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Eastern region blog posts
Eastern region archive

February 2010

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Eastern region bloggers

Tim BairdTim Baird
Carrboro, North Carolina

Born and raised in central Maine, my youth was spent mowing the lawn, kicking a soccer ball against the garage doors, and trying to sneak sugar cereal out of the kitchen cupboards after I was put to bed. More about Tim


Warren JohnstonWarren Johnston
South Royalton, Vermont

I am a baby boomer who grew up in a time when the trend in food was convenience and speed. It wasn't the fast-food era, but a post-World War II time when ... More about Warren


Barbara KattmanBarbara Kattman
Holliston, Massachusetts

We live in Holliston, Massachusetts. When we bought our house in Holliston about 27 years ago, Holliston was a rural/residential town of about 13,000 people. More about Barbara


Autumn LongAutumn Long
Wallace, West Virginia

My name is Autumn. I'm 24 years old, and I live in rural north-central West Virginia. I was born and raised in West Virginia, and in 2005 I graduated from ... More about Autumn


April LuginbuhlApril Luginbuhl
Cleveland, Ohio

My personal interests revolve around the environment, both knowing more about it and getting outside and enjoying my surroundings. This led me down an educational path to ... More about April

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my secret public thoughts on locavore nation

I was in the chair for my biannual cleaning about two weeks ago. The dental hygienist made small talk about the weather and the ensuing holidays. She's much better at this kind of chat than most - pleasant and sincere. She had remembered that my wife and I were in grad school and that my wife studied nutrition. As she prepared her tools and fastened the bib around my neck she asked if I recalled from my previous visit that she had been slated to participate in an academic study of the effect of nutrition and physical activity interventions on weight loss. Studies like these are common at large research universities, especially UNC where the School of Public Health is awash in research funds. I said that I did, which was mostly true. She reminded me that she had been enthusiastic to participate in the study, to help the researchers, and most importantly to lose weight. Six months later, she readily volunteered she had not lost any weight, she had dropped out of the study, and in her mind she had wasted the researchers' time. She said she felt like a failure.

As the last sands of 2008 pass through the glass and I think back on 12 months of locavore nation, I feel that I am more able to relate to the hygienist's story than perhaps I would like.

It is no secret, and certainly no matter of great importance, that I have failed to supply the blog with entries over the last few months. I pledged to eat locally for a year and to blog about the experience and having notched a solid 12 months in only one of these two categories, I am unable to shake the idea that I have failed.

The initiated reader will readily see this as a shameless solicitation for comforting words and impassioned statements to the contrary. I would not struggle to defend myself against these claims, but my whimpering tone here is only partly melodramatic. Indeed, I am proud of my participation in this project and this sentiment is reflected adequately, I believe, in my prior posts and my own expanded sense of myself and my diet. My sense of failure, conversely, is more encompassing than my own seat at the table.

It pleases me to think of myself as a driven individual - someone with mental and physical stamina - someone who can finish the race. And yet my own year-long contribution towards a more sustainable food environment was itself unsustainable and for that I feel... well, unsatisfied.

I applaud those locavores who remained diligent eaters and bloggers. I feel I have earned the right to say that theirs' were extraordinary and perhaps lonely efforts. For my own part, I can only claim membership in the former group. I continued to shop the local even as my income and my free-time were considerably reduced. But ultimately I grew frustrated with the blog. And so, I stopped writing.

Life happened. My work consumed me, the days grew shorter, and as the costs of punching out an entry grew, it seems that the benefits began to shrink.

I started to feel like we were a side-show. Filler for the website and radio show. The link to the locavore site itself became less local, moving steadily south on the Splendid Table homepage as the months went by - buried by other links and other information. The handful of radio minutes dedicated to the project precluded all but the briefest glimpse into the lives of the dedicated bloggers rendering our efforts more cute than compelling. Readership declined. The enthusiastic emails from the project coordinators fell away and the website updates to provide more access to archived entries never materialized. The attention of other media outlets never came. My friends stopped asking. And in my mind I retreated from the front line.

Perhaps my expectations were too high... and certainly my own goals were unclear.

My intent is not to play the role of the victim. Nor do I intend to pull back the curtain to expose the wizard or to absolve myself of my own role. My goal here is to suggest that I was an accomplice in an unrealized opportunity to get the word out... to rise to the promise the project held at its outset ...or perhaps simply to sustain our inspired selves.

My energy was diminished. My local accounting faded. Near the end, I began missing the market and counting the pennies more closely. I might have saved money this year, I don't know. The numbers are around here somewhere - I just don't care right now. I might have used less energy. I might have sustained something. Who knows? I suppose I needed something more. Perhaps a push. Perhaps a break.

Please bear this in mind - I wouldn't have eaten locally for a year but for this project and can confidently say that I would do it all again if I knew the outcome would be the same. I am profoundly grateful for this experience and for those who shared it with me. I have recently thought that a book about this project would be in order. Ultimately, the results of this experiment cannot be fully known until our futures are accounted for, but in the present I would like to go on the record for speaking my mind and taking my own conflicted place for the curtain call.

And so what does it take to eat locally for a year? I would have to say that it takes the enthusiasm of your friends, great farmers and great relationships. It takes money and free time. It takes failing. It takes non-local foods, conversation, debate, and media attention. It takes people caring about it. It takes good soil, a loving spouse, and a great market. It takes good weather and a sense of purpose. It takes a sense of humor. It takes a spice rack, patience and whiskey. It takes a sense that our successes and our failures are at the same time personal and collective - unique and usual. Eating locally takes writing a blog about local food... and it takes not writing a blog about local food. And apparently - it takes a lot more than just these things.

Thanks for reading.


Build momentum in 2009

Locavore isn't always easy. I'm glad I had a chance to be part of this project. Without it I would have used the move and baby as an excuse to just live in the grocery store. Being held accountable helped so much, and I would have missed all the great food NE Ohio has to offer.

That said, starting up a locavore way of life isn't easy if you don't know where to start. I'm certainly not successful at having an 80% local diet when it isn't summer. I was surprised at how low my local eating percentages can be in the winter. But, I also have ways to improve those percentages. For any of you still reading but not really doing, or for those feeling like you can't do 80%, so why bother- I have a 2009 challenge for you. Identify when eating local is hardest for you and why, then work to start over coming it. If it will help, post a comment now of what you want to work towards. Maybe others will have some ideas for you.

For me it is preserving the bounty of summer. I'm starting small, but by this time next year, something from the summer will be preserved and stored in my basement. I also hope to have something to harvest from a veggie garden next year. The plans are already in the works. Take the next few wintry months to make a plan, and then find a way to make that plan happen.

I have made some wonderful community connections through local eating this year. This year, some of my food dollars helped my neighbor food producers, and in this poor economy that is very important to me. May your own locavore adventure lead you to some great community building.
Thank you for reading and Happy New Year,
April


In Retrospect...

2009 is just around the corner, and I don't know what will become of the Splendid Table's Locavore Nation as 2008 comes to an end. So it seems like a good time to look back over this year of locavorism and share what I've learned.

This brings me to my first point: What happened?? When I was approached last year to participate in the Locavore Nation, it sounded like it would be well organized and enthusiastically supported, and would generate a lot of public participation. Fast-forward to a year later, when a few steadfast bloggers are still stubbornly churning out occasional entries despite a steady waning of interest by all (or at least most) involved parties. I've tried to keep up my end of the bargain, but I can't help but feel that I'm often writing just to hear myself talk, so to speak. I wish there would have been better organization and more encouragement and support from the people who created this project in the first place. A great opportunity has been wasted in many ways.

That being said, I do want to recognize the small but dedicated group of people who have been reading, commenting, and interacting with this project throughout the year. I want to thank each of you from my heart. Your comments and questions have challenged, intrigued, and encouraged me whenever I've needed it most. I also want to thank my fellow bloggers for being fascinating human beings. Whether or not you've managed to keep up with the blogging and the local eating this year, I've had a great time reading your posts and learning a bit about each of you. It's encouraging to know that there are so many thoughtful people out there who are willing to step outside their comfort zones in order to try something new. Hopefully we've all learned some things about ourselves and the world in which we live through our participation in this project. I know I have.

A big thank you is in order to everyone who made this project possible. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in something truly worthwhile. I know I just complained about how it's come off, but the bottom line is that I've enjoyed being a locavore blogger. In part because of my participation in the Locavore Nation and my focus this year on local food issues, I'll be pursuing my long-held interests in Appalachian land use patterns and regional agricultural traditions in an academic setting next fall. I'll be heading to graduate school in West Virginia University's Geography Department (ironically, I think a couple of other Locavore bloggers are Geography grad students, too... Spooky!). I hope to play an active role in the growth of local food networks, and I will continue to support the local food movement both personally and professionally.

Thanks for an interesting year, everyone. Happy holidays, and may your new year be the best yet!
Happy local eating,
Autumn


Home Fermenting

One thing we noticed upon moving into the SW Cleveland area was the large quantity of brewpubs. In Columbus, our neighborhood was in a diverse area near the University, which gave us easy access to all sorts of ethnic foods. We lived within walking distance of Thai, Japanese, Indian, and Chinese and a short drive to Indonesian, Ethiopian, and other nationalities of restaurants. When our international friends asked us to take them out for "American" food, like a hamburger, we always drew a blank. We just didn't know of a good local restaurant that showcased American fair.

Our corner of Cleveland however, is heavily populated with brewpubs. Fabulous mac-and-cheeses, great hamburgers, wraps, salads, you name it. It all has a decidedly German and English feel to it, but they are as close to that "American" style our friends asked about as any place I can think of.

One such restaurant is called the Brew Kettle, and they allow you to brew your own beer at their place and bottle it to take it home. Our neighbors do it on a regular basis. That got us thinking, and we are going to try to brew our own hard cider at home. It should take a couple of months and with the local fresh cider and local honey on hand, it will be a locavore delight as well.

Then, in our recent CSA order, we got a cabbage. Since my refrigerator pickles came out so well, I'm trying my hand at sauerkraut. While the cider won't be ready by then, I'm planning a 100% local, New Year's meal. Homemade sauerkraut, local sausages, CSA mashed potatoes, and whatever veggie we get in the December CSA box (I'm guessing squash). That will be a great way to start 2009.


Ajvar Recipe

Okay kiddos, here is the recipe for homemade ajvar! I've basically just cut and pasted the recipe directly as my friend sent it to me.

Ingredients:

100 peppers
14 oz oil
2-3 tablespoons wine vinegar (you can substitute other types of vinegar)
salt to taste


Preparation:

Rinse, dry and roast batches of peppers in the oven on a baking sheet at 450-500F. Make sure to turn them a couple of times, so that each one gets cooked all the way through. Place each roasted batch of peppers in a large pot or container with lid. Close the container tightly as soon as you put the peppers inside. (The purpose of this is to make the peppers' skins and seeds easier to peel, as they will steam themselves inside the container.)

Once the peppers cool off, peel their skins and seed them thoroughly. Put the peppers into a colander, so the excess juice can begin to drain. Next, as there is still a lot of juice, put the peppers into a sack or bag (we use a potato bag from the market) [note from Autumn: cheesecloth would work for this], and hang the bag to drip overnight. Draining the peppers overnight will shorten the cooking process, as there will be less liquid to evaporate.

The next day, the peppers should be ground using a manual meat grinder. [Note from Autumn: a food processor would probably work for this step]

As you grind the peppers, put them in a large pot that you'll use for cooking. (If you make huge amounts like us, our pot has a 2-foot diameter and is very deep.) The pot should be greased with a bit of oil. The 14 oz of oil should be heated almost to boiling and poured over the peppers. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes with the lid on the pot. After that, put the pot on the stove/fire and start cooking. Salt to taste should be added as you cook. (Make sure to cool off the samples you'll taste to see if it's salty enough.) Ajvar is traditionally cooked at a high temperature while stirring non-stop, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. It's usually made by a bunch of friends and family together (while sipping on some rakija - homemade plum brandy - and eating some smoked meat). It takes about 2.5 hours after it begins to boil for ajvar to cook down. For stirring, we use a long wooden spoon (it looks more like a wide stick than a spoon) with a flat bottom. A sign that the ajvar is thick enough is having a "clear track/path" as you scrape the spoon along the bottom of the pot.

When the ajvar is done, add vinegar, stir well, and put into hot, sterilized jars. (We heat the jars for 30 minutes in a 200F oven.) Use a small spoon to push the ajvar to the bottoms of the jars, pressing out any air bubbles. Leave about a half-inch of head space at the top of each jar. Put the jars back in the 200F oven for another 2 hours WITHOUT placing lids on the jars. Take them out and put the lids on, then cover the jars with a cloth/blanket until the next day. Store the ajvar in a dark, dry place. And, yes, please eat! After a three-day ordeal (which can be quite entertaining, if you are in good company), it's worth it!

NOTE: you may add some roasted eggplants with the peppers. The procedure is the same: roast the eggplants, peel off the skins and hard parts, and grind them with the peppers. Don't add too many, so that the ajvar keeps its red color.


Thank you so much, Irena, for sharing this traditional Serbian ajvar recipe with us! If anyone has questions about this recipe, please post them as comments to this post.


Venison

'Tis the season for deer hunting in West Virginia, a time of year that causes unparalleled excitement for many residents of my home state. The back roads are lined with pickup trucks, and the hills echo with gunshots. For better or worse, more folks get out in the woods during deer season than at any other time of year. My father and grandfather have spent several days hunting on my parents' property, with nothing to show for it so far. A couple of neighbors have hunted on our property, also with no luck.

Yet, happily, even for folks such as my husband and me, who love to eat venison but who haven't actively engaged in the hunt, deer season can bring great rewards. Every year, we are offered at least one deer by neighbors who have good luck in the field. Such was this case on Monday, when our nearest neighbor down the road called to offer us the fourth deer his son had shot in the past week. It already had been skinned, hung to cure for several days, and conveniently cut into thirds (front, middle, and back) by our kind and helpful neighbor. Dan and I spent the last two evenings processing the meat.

This was the first time I had butchered a deer myself, rather than just assisting my dad in the process. For amateurs, I think we did a pretty good job. I only cut myself once and successfully carved several good-sized roasts (from the hind legs and tenderloins). We ground most of the rest of the venison together with lard from our pig. We'd set aside some lard for just this purpose when we butchered the pig back in October. We seasoned the majority of the ground venison mixture (about 15 pounds in all) for sausage, which a taste-test confirmed to be extremely yummy. We have soooo much (homemade) sausage now, of both the pork and venison varieties. Yay! Soon we'll be getting a side of beef. I hope we can make enough room in the freezer.


Ajvar, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

My totally awesome friend who hails from the former Yugoslavia (and now lives in Seattle) sent me a fabulous care package of homemade ajvar! When I saw the return address on the package, I said, "Ooh, I hope it's ajvar!" And my wish came true. I cracked open a jar immediately and had to stop myself from eating the entire thing.

If you have never tried this stuff, honey, you just haven't lived. Ajvar is a smooth, thick, roasted red pepper relish. It is very popular in the Balkans, and for good reason: It's hands-down delicious! I love ajvar with cheese and crackers, and on sandwiches. It's around this time in late fall/early winter that my lunches start to get boring, with no fresh tomatoes or garden veggies to dress up sandwiches. The ajvar arrived just in time to enliven my workday lunches.

My friend's family made this ajvar with Anaheim peppers, which are mildly spicy and add just the right amount of heat. I have requested the recipe, and when I get it, I will share it if anyone is interested. My friend also sent me several dried whole Anaheim peppers, which are gorgeous, long and bright red. I will try to germinate their seeds next spring to grow my own Anaheims. Hopefully I will be able to make my very own ajvar in 2009. I will
need to make gallons of it, at the pace this batch is disappearing.


Everyone wants to feed a baby- locally

I'm learning that one of the important ways loved ones want to relate to a baby is through food. I've been breastfeeding, and as a stay at home mom, have not needed to give the baby even bottles of breast milk very often. He's just over 5 months old now, and will be trying solid foods just after Thanksgiving. I've found that everyone is thrilled by this and can tell they've been waiting for any opportunity to help feed him. Being denied the opportunity to feed him with a bottle, they are now eager to feed him, and a lot of that food comes from their gardens.

His grandma and great grandma have supplied apples and the time and effort to make applesauce. His Great Aunt has talked about the squash and potatoes she'll have for him at Christmas, some of it local, some of it probably not, but strait from the table none the less. We want to feed him from our table as much as possible- we have a food mill and plan on using it! It is so sweet to watch the family think about feeding him, and apparently without much thought on this point, to feed him with their own, home-grown foods and foods from their own tables.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving everyone! I hope it is joyful, and deliciously local.


Firing Up the Oven

There's snow on the ground and fire in the woodstove: Now is the time for baking! We've been celebrating the return of baked goods with excitement and glee. Our wood-fired oven makes for very seasonal eating in our household: In hot weather we cook on a propane stove, which is great for all types of stovetop cooking as well as canning and preserving; and on long, sunny summer days we use a solar oven for tasks such as roasting meat, heating water, and drying herbs. But warm weather provides no inclination to fire up the woodstove, and therefore no baking.

Once the mercury starts dropping, though, it's a different story. Since cooler weather has arrived this fall, we've enjoyed the return of Dan's mouth-watering pizzas as well as baked desserts. It was a windfall year for pears, and a friend gave me a big box of tasty little pears last week. I used some of them to make a pear/cranberry custard pie (the cranberries were handpicked by our cousin). I also created a really simple and delicious roasted root vegetable dish that likely will become a new winter favorite.

First, I browned some of our homemade country sausage in a skillet. Then I cut half a butternut squash, several potatoes and sweet potatoes, a large onion, and a couple of apples into bite-sized chunks. I tossed the veggies together in a baking dish with the sausage, several whole garlic cloves, salt & pepper, and lots of fresh thyme, rosemary, and oregano. I covered the dish and baked it in a 350-degree oven until the veggies were soft but not too soft. It's pure comfort food, and 100% local, babies!

I'm looking forward to contributing some yummy baked goods to my family's Thanksgiving feast next week. I love Thanksgiving! You know what else I love? I love the fact that Dan is making pizzas for dinner tonight. What a man!


Last bit of seasonal veggies

This week is the first of two Holiday Fresh pick ups. Our CSA has pick ups right before Thanksgiving and December holidays. I cannot wait for the veggies! This last month without a weekly infusion of fresh veggies has gotten me down.

I did successfully pickle some cucumbers and have recently started eating them. We did a refrigerator pickle recipe that I sort of made up. It involved both cider vinegar and dill, but the end result was nice. The experiment with pickles, along with our current poor storage arrangement of root veggies has renewed our desires to utilize our basement for food storage. I think sorting out bulk food storage will be a good post-holiday project for us. Food storage, like the garden, is just going to have to be a long-term goal. But once we get it in place our local food consumption can be high in the fall and winter, just like in summer!

Since this winter will be a time of planing for us, do any of you have unique or clever food storage techniques to share?