Saturday, April 24, 2010
TEN WAYS to Eat Your Way Home
For those displaced by job loss, get rooted again with these ideas from wildcrafting to cooking with rhubarb:
One of the fallouts of this economic recession-- I'm discovering first-hand-- is a sense of displacement. Job loss means redefining how an occupation plays into your sense of belonging to a place. Job loss can also mean relocation: going back to a place you came from, or moving where there's better work opportunities.
I long for that rooted sense of belonging I felt as a child in my hometown in Southeastern Idaho. A place I lived for 13 years surrounded by family, the Snake river stocked with rainbow trout and pine forests where morel mushrooms grew wild alongside wildflowers.
This is the creek where I grew up. As kids, we'd put buckets under the bank and stomped on it to catch minnows. We also foraged for wild mint, then mom helped us brew it with local Miller honey.
I've decided to explore my sense of place through food and food rituals that make me feel at home. Food is literally attached to the land. In my hometown of Idaho, the staple potato lives burrowed like a mole in the dark soil. My life was Intertwined with Idaho Potato Vines in a similar way as my folklorist friend Rhonda Walker (who writes about it for Foodlore Library.) Morel mushrooms sprung like Sego lilies from the forest. As a family, my mom took us wild huckleberry foraging--to comb the same bushes the bears had. Here's a good source for wild huckleberries.
My sister has an enormous raspberry patch she turns her kids loose in every year:
My father smoked fish he caught and we'd typically have wild game for dinner from one of his hunting forays. Food is even more attached to the land than we, as people, are. So when we eat locally, I think it helps us feel at home in new places.
For those who are homesick for a sense of home, or in need of grounding, I recommend these things:
Find a country road by where you live, or check out where your city zones for chickens and spend some time with feathered friends and take home a dozen eggs.
Pull something slick and silver from a river near where you live. If you can keep it, fry it up with olive oil and lemon. Or, if you don't have time to do justice to the beautiful fish, leave it to Chef Jesse at Sundance's Tree Room. He pan-sears it with olive oil skin-side down, so the skin is crispy, as if cooked around a fire. The Utah trout come with buckwheat cavatelli, vegetable bolognese and celery root puree.
Make something that reminds you of home. For me, it's this rhubard crunch recipe my mother made in the spring. Here's a recipe and more about her rhubarb crunch.
It doesn't take a grand effort to start a garden. One year, I didn't have a backyard, so I found a whiskey barrel, bought some soil, tomato plants and herbs and created a low-maintenance container garden that was ripe with cherry tomatoes, rosemary, basil and sage all summer. (I used organic compost and a foliar spray with seaweed.)Create your own green revolution by turning up a patch of your well-manicured lawn and "eat your view." Check out Roger Doiron's Kitchen Gardners site or follow his Twitter.
5) PUT OUT GOOD VIBES
Sing to your container garden. Dance barefoot around your plants under a full moon(go ahead and howl too). Throw this little "corn dolly" in with your container of seeds. These metaphysical rituals are part of what's called biodynamics-- an acknowledgement that certain subtle and inexplicable forces (like music, lunar cycles, energy) DO influence your garden. Harry at Sunbow Farms is big on biodynamics. Go ahead, what can it hurt anyway?
This is watercress from Moab, Utah. There are many edible plants in the forests. Find out how to identify them and go foraging! Here's a great place in Oregon to learn how to wildcraft.
8) CONNECT (with growers and artisans)
(Here's a beekeeper that lives in Boulder, Utah.)
One of the first things I do when I move to a new place is to get to know the people who grow and produce my food. There's nothing like it to help you feel connected to a place. Find your local farmer's market. Don't just buy the food, ask questions of the farmer or artisan. For the goat cheesemaker (check out Alsea Acres-- amazing cheese!): "what do your goats eat and do they have names?" For the beekeeper, "Where do you place your hives?" For the baker: "Where did you learn this recipe?" For the farmer: "Do you use organic compost?" or "Where do get your seeds?"
9) EAT WITH LOVED ONES
Photo above shows one of my favorite places to eat, around my brother's table. He's got 5 boys and he and his wife set the table and serve dinner- almost without fail- every night. Nothing like eating with loved ones on a regular basis to help you feel grounded.
August and September don't feel the same without being somehow involved in canning food, whether it's combing fruit trees or grape vines, washing produce or bottles, or helping with a pressure cooker. No better way to remember summer than to can the fruits of your garden and eating them all winter long. Find someone who needs help canning, you'll wind up going home with some food storage of your own. Here's a great primer on canning.