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Sunday, October 03, 2010

"I like th' food"

Dawn patrol
We roll into October warmer than expected, and the garden shows no signs of being willing to be put to bed. So we've excluded the poultry for now, as the chickens were pecking at every tomato that showed a hint of pink.

A benefit of all this hen-scratching has been that they aren't very partial to potatoes. Several sacks full have been uncovered for the picking up without our resorting to the potato hook. With backs as old as ours, that is quite a plus.

Risa has continued juicing and would share her grape-apple-blackberry-tomato recipe but it hasn't found favor with anyone but her, so far. That's the way of it with "yard foodie" cuisine. Once you limit yourself, largely, to what's on hand and in season, your palate quickly adjusts, but this leaves behind most, if not all, of "Rabbit's friends and relations," who may view your concoctions with increasing distrust and distance.

Risa's cooking has improved of late, through practice, but, in the eyes of some, it has suffered from her self-imposed limits of trying to work with what she's grown or gathered. She thinks it's good practice for what's down the road; they'd rather wait and cross that bridge when they come to it. But what if the bridge is down when we all get there? Studied your bridge-building yet?

A study of what's being eaten in "remote" (i.e., not hyper-trained to HFCS) portions of the globe will show that, to most, food is food and be damned glad you've got it. This is much the refrain that Risa heard when she was at table in her childhood; her dad grew up in a very destitute sharecropper's family and experienced the worst of the Depression, an experience that still dictates the old man's views today, at 94.

But there is something to it. The crop gains promised by the "green revolution" -- more and  better chemicals toward a better life for all -- have become more and more unreliable as the weaknesses of monoculture become evident. Also, unfavorable weather is increasing in the presence of a troposphere increasingly laden with moisture and energy as solar heat, bouncing back up through the air as infrared radiation, is trapped in more and more carbon dioxide. This is an effect easily demonstrated in any high school science classroom and vehemently denied by corporate flacks and their favored politicians. As a result, "yard foodies" -- and the odd meals that implies -- seem likely to be a wave of the near future, even in nations that have become accustomed to "plenty."

There was a short-lived sitcom, years ago, that featured a new prisoner being shown the ways of a prison by the experienced cons -- how to cheat the system mostly, but also all the best ways of venting. They were showing him how to bitch about the prison food, but a big Georgia boy a ways down the table, chowing down vigorously, opined, "I like th' food."

Risa's dad laughed loud and long, and ever after, at the drop of some bony squirrel stew from someone's spoon, would pass the terrifying bowl to the visitor again, saying: "I like th' food." It became his all-time favorite expression, to the exasperation of missus and daughter. But, then, he'd been a drill instructor in the military. That's said to affect one's outlook.

Years later, as she desperately invents one over-aged-kale recipe after another in her study of yard-only fooding, Risa remembers the saying. She's tempted to try it on her Safeway-trained visitors. But she's learned to keep two kinds of food supplies on hand, and also to rely on Beloved's greater experience when "entertaining." You gotta know when folks are ready for things, if you hope to see them again any time soon!


  1. I completely relate! Of course, I live alone these days. These things may be correlated!

  2. In my attempts to make all-local dishes, I always seem to forget and include one totally non-local ingredient. It's usually something like sugar or rice or bread from a small local independent baker that doesn't use local wheat. The other challenge, for me, is my love of spices. Herbs are much easier to produce locally than some of the spices. Haven't found a local cinnamon tree yet, for example...

    Love your observation about catering to guests' tastes and expectations in order to have them return again.

  3. New song: "Cinnamon tree, come to me..."

    I was reading up on the expression "whack-a-mole" just seconds before checking your last post -- gave me real-life goose bumps! U B good 2 U.

  4. I'd try your food anytime. In fact you have inspired me to dry my extra luxuriant broccoli leaves for my midwinter meals.

  5. Risa, do you have a food mill? You can get away with all kinds of weird ingredients once they are pureed. :)

    I made zucchini soup tonight actually - steamed the zukes, then smushed them through the food mill and seasoned with ... well, a bunch of not-local-to-me stuff but it tasted good. Added some grated carrot for texture, and voila - soup. Any combo of steamed veggies works quite well in this fashion - you can make it 'cream of veggie' by adding thickened milk (melt butter, add flour, stir, add milk, stir, add to soup) and I'm thinking you could probably hide quite a lot of mystery vegetables in a potato based pureed soup. :)

  6. Heh heh, AJC, yes, I use up a lot of apples when doing soups and stews and that goes over quite well. Lots of zuke and apple goes into breads, too. What I'm really whining about is I've been preachy and gotten few converts -- the siren song of the McBurger wins hands down. Maybe if I were a better cook, I could compete?

  7. Thank you, J, it really does work well if they're dry enough and you get all the "little sticks" out.


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