next week’s dream team: food historian charlotte biltekoff visits, farmer paul atkinson chats

I’m pleased to announce the University of Oregon Center for the Study of Women in Society Food in the Field Research Interest Group Visiting Scholar Lecture for AY 13-14.  Dr. Charlotte Biltekoff, Assistant Professor, American Studies/Food Science and Technology at the University of California at Davis, will be speaking on her forthcoming book, Eating Right in America: The Cultural Politics of Dietary Health, on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 3:30 p.m. in Lillis 111. The talk is free and open to all.  Yes, parking is difficult near campus; sorry.

1304_Biltekoff_flyer_WEBDr. Biltekoff’s book is an important contribution to the field; it analyzes the relationship between moral campaigns and food reform movements in American history.  Trust me, this is a fascinating topic. Our breakfast cereal industry was founded on a thoroughly American mix of sexual abstinence, fresh air exercise, and commercial crop potential.  And that’s just the beginning.

And you may be interested to note that Dr. Biltekoff has served in leadership roles in the burgeoning Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC-Davis and the Association for the Study of Food and Society, so she’s a great person to chat with about the future of the field as well as the past.

We’ll be hearing more about the upcoming talk on Food for Thought on KLCC, Sunday at noon (PST) on 89.7FM in Eugene, or its sister stations all across Oregon, or live on the web.

img_5252And if that’s not enough to grab your attention, how about our other guest on this week’s show, farmer Paul Atkinson of Laughing Stock farm? YES!

Renowned on the West Coast for his pork (which is simply the best pork I’ve ever eaten, and everyone from Chez Panisse diners to The Atlantic’s Senior Editor Corby Kummer agrees) and famous on this blog for his work with friend Del Del Guercio making goat milk cheese and cured meats on the farm for local consumption (as in so-local-it-fell-into-my-mouth local), Farmer Paul will be in our studio!  He’ll chat about the other white meat, dairy farming, duck eggs, heritage squash, land use, curing caves, WWOOFing, and/or who knows what else with Ryan and me at noon.  This is a show that should not be missed.

it doesn’t get more cheesy than this

My charcuterer friend Del has started making farmstead cheese for Paul and his crew at Laughing Stock Farm in the rolling hills south of Eugene.  It’s only for their consumption, alas, because of regulations about raw milk and related issues relative to cheese making.  But the dairy production by the farm and neighbors, plus the commercial grade equipment and facilities that Paul already has in place from many years of goat cheese making provides awesome materials to play with for culinary mad geniuses like Del.

We started the day with over a hundred pounds of fresh cow milk from a neighboring farm and freshly distilled rennet.  Sheep gamboled among apple blossoms.  Curious barn cats eyed our wares.  Pigs squealed in the barns, eager for whey.  A herd of goats came passing by our trailer, fresh from milking.  Chickens laid eggs ’til it hurt.  A neighbor came by to discuss gathering herbs for herbal tonic, the dregs of a pilsner batch, and canning tuna.  A venerable basset hound kept court over the entire proceedings.  In short, it was just another day at the farm.

Making cheese is fascinating, and I hope to have many opportunities to hone my own skills this summer, if Del will have me back.  I’ve taken a few cheesemaking classes with the Extension Master Food Preservers, and even taught cheese demos (reminding one of the old professor joke: read it? I haven’t even taught it!) but my knowledge is very limited and largely text-based.  So why not test it out with a giant stockpot filled to the rim with milk in an ingenious hot water bath that uses a pump and immersible heating element to keep the milk at temperature?  Gouda enough for me.

Once the curds and whey were separated and the curds condensed into those squeaky little nuggets that are so fun to eat, Del set to pressing the curds into molds with an industrial strength metal press.  It’s an amazing device made out of stainless steel bars and a clamp.  I had seen smaller versions, much smaller versions, but this was for the big boys.

Before, the stuff of Miss Muffet’s dreams.

After the first press.  The cheese is flipped over and returned to the mold, where it is pressed again, then salted and cured in Del’s lovely cheese and sausage cave.

Can’t wait to taste the results!