Back to food

Occasionally, I forget about food.  Sure, I eat (well, mostly, anyway – I find it harder to get myself to eat when things are nuts).  But sometimes when things get busy, or hectic, or stressful, I start to lose sight of the importance that I think food should play in my life.  When this happens, I reduce or even stop cooking.  I don’t store or preserve food.  I don’t make it to the farmers’ market.

I’ve been feeling like this recently – rather unmotivated, and inclined to let things slide.  But (and this is a big but)…food is important for health.  It’s fundamental to community and to culture.  And it’s especially important to be careful with what we have now and to make sure that we’re able to feed ourselves adequately in the future.

Today, I’m spending a good bit of the day focused on food, both to actually do something productive, but also to remind myself of why this is important and how much I enjoy doing it.  Thus far, I have:

  • Biked to a local cafe that sells kombucha mothers to buy a new one (half the price of the last place I bought one!)
  • Brewed sweet tea with which to make kombucha
  • Picked up a gallon jar at the thrift store for storing food (I much prefer glass to plastic, and finding large containers for cheap is always a challenge)
  • Stopped on the way home to forage for garlic in the park across the street
  • Separated out the garlic flowers to use for cooking
  • Set out the small foraged garlic bulbs to dry off
  • Cleaned the cultivated garlic given to me by a friend’s mother
  • Made garlic scape pesto

But why stop there?  I have a few other things that I’d like to get taken care of.  Truthfully, I have a whole mess of frozen cranberries, strawberries, and rhubarb that are supposed to become jelly and jam, but I’m not sure that I’m up for water bath canning today (or that the kitchen is anywhere near clean enough for that kind of endeavour).  Instead, I’m hoping to:

  • Finish a few rounds of dishes so I can actually cook something later
  • Clean off (and clean) the kitchen counters and the cutting board
  • Figure out if the new cart/island that I have my eye on will fit where I want it to in the kitchen (always a challenge)
  • Start planning how to reorganize the pantry and my food storage, and decide what should stay in the kitchen and what can go to the cupboard

Few things feel as productive to me as dealing with food, or the places where I prepare and store food.  I enjoy a lot of elements of my job, and I feel good when projects are done, but there’s something deeply satisfying and grounding about cooking a good meal, putting food away neatly in the fridge or cupboard, or making something to store away for later.  Even though I sometimes falter and wind up a bit of a ways off the path, I always seem to come back to food in the end.

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Fermented beets

I’m just getting into fermentation, but I’m already a big fan.  I’d never much liked pickles until I tasted a proper full sour, and realised that it was pickles treated with vinegar that I didn’t like so much.  The flavours are better, and because they’re rich in probiotics, they’re a lot healthier.  I’ve just finished reading Wild Fermentation, which has a lot of great ideas (including the recipe on which I based yesterday’s beets), and I’m looking forward to additional inspiration from The Art of Fermentation.  It takes a bit of practice to make sure that the taste and texture are all there, but it’s surprisingly easy, and something that humans have been doing for ages.  It’s nice to produce something that is healthy, tasty, and deeply rooted in human history and cultural tradition.

Last night, in an effort to step up my food preparation a bit more, I got some fermented beets started.  These were leftovers from a farmers’ market purchase – I’d actually used some already and forgotten about it, and so once I got them chopped up and peeled, they made less than I thought they would.  I’m hoping to buy some more this week, though, and get another batch started (this time with some extra spices).

The recipe – such as it is – is pretty simple: a bunch of peeled and sliced beets (I had a pound and half) and some salt (I used just over a tablespoon of uniodized sea salt).  As I sliced the beets I put them in a bowl and layered them with the salt to draw out some of their liquid and help make a brine.  When I was done, they went into a clean glass jar.  They didn’t produce a lot of their own brine, so I topped them off with another tablespoon of salt mixed into a cup of water.  I put another canning jar on top as a weight, and now all I need to do is wait for them to ferment. I can’t wait to taste them, and to see how things turn out.