LAKE MACBRIDE— There’s a lot of work to do in a summer kitchen. One almost forgets that in addition to preserving the harvest, it is important to cook and eat in harmony with the season’s abundance. Yesterday at the the grocery store there were bags of two large loaves of French bread for sale at $0.99. I bought one, brought it home, sliced and toasted it, and topped each piece of bread with salad dressing, a slice of tomato, salt and pepper. As is said of good and tasty food, Yum!
On Wednesday, we were discussing abundance at the farm. Extra sweet corn, cantaloupe and cabbage were offered, along with small onions, seconds of potatoes and peppers. I took some of each and made a stew for dinner using potatoes, sweet corn, onion, peppers, potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, carrot, celery and home made turnip stock: a fitting side dish for a meal of corn on the cob and sliced tomatoes. The cabbage was made into sauerkraut, and the cantaloupe were some of the best we’ve eaten.
This is not to mention the apples which are falling from the tree at a rate of a peck every hour or so. I got out the juicer and added apple juice to the vinegar jar, and bottled a gallon to drink fresh and add as the cooking liquid for apple butter— all using fallen fruit. There are lots more apples in buckets and bowls, and on the trees, and this is only the first variety.
In a household-based local food system, we are not consumers. We may purchase items in the grocery store and farmers markets, but the act of buying is not what we are about. It is more the act of processing that is central to a home cook’s food system, and it has ramifications that stretch throughout the food supply chain.
Some gardeners and growers are a bit stressed figuring out what to do with the abundance. Because everyone has lots of tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, etc., selling them would be at depressed prices. It is important for a home cook with a local food system to recognize this happens each year and be ready for it. Unlike city dwellers who escape the summer heat, people with home-based local food systems don’t take an August vacation.
When I use the phrase, “local food system,” it is with a micro perspective. Rather than being a socially engineered process, on a grand scale, that competes with the industrial food supply chain, it means how individual kitchens leverage food availability to stock the pantry with ingredients to use all year. It includes some shopping, but more importantly, gardening, cultivating trees, working for food, bartering and foraging. Food preservation includes refrigeration, freezing, canning, dehydrating and if one exists, root cellaring.
This is not a throwback to the invention of the Mason jar, first patented in 1858. It goes much further back to the cultivation of land and domestication of livestock. It is also a statement of how we live in a post-consumer society. The idea is to live well. If we are lucky, and diligent, we can.