.

Alas. The cheese was some kind of cold, spreadable “cheese” product that had about the same flavor as my napkin. It was a vivid yellow (or at least so far as I could tell by candlelight), and I haven’t the faintest idea what it was actually made of, but I can tell you it probably wasn’t milk. I ate about three bites of this before admitting defeat. Thank heaven two of the boys on the trip had ordered meals that had sides of potatoes, and neither of them wanted to eat them. So I ate two sides of potatoes for dinner. It was possibly the most unsatisfactory meal I have ever been subjected to, and that includes the so-called “vegetarian chili” I had for lunch at the café in Jamestown. This “vegetarian chili” consisted primarily of cauliflower and some other unidentified vegetables in some kind of broth. I also counted three black beans. I have never once in my life experienced a chili with no more than three beans. I am still completely baffled at why they didn’t just call it “stew” and get on with it.

I refrained from taking pictures of these last three items, as they really weren’t worth the effort of capturing. But you can’t even imagine how thrilled I was to come home, cut off a big hunk of raw milk cheese from PA, fry up some local free range bacon, and down a couple glasses of local, fresh pressed raw apple cider. Thank god for that. The utter irony of all this of course comes with this sign, which you will pass as you cross the bridge into historic Colonial Williamsburg, where the original Williamsburg of 1781 or so is supposed to have been recreated for you as it would have been 300 plus years ago. This is one of a series of signs designed to get you in the spirit of things, and to alert you to what you should expect from the recreated historic city:

If Colonial Williamsburg the theme park took a hint from the actual historic Williamsburg on this one, I think the food selection would improve astronomically. And what an opportunity for Virginia farmers- what an amazing opportunity to restore some heirloom breeds, in order to provide the taverns with actual, authentic, colonial food! But alas, once again. I’m pretty damn sure the taverns are supplied by Sysco.

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I’ve been reading some other food blogs lately and it occurred to me, after reading one girl’s where she posts what she’s thrown away every week, that this isn’t a bad idea. I very often have things that go a bit funny before I get to use them (AGH I HATE not being home to prepare things!), and it drives me insane. Given, all my food that I don’t use ends up in the compost, but that doesn’t make me feel better for not having eaten it. I wish I had chickens, because then I could feed the bad stuff to the chickens and eat the chickens later, and it would be coming full circle. As it is I take the food to the compost at the college and they just use it to plant shrubs and things, which seems a bit beside the point as it is a dead end rather than a circle.

Anyway, I started thinking about what I’ve composted recently. I’ve been doing better this year than last year, though I still end up composting greens whenever I get them. I just don’t seem to eat them at all unless there is someone around encouraging me to eat them. And for some reason I flat out won’t eat a salad unless I have people over for dinner. So in the past week or so, I’ve composted the remains of a salad, lots of tomato skins, some peaches that went rotten… ends of green beans and okra and zucchini and eggplant, pepper tops and veins, garlic and onion skins. Mostly things that can’t be eaten, unless I had gotten to the peaches sooner. Oh, and some grapes that I accidentally left in the car all day, where they promptly turned to mush and fermented. And an end of a loaf of bread that turned green. And, alas, a lot of edamame and basil that I didn’t get time to process before the former dried out completely and the later shriveled up and turned black. *heaves a sigh*

WHEN will I have time to actually live my life? Can someone please tell me?

On the upside, there is almost never any actual trash in my trash except cat litter. And beer caps. And the plastic wrappings from meats. That’s really about it though. So that makes me feel a bit better.

Now, to get those chickens…

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