Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Farmer in My Kitchen

On Saturday, we received our first farm share from the CSA Farm that we joined (Ohana Farms in Coldwater, MS). Rather than spending $25 on produce each week from Easy Way (much of which comes from far far away places), we decided to put our funds towards a local farmer and reap the benefits of his family’s hard work. And of course, we want to support local agricultural instead of the giant industrial farms that strip the land and use who know what kinds of chemical on our food.

Our booty this week was, well, somewhat limited. Our famer explained that last year, they were eating ripe tomatoes on June 1. This year, because the weather in our region until recently has been cool and rainy, most farms in the area are suffering a bit. Instead of gorgeous juicy red tomatoes, we got turnips and kale. My 6 year old self is saying, “Ick! Turnips and kale? Gross!” [Note: I really do like turnips and kale, but my excitement over the CSA and its possibilities made me revert to my 6 year-old mindset.]

Initially, I was terribly disappointed and even wanted to get a little annoyed with my decision to join the CSA. We paid good money and this is what I get? But then I realized why I wanted to do it in the first place. I want to support the local guy. I want to eat what’s fresh and available instead of expecting plump juicy peaches to magically appear in my kitchen. I wanted to change my food philosophy and habits in hopes to help the environment and better nurture my family. So, I took sour lemons and made lemonade. Barbara Kingsolver would be so proud.

I decided to pull out an old cookbook I bought several years ago when we were living in Rochester and enjoying the city’s weekly (and wonderful) public market. This book, Local Flavors, is one from which I have never really cooked. Surprisingly, it is also mentioned in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It’s like I was meant to eat this way. I first looked up turnips and found a delicious recipe for a Turnip Potage. When I told my mother the name of the recipe, she said, “Gross.” But it is actually quite delicious. It’s basically a turnip, potato and leek soup (the potatoes and leeks provided by my local Easy Way). I am pleased to say that even my picky eater, Charlie, enjoyed drinking down a cup.

My next challenge was to find something palatable for the kale. I wanted a meal, not just a side dish, so I opted for a dish of Kale, Beans, Cilantro and Feta (I also threw in the greens from the turnips). When I told my husband the name of the recipe, he said, “Gross.” Again, though, the recipe is really tasty. The cilantro and feta give it a unique twist and after eating a bowl of it last night, I was stuffed. It’s amazing what real food can do for you! Charlie ate a few of the beans but was not too thrilled about the kale. I’ll keep working on him, though!

So here’s to a successful first week of being a part of a CSA. So far, I am pleased with my choice to take part in the partnership, and I especially look forward to seeing what is to come this summer! Now, if I could just break my pregnancy guilty pleasure from the organic ice cream sandwiches that make their way to my freezer all the way from Eugene, Oregon…

Monday, June 2, 2008

Hiking in the Old Forest

Several weekends ago, the Professor and I had big plans to take Charlie on his first camping trip. After some swift planning, we decided on a presumably kid-friendly car camping spot and planned on leaving early on a Saturday. We decided to keep the trip easy (thus, the car camping), down to one night and close enough to home just in case camping became a miserable experience for Charlie. Unfortunately, our trip got cancelled because there were threats of severe weather in the area. We could deal with a little rain, but predictions of high winds and possible tornados convinced us to postpone our trip.

Fortunately, while checking my personal email on that Saturday morning, I found an invitation from Citizens to Preserve Overton Park to participate in a guided hiking tour of the Old Forest at Overton Park. That’s just what we needed to satisfy our (or my) craving for some kind of outdoor experience. Since Charlie was born (or soon after his conception), our adventurous outdoorsy side has all but disappeared. And I have really missed getting out into nature and experiencing the outdoors.

Upon our almost late arrival to the park, Charlie decided to have a 2 year-old meltdown. He was DETERMINED to hold one of our dogs’ leashes without realizing that each dog at least triples his weight and they have no consideration for his compact size. Thus, for Charlie to hold on to a dog leash means that he will more than likely eat pavement (I've watched it happen before). And of course, he will not allow us to simulate a Charlie dog walking experience (i.e. with one of us actually controlling the leash with Charlie's hand on it). Fortunately, I was able to take him aside and help him stop screaming. He finally calmed down just in time for the hike to begin.

I must say that I really enjoyed the hike and was impressed with how easily I slipped into wilderness mode. I have memories of the Old Forest from my high school years. It was definitely deemed a place that “you didn’t go.” I remember the roadway around it always being flanked with cars with strange men hanging out doing things that I am sure my mother did not want me to even know about. I guess you can say it had a bad reputation.

Now, however, it leaves a different impression on me. It is certainly a place I would feel comfortable going on regular hikes with my son. Even though I had to carry him for a major portion of the hike, Charlie definitely had fun. He enjoyed running up and down the trails, spotting wildlife (we saw a turtle!), climbing over downed trees and visiting the base of a huge hollowed out tree. We learned a lot about the vegetation in the forest and the dogs were extremely grateful for the experience. I am sure the more we hike the trails of the Old Forest, the more we will learn about it and appreciate it. We definitely plan to go back for more.