Posts Tagged ‘locavore’

“The Feast Nearby” Book Review

Sadness and hope in heartfelt writing pervade Robin Mather’s writing.  She hooked me with empathy within the first sentences.  What a tragedy to lose both spouse and career within a week!  The book then continues into how she spends the next year picking up the pieces.  The essays flow, the ideas about local and sustainable food are thought-provoking, and the recipes fun and usually seasonal.  I say usually because I associate recipes such as toffee bars (butter, sugar, flour, chocolate, etc.) with long-term pantry stock irrelevant of season rather than only cold weather.  I mean, isn’t chocolate always in season?!  Instead I’d rather see more options for things like the winter storage cabbage still lurking in my February larders.  However, it’s a silly minor point for an overall lovely read.

As a reader, I felt very connected to the author and was sad to see the book finish.  Hope was temporarily restored when I read I could find out more on Mather’s blog, http://thefeastnearby.com/, but then dashed again when I saw it had not been updated since July of 2011.  I do hope she takes up her blog once more as I enjoyed reading her book.


The Feast Nearby
by Robin Mather
Ten Speed Press
2011
Image from Barnes and Noble

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Asparagus Bread Pudding

This recipe was adapted from The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on forty dollars a week) by Robin Mather.

I like the idea of local on a budget. After two years in the ground, my asparagus are finally up and ready for a light harvest. They need to be harvested daily because they grow so fast. Either snap them off by hand or cut them with a knife.

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Of course, the eggs are from my flock. The bread would have been tossed to the chickens today if I hadn’t stumbled upon this recipe whilst reading last night. They don’t seem to like old bread much so it’s up to us to “waste not, want not.”

Asparagus Bread Pudding

  • a bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 loaf stale baguette, crusts removed and cut into 1/2″ slices
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup grated romano cheese

Arrange the slices of baguette in one layer in a casserole dish. Top with asparagus.

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Whisk together the eggs, milk, and cheese and pour over top. Cover and refrigerate for 6-24 hours. When you are ready to bake, remove from the refrigerator allow to sit on the counter while the oven preheats to 350F. Bake for about an hour or until the middle is set and top golden brown.

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A Nudge From the Universe

Dear Chickens,

I’m writing today as a follow up to our discussion in the garden this afternoon.  It was rather complicated and one-sided; I know your chicken brains were too busy eating unearthed grubs and other delicious bugs as I pulled weeds to pay much attention.  If you do remember, our family was considering raising an endangered heritage breed to help preserve these disappearing and dear animals.  “Good idea,” I wanted to hear you bok-bok while following me for more weedy roots, but you were silent.  So I told you about the catch.  “The catch?” you must have thought.  Then I told you how with raising a self-perpetuating flock, comes the need for culling.  After all, too many roosters will hurt each other and isn’t the point to save your kin hurt in factory farms?  Yet, could I purposely take the life of another living creature that comes to me for nourishment and protection?  Especially one that my child chases among the grass and herbs and apple trees?  Could I?  We’ve been agonizing about this for months and you’ve haven’t offered much advice, allowing us to make this important decision in our own time.

This letter, dear chickens, is to tell you we’ve come to a decision. I think it may have been a small nudge from the universe (although I’m not sure I believe in such things); circumstances coming together and wistful me finding meaning and purpose.  Knowing my interest, a teacher at a local school asked if I could adopt their chicks and even choose their eggs, but I needed to let him know by today.  Then another little nudge:  Being torn between, Dorking, Faverolles, and Java breeds, a search of reputable breeders I know yielded only Faverolles hatching eggs ready in the given time frame.  I had already been leaning towards that breed since its roosters are reputedly the gentlest and quietest.  That is, if roosters are ever quiet.  The choice was made for me.

Now the order has been placed.  Two dozen fertile eggs arrive next week.  They hatch three weeks after that.  Modern markets slaughter their Cornish Crosses at 6 weeks old.  These new additions will not receive names as you have because how could I then do what has been required of farmwives throughout time?  I hope you will be nice to them and integrate them with love, but I suppose that would be asking too much of your chicken hardwiring.  So within three months we engage in what Barbara Kingsolver called a real game of Survivor were only the chickens that meet the American Livestock Breed Conservancy’s criteria will make it to breed another year.  So in the words of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, “May the odds be ever in your favor” because the nicest, quietest rooster will win.

I hope it will not upset you, my omnivorous chickens, that we did not choose the vegetarian option.  I will do everything in my power to be compassionate and humane.  You deserve such dignity and more for all your kin have done for us.   You and I have have a special bond, my trusty laying flock.  A reader commented that every egg is a little miracle and I have to agree.  Thank you for all that you have given and taught our family.

Now the scary part… has anyone done this before?  I know, I know:  People have done this throughout time, but just not in my sanitized suburban setting.  Ahh!  I really need help!

Love,

Mommy

Ps.  I really think Alice Walker was onto something with this whole writing to chickens.

Iscas de Presunto (Savory Pancakes with Spring Ramps and Presunto)

Prior to reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I had never heard of ramps. How exciting was it then to see Appalachian ramps at Whole Foods Market? They are also called wild leeks, spring onions, and wild garlic. This recipe is a modification of a Portuguese recipe my mother-in-law showed me called “iscas.” They are puffy, light, crispy, and melt in your mouth.

  • 2 eggs (Thanks, ladies!)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • dash of salt and pepper or to taste
  • 2 oz. Presunto (Portuguese Dry-Cured Ham) or any leftover cooked protein (ham, chicken, pork, steak, flaked codfish, etc.) cut into small cubes, less than 1/2″
  • small handful (6-10) Ramps, chopped (You can substitute garlic, scallions, leeks or omit completely.  If you do use a more fibrous aromatic, I would recommend sautéing to soften prior to adding to the batter.)
  • Olive oil for pan

Whisk the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Mix in flour. Stir in presunto and ramps. The batter should have the consistency of a traditional pancake. Heat a skillet on the stovetop to medium low. Add olive oil in a thin to medium layer at the bottom, depending on your preference. Drop heaping tablespoons full of the batter and cook until golden brown on both sides, flipping once.

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Yields approximately 12 pancakes.

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A perfect lunch alongside a salad of local spring greens, local sun-dried tomatoes, and not-at-all local olives.  What portuguese meal is complete without the latter?!

A Difficult Letter to Write to Chickens

Dear Chickens,

Mommy has been conflicted since you came into our lives last summer and my child kissed the tops of your fluffy heads. Is it odd to call myself your mommy? After all, I am the only one you knew since hatching from your shell. Like all beginnings, we knew there would be joys and tragedies, but I did not foresee how welcoming you into our garden would change my daily life. Before you came, I went grocery shopping; I ate. Now I cannot make a menu or walk past the market’s glistening shelves of plastic-wrapped cuts without thinking of you, thinking of your warm chicken-ness, thinking of your curious beak begging a treat, thinking of each feather quill on each of my fingers when I carry you inside your run at night. I’ve read about what your kin are subjected to in factory farms and wasn’t that the point of raising you here at home? To give you dignity, freedom, and chicken-joy?

We have had lots of joy: Glorious eggs, chicken chatter, scratching in the compost, and dust bathing among my flower beds. We’ve already had lots of tragedy. One of your number did not make it long after hatching. It was a case of failure to thrive and we had barely met. There were still so many downy little chicks to care for. We lost another a couple of weeks later. She was partially paralyzed and suffering severely. I admit I hastened her end. I had never before purposely taken the life of another animal, but she was in pain, I assuaged myself. Then not long ago, we lost Chocolate Chips to a hawk, our friendliest and most inquisitive of the flock. She was perfectly healthy and all that was happy in the sun and grass. This was the hardest of all and I still miss her every morning. This is life on the family farm. This is the cycle.

So, dear chickens, we are daily participating in that farm cycle that precious few families and livestock experience. Do we take the next step? Do we expand our flock with a heritage breeding program to rescue an endangered breed? If our family is to eat meat, do we do so from chickens that were hatched by chicken mommies instead of electric incubators and allowed to run in the grass and nap in the sun? How do families do this? Not technically (I’ve found that in books), but spiritually, emotionally? How do we explain it to a 3 year old? How do I pluck feathers that I saw moving with breath only minutes ago? How can I not when confronted with agribusiness?

Help. I need advice.

Love,

Mommy

Ps. Perhaps you can tell I’ve been reading Alice Walker’s “The Chicken Chronicles” by the letter format, but forgive me because it feel good to write to you, my dearest chickens.

Garlic Among the Weeds

Planted last autumn, the garlic is currently winning the weeds race, but barely.  I can’t wait to be pulling up the pungent plant rather than the stinky weeds.  Fortunately, my chickens consider the invading species and all the grubs contained within their lacy roots quite the delicacy.  So following that line of thought, I suppose I’ll be enjoying the weeds eventually.

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