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Well, last Saturday I had a holiday party, which kept me busy all day and from posting too many exciting pictures. This Saturday you get the make up for that: pictures of all the amazing desserts I made with raw dairy products! Bwahahaha!

So it started with an apple cake. Apples were from Lockbriar. The recipe was from my brand new local food cookbook, Dishing Up Maryland by Lucie Snodgrass. Beautiful photos, and everything I’ve made from it has been delicious so far. It has a brown sugar icing made with, you guessed it: raw cream! Before hand:

And after:

Mmmm. Delicious, really sweet icing.

Next up was a pumpkin pie, of course made with a little local pumpkin (from Redman Farm). It also included some raw cream, and plenty of local eggs, and flour. Recipe was from Joy of Cooking, and it was served with delightful raw whipped cream! Yay!

The spread from afar:

The spread up close:

It included the pie and cake, of course, but also some fermented veggies (also farm fresh and unpasteurized), crackers made by my friend Ms. Zumba (can you believe she MADE crackers? I’m still amazed), raw cheeses, bread from Against the Grain bakery, and the whipped cream plus some chocolate mousse, which didn’t make it into the picture as I believe they were still in the fridge. The arrangement is by Ms. Native Daughter Nursery, who you can also find at the farmers’ market.

The chocolate mousse actually turned out to be the hardest thing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because I am flat out terrible at making anything that involves beating eggs for long periods of time. I get bored about halfway through, or I decide I’ve been going for too long and get afraid I’m going to over beat them or something. As a result, they weren’t as fluffy as they were probably supposed to be. But let me tell you about this mousse. I hadn’t really realized mousse is mostly eggs. I think I was thinking of ganache, which is just cream and chocolate. Mousse is butter or cream, chocolate, and eggs. Julia (whose recipe I was using) called for coffee and orange liquer, neither of which I had at the time. So I just added a dash of Kahlua.

And boy, was this stuff amazing. A-fing-mazing. So amazing that I didn’t mind that I accidentally spilled egg literally all across my kitchen (the floor, the wall, and on into the bathroom). I mean, I’ve always loved chocolate mousse, but this was on par with the best chocolate mousse I have ever tasted in my entire life. Just flat out mind blowing. It disappeared faster than anything else on the table (except the raw cheese and Ms. Zumba’s crackers).

Especially when paired with the whipped cream.

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Real Raw Milk Facts
This is a fascinating little website, built by lawyers who specialize in food poisoning cases. Its intriguing that one of the cases they refer to regularly, the one in California in 2006, where six children came down with E. Coli 157 poisoning, is also the one where they never found the same strain of E. Coli on the farm where they all got their milk. If you read the CDC case on the incident, you will also notice that they never confirmed that any of the patients became ill from raw milk- just that they had all consumed raw milk in the past week (as did the rest of their families, so very odd that they were the only ones in their families to fall ill).

I’m not going to deny that there can be contamination in raw milk. There can be. There can be contamination in anything though. The issue is that the FDA and CDC are not always able to establish linkages- in fact, in a lot of cases, the families come forward and say they are pretty sure their children got sick from something other than the milk- but those cases are still used to keep raw milk illegal. The association is enough for them. If I go out for dinner tonight, and get food poisoning tomorrow, chances are they would claim I had gotten sick from the raw milk I drank for breakfast this morning (rather than from the restaurant last night). There is a predisposition to blame raw milk for all ills.

My other big problem with this website (but don’t say I don’t show you the other side!), is that they seem to claim raw milk is inherently dangerous because farms are inherently dirty. No fricking shit. Farms have dirt on them. Farms with cows have manure! My god! How could such a thing be? How could we be allowed to come into contact with such things! The horror.

As always, decide for yourself. I know I’m looking forward to a nice big glass of raw milk when I get home, however…

Good morning! Sorry I haven’t been posting regularly. It’s that no-internet-at-home thing again.

So, on this beautiful (freezing) Friday morning, check out the latest raid on raw milk drinkers. This one is at a drop point- someone’s house. Nice move, Minnesota government.

There are two videos from customers of the raid. The agents from the Minnesota Dept. of Ag. ended up towing the entire truck of milk.

The Complete Patient: Minnesota Raw Milk Drinkers Better Get Over Their Shock
The Complete Patient: Confrontation Over Raw Milk in MN

I agree. It’s time to start getting arrested, because challenging this in court is the only way we’ll get the law changed.

Oh, and by the way, the “Food Safety” bill passed the house and is back to the senate. Holding our breath to see what happens next…

So I’ve been catching up on the C-Realm podcast, and in his recent conversation with James Howard Kunstler he brings up the concept of nostalgia for the present. Now this is a concept I had never heard of before, but apparently it’s what happens when many people find out about peak oil. If you aren’t up on these things, peak oil is what happens when we run out of oil.* Which is happening (or has probably already happened, and now we’re just using the last dregs) right now. And when we run out of oil, all the things we’re used to go bye-bye. Cars. Things from opposite sides of the country, such as tomatoes from California, and computers, and all kinds of other fun things.

Nostalgia for the present is what happens when you start thinking about a post-peak oil future, and start missing the things you have now that won’t be possible after whatever collapse is coming, you know, happens. Apparently most people freak out when they first hear about peak oil, and this is one of the symptoms. I’ve been thinking about peak oil for a really long time, so I never had a freak out. But I do have the nostalgia.

I started laughing when I heard them talking about this in the podcast, because it’s another thing I don’t really think about. It’s one of those things that occasionally crosses my mind: maybe other people don’t think about these things. Maybe other people don’t constantly go through their day thinking things like, “I wonder what would happen if I didn’t have a blender?”

More common forms of nostalgia for the present tend to be about more basic daily items. Ah, I wonder how hard it will be to get by without hot showers whenever we want them. Man, wouldn’t it suck to have to walk outside in the cold to go to the bathroom? How do we store food without refrigeration? And what did we do before high speed internet?

My most common thoughts tend to be more about the unusual things. I spend a lot of time wondering how we’ll get by without scissors. And how to make knives. And shoes. I’ve lived without hot showers, or heaters, in places where you have to walk outside to go to the bathroom and have to haul water if you need it for cooking. I’ve peed in buckets and emptied it out in the morning because it’s too cold to go outside. I’ve slept in all my clothes in an attempt to stay warm, and woken up to wash my face with frozen water. I’m choosing not to live that way at the moment, and every night before I go to bed (especially at this time of year, when it’s fricking freezing outside) I am very thankful for gas baseboard heat I don’t have to pay for. But I know I can do it the other way if I have to.

Other people are going to have a much harder time. It fascinates me endlessly when people start freaking out about not having the internet. I kind of love not having the internet. I dream of being able to go away to places where there is no internet access. I get so fricking tired of being chained to my email server. I want to be in a place where no one can contact me except the people I like very much, who don’t want much more from me than to know if I feel like coming over for dinner. I kind of look forward to a life not complicated by all this… stuff. Except maybe the heat. And my sewing machines. And the immersion blender.

I do feel a constant pressing need to learn how to do other things, however. Like make some kind of tool to cut things with, because eventually my scissors and knives will give out. I don’t even know how to start a fire. I was watching the neighbor build up their woodstove the other night and thinking, wow, I really have got to figure that one out. Because there you have your heat and your cooking covered, all in one. But how does it work? I know there’s a trick to piling up the logs, but hell if I know what it is.

And how about those shoes? What do we do when boots wear out, and it’s snowing? Native Americans must have had something on their feet to keep their toes from falling off. It’s the same imperative that makes me want to farm so badly. I want to know how to grow food without the inputs. I want to know how to skin an animal, so we have something to eat. I want to know how to cook a beaver if necessary, dammit.

But that doesn’t mean that in the meantime I’m not going to be really, really thankful for my laptop and baseboard heat…

*It has been pointed out to me that this is an inaccurate description of peak oil. Peak oil is actually, as you could imagine, when we surpass the peak amount of production we could ever have. So about half of all the available oil in the world. When this happens, oil will become more and more expensive to extract and eventually will become so prohibitively expensive that it will be as if we have run out of it. Though we can never, in theory, actually run out of it. Comes down to the same thing though. Look it up!

Standing in line at the grocery store, I always surreptitiously watch the people in line around me purchasing their groceries. As I’m only in the store about once a month (and this number shocks me. I can’t for the life of me think what I’m buying), I feel like I maybe look around a little differently than the other people who buy a larger percentage of food at the store.

It absolutely fascinates me to see people buying the “foods” that I am constantly on here criticizing as fake foods. Things that come in boxes. Some people will have an entire cart full of nothing but boxes, and maybe one Perdue chicken. Now, you could say a Perdue chicken is local, because it probably came from the plant down in Salisbury. But god only knows what it went through to get to that cart.

It really fascinates me that in my monthly trip to the grocery store, I very rarely see anyone buying a vegetable. I in fact almost never see anyone in the produce section of the store, and even then they seem to be hovering around the bagged salads. When I was still eating a store diet, I was vegetarian, and I managed to avoid spending money at the store by buying almost exclusively the cheapest produce I could find. The sad thing is, for the same amount of money I could probably buy a much larger portion of calories in the form of a soda or chips or something. Alas, that those calories would not include a single nutrient.

I always wonder, when standing in that grocery store line, if the other people in line are being just as judgmental about what I’m buying as I’m being of their carts. Probably not. If they did judge what I have in my cart, they’d probably be somewhat confused. I decided, for the sake of curiosity, to go back over my grocery store receipts for the past few months to see what it was I actually bought (and what I could therefore eliminate in the next year, as my goal is to never go to the grocery store again except for toilet paper). I will also not deny that a certain part of my desire to go over these receipts was also to avoid doing anything more productive with my evening.

So let’s see. Back in April I bought pasta, box mac and cheese (Annie’s, a guilty pleasure), bread crumbs, black beans, salad dressing, ice cream, pretzels, nuts, and tortillas. I also went back for rice and some asian sauces, which I think was spurred by borrowing my mother’s asian cookbook. The combination of these two visits, which really didn’t amount to any significant part of my diet, probably cost more than three visits or so to the farmers’ market which would have provided me with about ten times more food. In April I also made one more trip to buy some things to make a salad for a party, or maybe for Easter or something. All things I could have avoided if I had thought of something to make for the party farther in advance than the day before.

In May I bought dish washing sponges, sugar (I think that was for wine, and the natural food store was closed), tortillas, butter, cream, soy sauce, granola bars, pretzels, bagels, cheese slices, hummus, and peanut butter. The butter and cream were for the handsome fella’s birthday cake, and thank heaven I will never need to buy them at the store again now that we have a regular supply of local dairy. The last section of things were for our weekend camping trip. I always find I’m shopping at the grocery store a lot before a camping trip, which is demonstrated in July when I bought pretty much all the same stuff, plus more pasta, more box mac and cheese, and paper towels. After returning from our trip I bought more pasta, mac and cheese, Ziplocs, coconut milk, more soy sauce (I think I had forgotten I had just bought it), soy milk, ice cream, aluminum foil, and cheese slices. August was nothing but trash bags and tortillas (I should mention I frequently eat ready made tortillas, plain, as a snack).

September was another big shopping month: lemonade, mac and cheese, pasta, hamburger buns (I think those are still in the fridge), cheese slices, tortillas, soap, toothpaste, vinegar, ice cream, and sponges. October led to crackers, pasta, batteries, hummus, mozzarella and grape tomatoes (a party again), flour, soy milk, mac and cheese, chocolate chips, tortillas, teriyaki, and ice cream. My November receipt is still somewhere in the pile of papers on my floor, but it would probably look pretty similar.

All of this is pretty much what I imagined: junk food, or emergency purchases for a party or some other event I didn’t expect, and all the camping stuff. Otherwise, all I buy is pasta, sauces, spices, and cleaning supplies. What was really shocking was how much this all cost (not as much as my other food purchases, but still a big chunk considering how little of it is edible). I think what I can conclude (and I hope you’re not all terribly bored by now) is that I need to stop eating so much junk food. I’ve already been thinking about New Year’s resolutions (mine are always food related), and I think one of the first will be to stop buying so much box mac and cheese (I should say it is 2-3 boxes a month). It is my comfort food, it is what I cook when I am stressed out and can’t be bothered with anything else. And unfortunately that is too often. The hope is that I will find a way to de-stress my life (ha!) and then I will stop with the junk food. De-stressing would eliminate the mac and cheese, the cheese slices, and maybe, to an extent, even the tortillas.

My other goals for the next year will be to actually use my pasta maker, and to start buying ice cream locally (we have really good local ice cream. I just never make it over to the farm store to buy it…). I am always going to be buying things like salt, baking powder, soy sauce, and coconut milk at the store. At least until there are no more grocery stores. And I don’t think occasionally buying a container of Tribe hummus and a bag of pretzels is going to kill anyone (immediately).

The funny conclusion to all this is, of course, that anyone perusing my grocery store purchases would probably be surprised that I manage to survive on nothing but box mac and cheese, ice cream, and tortillas. But then again, I’m surprised they manage to survive on soda, frozen food, and industrial chickens.

I get these “green” catalogues in the mail at work, and every time I browse through one I keep thinking, wait, if people were being really environmental, wouldn’t they, I don’t know, NOT buy all the random crap in this catalogue? I mean, really, a wicker meditation chair? Are you kidding me?

I still wish we could all get back to just giving oranges and bottles of wine for Christmas. I mean, I love that my parents use Christmas as an opportunity to help me pay for things I can’t afford on my own (like my pressurized canner), but aside from that, I kind of wish I could declare a moratorium on gift giving ASIDE from small useful things. Like bottles of wine. The worst possible thing about Christmas is when people buy each other mountains of useless plastic crap that comes in even more useless plastic wrapping. With that in mind, I recently sent out the following email to the local food listserv I manage:

Looking for a few ideas for holiday gifts for the local foodie in your life? Rather than fill up their stockings with more gadgets that will get discarded after only a few months of use, why not introduce your family and friends to the joys of local foods?

· Give the gift of a CSA membership to a farm such as Colchester Farm in Galena or Homestead Farm in Millington. A year’s share offers several months of weekly vegetables.
· Give a gift subscription to St. Brigid’s Farm’s Medley of Meats program. A six month subscription will provide you with a once monthly share of grass-fed beef.
· Rather than having a box of steaks shipped from who knows where, try packing your own box with steaks from St. Brigid’s, Crow Farm, Cedar Run, or Sassafras River beef.
· Put together a gift basket of fresh produce from the farmers’ market, and add in other local favorites like honey, soaps, jams, or a fresh loaf of bread.
· Instead of a gift basket from Bath and Body Works, try assembling a basket from locally made soaps or herbal products like those from Calico Fields Lavender. You can even buy online!
· Give gift certificates to restaurants that serve local foods, such as Brooks Tavern, the Imperial Hotel, the Village Bakery, Two Tree Restaurant in Millington or the Harbor House in Worton. Or try a gift certificate to a natural food store that sells local products, such as Chestertown Natural Foods. There are many restaurants and stores carrying local products, so do your research. I wouldn’t say no to a gift certificate to the famed Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore.
· For an extra special gift, consider a gift certificate to the Crow Farm B&B in Kennedyville. Stay in the beautiful, renovated historic farmhouse and take in the rural vistas while dining on fresh local foods!
· Remember to take a bottle of local wine or a six-pack of local beer to all your holiday gatherings, or give them as gifts! Bottles of specialty wines always make great gifts, especially for hostesses, and would be great paired with local cheese from Eve’s Cheese or Chapel Hill Creamery.
· Give cookbooks with a local food theme, such as the beautiful “Dishing Up Maryland” by Lucie Snodgrass. The book features profiles of many of the small family farms in Maryland, and then follows each with recipes from that farmer, using their products. Make sure you pick one up at a local book store!

Chronicle of Higher Education: The Cutting Edge of Prehistoric Technology

Man, he’s just so cool. I hope he’s on my team after the collapse. Love how my uncle gets a sideways reference! (he’s the graduate advisor!)