I’m looking forward to going to Penzey’s spices while we’re back home in Madison. We’ve run out of awful lot of things and had to buy subpar quality spices from the co-op. They try to keep good spices in stock, but there’s only so much turnover on things like ground cardamom or whole nutmegs.
I have never before seen locally grown, organic iceberg lettuce. It looks a little bit less freakish than the stuff you find wrapped in plastic at the grocery store, but only a little bit less freakish. I’m curious what these heads of lettuce would retail for at the farmers market or at the co-op. Just because it’s funny, we may have a composed salad where we serve wedges of iceberg lettuce. Has your CSA ever delivered iceberg lettuce?
The other treats this week was green garlic. This is a young garlic plants that have not had time to form a head of garlic and mature. The white bulbs and some of the green stems are edible, and the flavor tastes like garlic but not as strong. Sam is using some of the cream garlic in tonight’s dinner; pasta with garlic and olive oil and cheese.
So I need to address the obvious – What is a locavore? The most boilerplate comes from the very first post of this blog – The dictionary definition, “A person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food.” There’s two problems I have with this definition. First, it frames locavore as a “diet” and second, the definition leaves “local” to be defined elsewhere. Please excuse me as I pick at nits.
I don’t like diets – in the modern use of the word as a set of guidelines on choosing food, not in the Anthropological meaning of the word as anything that people eat. Diets come as arbitrary sets of rules or guidelines that ossify eating practices and attempt to define the world into “good” and “bad” foods. Lard? Bad. Broccoli? Good. Locally-raised pig lard? Bad (unless you’re a locavore, then it’s good). Conventionally farmed broccoli from Argentina available in New Hampshire in February? Good (unless you’re a locavore, then it’s bad…) I really do NOT want anyone to think there is some list of goods and bads making up the Locavore diet and that you may only eat things on the good list and nothing off the bad list. Diet also emphasizes choosing foods and avoiding foods – a universe of possibility that neglects what you do with the foods you choose or what happens to the foods you avoid. I want locavore to mean more than just choosing foods that are good and avoiding foods that are bad because locavore is more than just the food – it’s about preserving food, cooking food and enjoying food too…
Second, the dictionary leaves out what “local” means. The dictionary defines “local” as “belonging or relating to a particular area or neighborhood, typically exclusively so.” Local as geography. So each locavore is a pin on a map with a circle around it. I don’t much like that either. We can use other definitions of “local” to broaden our understanding of food. I think of food using a network definition. Imagine a network of food producers, packagers, distributors and consumers. Each person or organization is a node and is linked by the transactions between nodes. We all eat within this type of network-I buy a can of tomatoes sold at the coop, shipped by a grocery wholesaler, packages by a plant, picked by a person, grown by a farmer. Alternatively I go to my pantry and get a jar of home-canned tomatoes that I bought at a farm stand that were picked by the farmer. Local, to me, means both geography AND relationship networks. How can we act to minimize both distance and connections?
So, I’m being pedantic, but I want to explore these ideas more fully in this blog… This is why I started in the first place. To gain a better understanding of how and why I eat locally.
So back to my original question: What is a locavore? The dictionary says, “A person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food.” Let’s modify this…
A locavore is person who acquires, preserves, cooks and eats food in order to minimize the distance between the food production and consumption.
What do you think?
I like to pickle – to preserve vegetables in a salt and vinegar brine. I pickle for three reasons: First, it’s a way to preserve some veg to eat later in the season. Second, I have a bad salt-sour tooth (like a sweet tooth, but more for salty and sour things). Third, my pickles never turn out the same way twice, so it’s always a surprise when I open a jar.
Sidenote: pickling is not fermenting… They’re different processes. Pickling is killing microbes and reducing their ability to reproduce by introducing a hot, salty and acidic environment. Fermenting is using the microbes to create a warm and slightly acidic environment that both slows reproduction and breaks down foodstuffs. Some old-school cucumber pickles are both fermented and pickles, but not all.
Another sidenote: Pickling can produce both self-stable pickles and pickles that need refrigeration to keep from spoiling-so-called “refrigerator pickles.” I prefer refrigerator pickles because they’re very easy to make and the resulting veg stays crisp.
To start out this season, I made pepper pickled radishes. These are radishes pickled in a vinegar-salt-sugar brine with peppercorns. They turn a light shade of pink as the color leaches out of the radish into the brine. For a new twist this year, I added a sliced onion. In retrospect, I used too much onion, so these are more pepper pickled onions with some radishes thrown into give it a pink color. As they hang out in the fridge, the pepper flavor gets stronger while the vinegar mellows.
Pepper Pickled Radishes
(Makes 1 pint of radishes. All measurements are approximate… This is the variability I talked about…)
- 8 radishes – about 1″ in diameter
- 1 small onion
- 1 tbsp peppercorns
- 1 cup rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
- 6 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- Heat the vinegar, salt and sugar to almost boiling. Taste it and adjust salt and sugar to your preference.
- Thinly slice the radishes and the onion on the mandoline.
- In a pot of boiling water, sterilize a clean canning jar, ring and lid for 10 minutes.
- Fill the sterile, hot jar with layers of radish slices, onion slices and peppercorns. Press firmly to pack the jar very tight. Pour over the hot brine until within 1/2″ of the rim of the jar. Tap the jar firmly on the counter to release air bubbles. If air bubbles are still visible, jam a butter knife down the veg to release the air bubbles. Press down any veg sticking up out of the jar, so it won’t touch the jar lid. Top off the jar with extra brine to reach within 1/4″ of the rim of the jar. Wipe the lip of the jar clean, top with the lid and screw on the ring to hand-tight.
- Put the jar in the way back of the fridge. Let cool for at least 24 hours.