Food and People

Two hungry, expectant boys.

What is food without the people with whom we share it? Not to say that I don’t enjoy my quiet, solitary lunches at home but really, food is mostly interesting and worth talking about and most enjoyable because of the people around the table, or the people who helped make it (often the same crew) or grow it.

We attended the bar mitzvah of a good friend recently. During the ceremony his father told about how come dinner time he often says to his parents: “Who’s coming to dinner?” and if no one is he  says, “Well let’s call someone!”

So as our dinners on the porch come to an end for this year and we see a bit less of our passing neighbors and friends who come up for a taste or a sip of something I want to make sure I keep the conviviality, the community around food going all fall and winter. We have so much to share and my guess is we will all be healthier and happier if we eat together as much as possible.

And I don’t mean in the dinner party vein–though those are wonderful too–I mean in the throw another couple of eggs in the frittata vein and toast an extra slice of bread. Fancy is not a factor here.

Happy cooking and eating and I’ll be back with a recipe next week!

P.S. What are your favorite soups? I’m in soup class development mode and while I already have enough candidates to fill several class menus I always am interested in other people’s old and new favorites.

And finally. . .  a few shots from this summer.

Feeding lots of people!

Summer dinner at the beach.

Ellis fishing for crawdads on the Nehalem River. We did catch one but not with that "pole"!

Food & Community

Chard and garlic in my back yard garden

I tend to mention farmers’ markets in every other blog- or facebook post. Now it’s time to talk about CSA’s – Community Supported Agriculture. My CSA share will be starting in a few weeks and some in the area are already up and running and a few even go year-round. I can’t wait for mine to start. It’s like Christmas every week.

CSA is a farming operation which gives the farmer much needed cash at the beginning of the season when folks sign up and pay for a share of the harvest (produce, herbs, eggs, flowers, etc.) throughout the growing season, and subscribers get a box of whatever is at its peak every week. For all the details on CSAs and a comprehensive list of all the choices check out the Portland Area CSA Coaltion (PACSAC).

I love CSAs for a variety of reasons (in random order): 1) I love the surprise and beauty of opening that box every week and seeing my “treasure.” 2) I love not thinking about what to buy. 3) The CSA model fits perfectly with my cook-with-what-you-have strategy and in fact helped inspire this way of cooking. 4) The quality is unsurpassed since it is always the freshest most perfectly ripe items. 5) I actually spend less on produce when I have my CSA since I go to the farmers’ markets just to supplement with berries, etc. (since I can’t stay away from the markets even if I have plenty of produce at home!). 6) I feel connected to that farm, the crops/varieties,  people, weather challenges, etc. in a more intimate way.

Ornamental strawberries in my back yard

If not knowing what produce you’re going to get every week makes you nervous instead of happy then farmers’ markets might be a good bet. However, there are also good ways to slowly work your way into CSAs if the model, convenience, price point, idea, etc. appeals to you. It’s easier to pick up a box or have it delivered than make your way to a market sometimes (although there are so many markets now that it’s awfully convenient too). You can begin by splitting a share with a neighbor or friend. That way you won’t be overwhelmed with produce and can get in the swing of things and build your confidence and skills in cooking that way (by taking classes from me, among other things:) and eventually graduate to a full share (or keep sharing with your neighbor or plant your own little veggie garden).

Chives, oregano, and alpine strawberries in my garden

A friend of mine and extraordinary farmer Josh Volk of Slow Hand Farm offers very small shares. This is the  perfect “gateway” CSA. And the produce is so delicious that the simplest of preparations are the best. Josh details the crops and amounts of each item you’ll receive in your share in great detail on his site. Just spending a few minutes on Slow Hand Farm’s website I learned so much about what’s growing and why, what we can look forward to, and what this erratic-but-fairly-typical-weather means to someone who isn’t just worried about getting wet walking from the office to the bus stop.

So I invite you to explore some of these farms and their offerings (if you aren’t already a CSA subscriber) and see what you find.

Forgive the lack of recipes in this post. I will post again tomorrow with a recipe!

Note: Since I don’t have any photos of local CSA farms I’m including photos from my own little garden in this post. And I currently have enough parsley, thyme, oregano, winter savory, and sage for the whole neighborhood so if you’re in need of any of those stop by and I’ll happily share!