Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Organic Farming, co-ops and getting my fair share...

When canning food (or "tinning" in aluminum cans) became de rigeur around the Civil War, eating seasonally became less and less a necessity. As refrigeration became more common in 1911, and then as hot house and imported foods became more common, seasonal cooking was lost to all but the most rural agrarian areas of America.

The shiny new world we sought in the 1960's of space flight and the "Kitchen of the Future", complete with TV dinners and manufactured breast milk all but destroyed the pioneer legacy of living off the land and a rich regional food tradition (Creole, South Western, North Western etc).

Today the majority of urban Americans live far removed from the seasons and knowledge of what goes into their bodies. I mean, don't get me wrong, we know calorie count and how many grams (and what kind) of fat... but isn't food so much more? I am envious of my Italian Swiss friend who can recall his mother's panettone recipe and how she made ravioli at Christmas time. My Christmases came with refrigerated rolls, frozen peas, ham coated in brown sugar and canned cranberry sauce. I felt robbed... I WAS robbed... the American "melting pot" had wiped my cultural slate clean.

Today, I embrace my American-ness, and especially my Californian-ness. The clean slate I have been given lets me explore everything with fresh eyes. The bounty of my beautiful home also supplies my larder with the best and freshest ingredients from all over the world.

So now as Spring approaches, this is my year for seeking the seasons. I want to sit on the beach and see what is growing on the banks (Fennel for starters) and what is in the water (Mussels!). I want to be a part of the world and get my nails dirty... not live in a sterile, freeze dried, faceless, tasteless and out of touch rat-habitat in a lab... or George Jetsons place for that matter. F*ck that. We, the new American Chefs, are the dreamers of dreams and the forgers of a whole new composite cuisine that transcends race, creed, time and place. Bring it on.

To that endeavor, I'd heard whispers that local farmers sometimes organized co-ops to sell their products directly to the public. I looked all over, they were common in the City ("the City" being San Francisco, the best city in the world) and in Berkeley, but finding one here was rough. I finally found Eat Outside the Box: http://organicconsumers.org/linkpage.cfm?memid=2472 and sent them an email.

They sent me a sign up form and I peppered the administrator with questions, "How does it work? When and where do I pick up the produce?"

Today was a sunny gorgeous day (60 degrees F) to pick up my second share of goodies. As I drove around the corner I noticed another client pulling up in her Prius (covered with Obama stickers, of course). The set up is thus: a plastic lawn table with an umbrella is just inside the front courtyard of a lovely Eichler home. An ancient wooden beach chair has damp paper bags, a collection cup, stacks of rainbow colored eggs in cartons. Pink, Brown, Blue, Terra Cotta. The sign says, "First come, First served. $5 per dozen".

On the table are cardboard boxes, each containing a different item labeled with a hand made sign. A typed paper on a clipboard posts how much of each you may take: 1/4 Lb Salad Greens, 1/2 Lb broccoli rabe, 1/4 Lb arugula, 1 bag dried figs, 2 Lbs tangelos, 1/4 lb some other greens. An old scale sits with a white plastic bowl atop it so you can weigh your own items. I have to remember some plastic baggies next time as I end up trying to separate everything out of the sole damp paper bag when I get home otherwise.

I exchange the pleasantries you would expect with the Prius driving sandy blond. The mystery green is like spinach, she is going to put in ravioli with ricotta (of course). We both try to squeeze in as much snotty cooking talk as we can while filling our bags. I am thrilled there is more green garlic. I'd never tried it before last week and it is ridiculously good. I am not even sure what it really is? But it is a bit like a cross between a leek, garlic and a scallion... only better. The flavor and texture is far superior to any of the former. Both the green part and the white part are totally usable.

I eye the nubby tangelos warily and she assures me they are really good. Maybe if I can get some beets I will do some type of beet and citrus salad with thyme?

Here are some pictures of my treasures

I am going to make some chicken liver pate with the green garlic and serve it with good bread tomorrow night. I throw a dinner party for friends every Wednesday night. Some of my friends fight (it's this super hot martial art), while the rest of us drink wine and eat and I get to cook.

I just made a fresh batch of bacon, it is super salty because I left for vacation without smoking it first, but I like salt! I am sure we will be munching on that as well!

Welcome to my brain!

It's a dark dank place, not unlike a cheese cave. For those of you who know me, you know I cook. All. The. Time. I love it!

I am a Culinary Arts student and one of the things we are asked to do is write about food and since I love to write, here it is!

So Welcome to my brain and I hope you had something to eat before you started reading or a snack close by as I am fervent devotee of food porn.