feasting and foraging

10Nov09

(photo via Miss Manitach)

There are countless indepth blogs about food, in every direction, of course, but my life has been intersecting with food in new ways lately, so I thought I’d slip a post in.  The trouble is, the more I think about food, the more there is to think about.

A week or so ago, I was treated to not one, but two extravagant dinners that certainly jumped the usual pattern of our lives.  At this point, because of budget and pragmatics, we rarely splurge on amazing meals out– something that both Zack and I have a confessed weakness for.  (If you’ve ever taken small children to restaurants, or arranged babysitters for bedtime, you know the drawbacks begin to outweigh the benefits.)  Instead, Zack has been making the lion’s share of our dinners at home (and they’re fantastic…more on this in a minute).  So when Joey Veltkamp invited me to be an artist at the second New Guard dinner, I was pleased as punch (how pleased is Punch?) to say yes, and to take food-lover Zack along on the day after his birthday.  The entire event was so magical– a candle-fire lit room above bustling Pike street, lots of wine and great conversation with people who began the night as strangers, a stunning array of dishes rolled out by Eliot Guthrie family style, and the crooning of Kate Tucker.  The very next night held another birthday gift for Zack; my parents took us to a dinner inspired by the wines of local boutique winery William Church, designed by culinary arts faculty and students at Lake Washington Technical College, where my mom is an administrator and teacher.  The atmosphere was more pedestrian than the New Guard, but the tears shining in the corners of students’ eyes as they were given a standing ovation for the meal were priceless.  Having the winemakers in attendance, and providing introductions for each wine, was a great treat as well.

Every culture seems to know that celebration works best with food.  But what of the every day?  As we sat down to dinner the other night, my oldest son told us he just wanted to smell the piece of pizza that had just been set in front of him.  Zack had made pizza dough out of a no-knead sourdough bread recipe, and topped it with potatoes, greens, carmelized onions and cheese, and it was, truly, a beautiful fragrance and sight.  We talked about how cool food is– that it’s a treat for your sense of taste, but also your senses of smell and sight and touch.  To top it all, eating can be a profoundly social act, a real love gift, which is something we experience almost every day from Zack’s hands.  Left to my own devices, even though I’m a devoted appreciator of food, I can slip into a more pragmatic habit, thawing frozen edamame and chomping leftover peanut butter and jelly crusts just to get some protein in and get on with the day.

Another side of things that is revolutionizing my idea of food is the benefit of local ingredients.  It’s one of those topics that is an obvious “ought to” when you think about the transportation of food from all over the earth in terms of carbon footprint.  But there are so many “ought to”s in our lives that we can’t keep up with them.  This summer, we signed up for a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) share, and just totally got spoiled by beautiful, fresh local vegetables fruits and herbs.  My guilty conscience has turned into a strong preference for food that is seasonal and freshly picked.  It’s no accident that we have to eat living things to keep living– a constant shift of life source from one creature to another.  Even vegans take in the life of plants to support their own lives.  And the closer we can get to the healthy living thing, the better.  We have a few boxes of greens planted outside our back door, and I love taking a leaf right off of a plant and eating it.  I swear its goodness is mainlined to my system.  Talk about local.  And then there’s Zack’s new obsession with foraging… but I’m already long-winded on a topic that others are far more eloquently covering.

(I’ve realized lately, with some sheepishness, that I’m not a purist… on almost anything, actually… but I love when logic and wisdom intersect with a life lived, and I’m always in pursuit of that type of inspiration.  I guess I’m much better at acting out of convictions that are rooted in actualities than cerebral suggestions or guilt-induced resolutions for right-living.)

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3 Responses to “feasting and foraging”

  1. 1 Karen, the Small Town Runner

    My blog, which I originally started just to get back into the habit of writing, has become more and more about food. I suppose that’s somewhat to be expected when one considers who my husband is. I agree with you on fresh, local food. I definitely prefer it. But when December comes, I still get a hankering for something green, and fresh local green vegetables are hard to come by that time of year. Some day I hope to garden and can/freeze my own produce, so at least I will have the local part taken care of.

    • We were actually talking about this last night– the difference of living in a colder zone, where fresh green stuff takes a hiatus. Zack comes from farmers on one side, and they can and preserve like crazy throughout the summer so that they can eat garden food through the winter. It hadn’t occurred to me that it’s a pre-industrial method for stretching food through the cold months (I know… I’m dense). But I would feel the same way as you.

  2. 3 cris

    There’s always those dark greens. After 2 years of trying, I’m finally learning how to be more creative with kale and chard…and even sneak them into some soups my kids like.
    I love how my body has gotten use to the rhythms of the seasons–bright veggies and berries in the summer, then tucking inside for winter squash, leeks, pears and apples as fall comes.

    I spent a summer in Uzbekistan over 10 years ago and remember feeling frustrated that they seemed to eat the same dish all the time. Now I feel a bit ashamed of my own lack of understanding about what it means to eat locally and seasonally, because I didn’t have any concept of their lack of access to the amazing (and bizarre) assortment of food we can find in Western stores. I now have a deeper appreciation for the way they worked with what they had on hand.


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