DH is away to give a talk and I’m alone with Amie, who caught a stomach bug on Thursday and is still not recovered – the hot and humid weather isn’t helping much. When she’s not sleeping she is glued to me, so I haven’t managed and probably won’t manage to prepare a OLS meal this week.

Amie’s stubborn bug and my hard work on The Potboiler have thrown off my blogging. I have so many drafts of entries lined up, but I can’t seem to finish them.

I spent too many, many hours putting together A Story of our Friendship photo album for our best friend and maid-of-honor and godmother to Amie, in Shutterfly (a very clumsy program, to say the least – no undo button! – and I am curious to see the printed end result).

I’m also reading too many books at the same time:  all the reserach for The Potboiler plus Home Ground (Barry Lopez, editor) and Lucila Perillo’ s I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing, among others, for reviewing for Suite101. I received my first Mother Earth issue in the mail, which gave me a wonderful feeling of connection with a community. Lovely. Soon the new Orion will arrive in the mail as well, and it will have to be devoured instantly, each and every letter of it! And of course I am still working on Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – though I shouldn’t call what I am doing with it “working” without immediately explaining that “work” for me means fun and enrichment. What a book! More on all that later…

Later, later…

Let’s first recover from the stomach bug and the heat and humidity and because of that a yucky, smelly basement (i.e., our house). I might cave and buy a dehumidifier. Ugh.

  • Oh Potato!

There were potatoes at the Farmer’s Market this week, at just one of the dozen Farm stands but I got to them before they sold out. M-mm!

So we had, all grilled (on charcoal grill) by DH:

dinner OLS no.4 -(c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  1. potatoes from Middle Earth Farm from Amesbury, Mass (50 miles as the truck drives)
  2. summer squash and zucchini from Enterprise Farm, in Whately, Mass (111 miles, as the truck drives – less than 100 miles as the crow flies)
  3. NY sirloin from River Rock Farm in Brimfield, MA (63 miles)
  4. salt, pepper, olive oil: not local
  • Oh Peaches!

The Farmer’s Market also featured two buckets of peaches. Two! I didn’t show up half an hour before “the bell” for nothing!

I never buy the organic blueberries – they’re too pricey – but Kimball’s Fruit Farm is a Low Pesticide Spray farm.

So dessert was:

photo dessert blueberries peaches (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  1. peaches from Dick’s Market Garden in Lunenburg, Mass (50.9 miles as their truck drives)
  2. blueberries from the Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, Mass (47 miles)
  • Attentive eating

I don’t think I’ve ever eaten better in my life. “Better” in the sense of healthier and tastier, but also in the sense of “with more taste,” on my part, that is. I mean, I eat with more attention and appreciation. The potatoes and the peaches were so special because I have been doing without for so long.

Thanks, Liz, for this initiative! Without One Local Summer I never would have appreciated the exceptional quality of local food in season!

“Happy” has been a favorite icon of Amie’s since she was very young. At 16 months,  she was always drawing “happy” – the feeling, we presumed. Later “Happy” became a happy face: a simple circle including points for eyes, short lines for eyebrows and nose, and a curve for a smiling mouth.

As I reported in Drawing As It Develops, Amie had a short phase of naming her drawings and making an effort to represent something by them (airplanes!), but then she lost interest, mainly because she turned to color and, most recently, coloring (Maisy, only Maisy).

So I was surprised this morning, when on her way out she quickly sat down at her drawing table, grabbed a crayon, and very deliberately drew a circle. her nose was nearly touching the paper as she very carefully traced it and put down a nose, an eye and a mouth!

- “I drew Happy!” she announced. “I made a circle and Happy!”

When I looked, there it was, in the upper left corner, above Maisy’s ear: Happy!

Amie

I can’t wait to see what will happen next!

dish: Eggs, summer squash, red chard, mushrooms, onions (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Yesterday it was just Amie and I – DH was out, playing a softball game. So dinner had to be cooked fast and easy. What I came up with was tasty and creamy, healthy and local, and ready in 15 minutes. So I thought you might want me to share the recipe.

  • You need
  1. 1 small onion, chopped
  2. one bunch of red chard, shredded
  3. 1 summer squash, chopped
  4. six or seven button mushrooms, chopped
  5. 6 small eggs, beaten
  6. little bit of cold milk (optional)
  • Instructions
  1. wash, shred and steam the chard in steamer or microwave, remove and chop up further (to bitesize)
  2. in skillet, on medium to high heat, sautee onion in oil
  3. add salt, pepper and nutmeg (the only non-local ingredients)
  4. after a minute add squash
  5. add mushrooms and steamed chard last – keep the juice from the chard and put it in the freezer to cool down fast
  6. sautee all on medium to high heat until onion is just a little bit burnt, squash cubes are browned by still crunchy, and mushrooms are only just cooked through and are starting to release their juices, remove from heat
  7. beat eggs in large bowl
  8. add sauteed veggies to the eggs in the bowl (not the other way around!), stir until all is coated with egg (egg will already cook a bit)
  9. put some more oil in the skillet and reheat briefly on medium heat
  10. pour the egg-veggie mix into the skillet
  11. scramble until the eggs is just cooked enough. Immediately stir in the cold milk or the cooled chard juice and move out of the pan onto a plate (this will stop the eggs from cooking further and hardening)
  12. Enjoy with a piece of bread or some rice.

Logo of Suite101.com 

I just published a review of Najmieh Batmanglij’s wonderful cookbook, Silk Road Cooking. A Vegetarian Journey on Suite101.com. You can read it here.

cover of Batmanglij Silk Road Cooking, Mage Publishers

It did occur to me that the Silk Road and many of the other ancient trade routes that Batmanglij travels in this book are about as non-local as you can get! How does this fit with One Local Summer, for instance?

Well, I’ve found that most of the ingredients used in the recipes are grown locally: eggs, spinach, cauliflower, squash, honey, apples… Even many of the spices are or can be grown here (saffron might be a problem). The only major trouble is the rice.

So – surprise! – you don’t need to live in Turkey, Iran, India or China to enjoy these recipes locally! This is a relief to me, because I adore this book, for all the reasons elaborated in the review.

I had a discussion today with my upstairs neighbor this morning. She leaves her airconditioners on, all of them, all day and night, even while she’s at work. One of them is very noisy and makes the doorknobs in our bedroom vibrate. I met her in the hallway and addressed the problem (again). She was very defensive, which is not new, but in a (for her) novel way. She said:

- “I can run my airconditioners whenever I want!”

I said she could, it’s her electricity bill, and was going to reiterate my real complaint (about the noise), when suddenly I realized that, no, this time I won’t shut up! So I added:

- “Still, don’t you feel bad about wasting fossil fuels and polluting the environment? What about your grandson? I am always thinking of Amie’s future. I am sure you think of his future too. I know you’re very fond of him.”

This rambling and pacifying tone is typical me: I can’t bear confrontation, and my neighbor can be very rude and aggressive (verbally), so I was extra careful.

- “Those will be their problems, not mine,” she stated, stomped off, and slammed her door. 

Then followed the brilliant insight, the stroke of argumentative and rhetorical genius, the absolutely withering reparte:

- ”How about this: in 50 years time, when water and food and fuel are rationed, your grand and great-grandchildren are allocated less than others, because their grandmother was so wasteful.”

She answers:

- “It would be totally unfair to punish my grandchildren because of my behavior!”

Me:

- “Oh really?!”

(Again she stomps off, but after her slamming her door, she thinks about this, and within 10 minutes I can hear she has turned off her airconditioners. Then she calls me up to suggest the condo step up the recycling and install a compost bin…)

photograph of grandparents (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

These are my dad’s parents, taken in 1999 at a typical family meal in summer. For me, the picture crystallizes “family”: the shared food, cooked by my grandmother (who was a great cook), the shared wine (note the three bottles!), selected by my grandfather, the unseen but imagined presence of many family members around the table, the slanting sun, the old cherry tree… 

I wasn’t present at that gathering, I was already living in Boston and we coulnd’t afford to fly over very often. Most of my family lives in Belgium (Ghent and Antwerp, two cities that are half an hour’s drive away from one another). Two of my uncles emigrated decades ago and live in Toronto and in Taiwan, and one of my nephews lives in Barcelona, Spain.

My grandmother passed away two weeks ago. Everyone flew in to Ghent for the funeral and to support my grandfather. It was too difficult and expensive for us. That Friday of the funeral was a very strange day for me. Knowing that everyone was gathered there, except for us, and my grandmother, gave me a bizarre feeling of solidarity with my grandmother: we were both absent in person, though, I hope, present in spirit.

I wrote a while ago about the importance of family, especially of grandparents, for raising children and ourselves, and the appeal of a family more extended than our present, very nuclear family. That week after my grandmother’s passing, that message was made crystal clear to me.

In the meantime, however, we’ve realized that we cannot afford to buy a bigger house, even one in the country. The dream of an extended family will have to be put on hold for a while longer…

Ah, my apologies for being late! Due to unforeseen but lovely circumstances, we went out to dinner with friends the last couple of days, so I had to postpone our One Local Summer dinner until today. It was worth the wait, though (for us at least).

  • Simply salad

photo of salad for Onel Local Summer # 3 - (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Very simple:

  1. lettuce purchased at Drumlin Farm (where I will soon be working as an agricultural volunteer!), in Lincoln, Mass (17.9 miles as my car drives)
  2. tomatoes bought at Brookline Farmer’s Market (a 5-minute walk) from Dick’s Market Garden in Lunenburg, Mass (50.9 miles as their truck drives)
  3. garlic and herb goat cheese bought at Brookline Farmer’s Market from Capri from Westfield Farm in Hubbardston, Mass (64 miles as their truck drives)
  • Sirloin steak

photo of NY sirloin steak (cooked) for One Local Summer #3 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

The steak this time was again excellent and excellently cooked too, by DH. We get small pieces, this one was a little under a quarter of a pound, for the two of us. It’s all we need, really, or rather: a luxury even in such a “small” portion (“small” by American standards). We appreciate it all the more because it doesn’t seem to go on endlessly, like it does in many restaurants. It’s also darn expensive.

  1. NY sirloin bought at the Farmer’s Market from River Rock Farm in Brimfield, MA (63 miles)
  2. salt, pepper: not local
  3. butter was bought at Whole Foods but still local – though not in-state: it was Kate’s Butter from Old Orchard Beach in Maine (still only 100 miles away!)
  • Side dish: squash and bell pepper

Photo of squash and bell pepper dish for One Local Summer, #3 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

This was simple again but lovely and very refreshing on this hoy and humid summer’s day.

  1. bell peppers from Drumlin Farm (where I will soon be working as an agricultural volunteer!), in Lincoln, Mass (17.9 miles as my car drives)
  2. summer squash from the same place
  3. garlic bought at Farmer’s Market and were trucked there from the fields of the Enterprise Farm, in Whately, Mass (111 miles, as the truck drives – less than 100 miles as the crow flies)
  4. red onions bought at Brookline Farmer’s Market from Dick’s Market Garden in Lunenburg, Mass (50.9 miles as their truck drives)
  5. salt, pepper not local
  6. butter: Kate’s (100 miles)
  • Side dish: Swiss chard with tomatoes

photo of chard and tomatoes for One Local Summer #3 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Another simple and quickly prepared dish. 

  1. tomatoes from Farmer’s Market from Dick’s Market Garden in Lunenburg, Mass (50.9 miles as their truck drives)
  2. red onions bought at Farmer’s Market from Dick’s Market Garden in Lunenburg, Mass (50.9 miles as their truck drives)
  3. garlic at Farmer’s Market from Enterprise Farm, in Whately, Mass (111 miles, as the truck drives)
  4. salt, pepper not local
  5. butter: Kate’s (100 miles)
  • Dessert

I guess you can see a pattern now, with the desserts: they are always just one or two ingredients. The fruits in summer are just so fresh and sweet, I don’t think they need any elaboration with sugars or flours.  Also, as you may have guessed, I am not much of a baker. I’m going to do something about that soon. But for now:

photo of blueberries for One Local Summer #3 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  1. Blueberries bought at our Farmer’s Market from Enterprise Farm, in Whately, Mass (111 miles, as the truck drives)
  • How is it going?

Good, great! We’re not starving, quite the contrary. But I can’t wait for the potato harvest! I try to stick to the local eating more of the week, and potatoes – my staple, my favorite, the only thing I can cook in so many different and all of them delicious ways – is one of the crops I’ve avoided buying non-locally. I guess because they are so heavy and take up so much space on the trucks/trains/planes that would have to cart them over to my local store.

I popped by the Blue Heron Organic Farm in Lincoln (right around the corner from Drumlin) and they promised potatoes next week! At all the farmstands at the Farmer’s Market, however, the farmers laughed at my impatience and said I’ll have to wait another month, if not longer. That’s interesting. I’ll be sure to go by Blue Heron and check out their harvest!

color photograph of dinner OLS 2 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

It’s only week 2 of One Local Summer – which now has its own website! – and I already feel the impact of seasonal eating: no more asparagus, and no potatoes and onions yet. But there are still heaps of leafy greens in their prime, juicy young garlic and garlic scapes, and the newly arrived raspberries.

This week’s local dinner consisted of:

  • Salad: squash, tomato, cucumber and goat cheese

color photograph of cucumber-tomatoe-squash salad (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  1. the cucumber, squash and garlic scapes were bought at the Brookline Farmer’s Market (walked there) and were trucked there from the fields of the Enterprise Farm, in Whately, Mass (111 miles, as the truck drives – less than 100 miles as the crow flies)
  2. cilantro from my potted herb garden (0 miles)
  3. garlic and herb goat cheese are Capri from Westfield Farm in Hubbardston, Mass (64 miles as the truck drives)
  • Staple: focaccia

color photograph of focacio (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

The focaccia was bought at the Farmer’s Market from Clear Flour Bread, but it was made with non-local ingredients.

  •  Veggies: collard, kale and zucchini

color photograph of collard, kale, zucchini (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  1. the kale, collard greens, zucchini, garlic and garlic scapes were also bought at my Farmer’s Market and also at the farmstand (my favorite) of Enterprise Farm, in Whately, Mass (111 truck miles)
  2. the tomatoes are hydroponics bought at Whole Foods, but nevertheless local: from Water Fresh Harvest in Hopkinton, Mass (33 miles)
  3. herbs (oregano, cilantro, dill) from the herb garden (0 miles)
  4. butter was bought at Whole Foods but still local – though not in-state: it was Kate’s Butter from Old Orchard Beach in Maine (still only 100 miles away!)
  5. salt and pepper not local
  •  Meat: chuck eye steak

color photograph of steak (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Yes, there was meat, and I ate it! Though my husband cooked it, really well too. It is naturally raised and 12-28 days aged beef. Wow, was it good.

It was my first meat in over a year. I thought hard about my reasons for not eating meat, and I decided that humanely, naturally and locally raised meat falls outside of those reasons. I’ll write more about this later.

  1. steak bought at the Farmer’s Market from River Rock Farm in Brimfield, MA (63 miles)
  2. butter: Kate’s (100 miles)
  3. salt and pepper not local
  • Dessert: strawberries and raspberries

color photograph of strawberries and raspberries (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  1. the strawberries were bought at Allandale Farm (3.5 miles from my house – we drove) and are “very local,” though the shopkeeper couldn’t quite say wherefrom exactly
  2. raspberries are from Enterprise Farm in Whately (111 miles)
  •  How did I do?

I did better than last week, if I may say so myself!

I broke out of my old Farmer’s Market mold, which used to cover only veggies, fruits and herbs. This time I also got meat and goat cheese, two food items I will now no longer buy at Whole Foods. Did I tell you how very very good that goat cheese was? Wait, let me show you again:

color photograph of goat cheese cucumber squash tomato salad (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Over the weekend we visited Allandale Farm – the even more local alternative to the Farmer’s Market – but their offering isn’t very large yet. Will go back there later, though.

I bought some ingredients for this meal at Whole Foods. I am not against shopping there – indeed, it’s a necessity for many non-food and dry-foods items – and I made sure I got their local produce and butter. Still, another point of eating locally (for me) is to buy as directly as possible from the farmer, so that he/she gets the biggest share of the food-dollar. Our Farmer’s Market doesn’t offer butter, but I could investigate a more direct local source of it. As for the tomatoes: they’ll be at the Market soon.

  • Grains, pasta, rice, corn, and beans?

I’ve been following other One Local Summer participants and grains, pasta, rice, corn and beans seem to be the Achilles heel of Local Eating in many parts of the States.

I was happy to see, in Liz’s posting about her garden, that she is growing corn, for cornmeal. But what about bread, and pasta? Is it possible for a homesteader to grow enough wheat, let’s say, for his/her family? I haven’t seen (m)any online homesteaders do it…

And what about beans and rice, here in the North East?

  • Next week

Yoghurt! I’m going to “grow” my own yoghurt!