slowly but surely: photos of the one field meal 2012

We had a lovely time at the Slow Food Eugene One Field Meal yesterday evening.  It was held this year at McKenzie River Organic Farm, a beautiful old farmstead out east of Springfield on Highway 126.  The farm, owned by Carol Ach, Sam Ach, and Jack Richardson, still has producing blueberries from nearly 70-year-old bushes.  I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to withstand the walking tour, but I am excited for the invitation to go back when I’m able.

Instead, I took pictures of the pig roast breakdown. That gorgeous layer of fat! Those brilliant blue gloves!  You’re welcome!

Take a look at the full set on my Culinaria Eugenius Facebook page.  I hope you’ll also get some pleasure looking at the local meal whipped up from PartyCart and Red Wagon Creamery.

We started off the evening with Territorial wines, Ninkasi beer, and pickles, always a good idea: eggplant, cantaloupe, and zucchini.  The pig, raised to a fat beauty on the farm, was finished with sea salt and dressed at table with PartyCart Chef Tiffany Norton’s and Chef Mark Kosmicki’s harvest gold sweet-sour ground cherry barbecue sauce.  My waistline said thank you, PartyCart, for many delicious vegetable sides instead of the ubiquitous potatoes — we ate splendidly of vinegared greens, chow-chow blackened green beans, and corn maque choux, which is like corn on her prom night, bedecked and jeweled.  The evening ended with an unusual peach leaf and brandy ice cream made by the brilliant mind of Emily Phillips at Red Wagon Creamery, and served up with Chef Emily’s gluten-free blueberry teff cobbler.

The meal was a fundraiser for the Farm To School Program, the School Garden Project, and to send delegates to Slow Food’s Terra Madre annual conference.

Yes, a delicious fall evening in the field of apple trees, flanked by strawberry and blueberry fields.  The farmstand was open after the meal, so we were able to take home cherry tomatoes and carrots.  I regret not picking up a few pints of ground cherries for more of that barbecue sauce.  Thanks so much for such a pleasant experience to all the chefs, McKenzie River Organic Farm, and Slow Food Eugene!

niblets: eventful edition

Since it took me nearly a month to post about my New York trip, and I’ve been battling continually rocky terrain with events, deadlines, harvest, and school matters ever since then, you may get a sense that I’m running slightly behind.  Fall is always rough for me, this year even more so.

But I’ve got a range of exciting news that I’ve been eager to share.

The first is the series of events related to this Sunday’s Mt. Pisgah Arboretum Mushroom Festival.  I’m particularly excited about Dr. Steve Trudell’s talk on “Why Mushrooms Matter” tonight, Friday, October 28th, 7 p.m., at the LCC Forum building, and all the mushroom specialties that will be served during Mushroom Madness week at local restaurants.  I tried Chef Mario Tucci’s chanterelle gnocchi on Wednesday at the Friendly Street Market café (Latitude Ten), pictured at the top of this post.  Wow.

The second is that I’m heading up an interdisciplinary faculty and grad student research group on food studies at the University of Oregon.  We meet monthly to discuss works in progress on their way to publication.  This is the only official venue for food studies at the university right now, but there has been talk of expanding these efforts in various directions, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.  Part of the group’s mission is to support and spread the news about visiting speakers who give public lectures on food.  I hope to extend these efforts via my blog, too.  Actually, they’ve been flying fast and furious, and I have had barely the time to publicize them at all, so I’m just going to say that I’ll try harder to wedge PR in.

Like this! I’m pleased to announce a reading and talk with wild foods expert Hank Shaw on November 14.  My group is bringing him out to campus for what promises to be a vivid discussion of his new book.

Book Reading and Discussion
Author Hank Shaw
Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast
Monday, November 14, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
282 Lillis Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene
Hank Shaw is a wild foods expert, hunter, angler, gardener and cook, based in Sacramento.  His exquisite and unusual wild foods blog, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook (http://honest-food.net), has been twice nominated for a James Beard Award, and was awarded best blog from the International Association of Culinary Professionals organization in 2010 — two major achievements in food writing.  He is on tour for his already acclaimed new book, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast (Rodale Books).  The book explores North America’s edible flora and fauna that explains how to track down everything from wild mushrooms to mackerel to pheasant, and create locally sourced meals that go far beyond the farmers market or campfire cuisine.

At a public reading for the University of Oregon and Eugene area community, Shaw will share his experiences in the field and in the kitchen, discussing not only his sophisticated recipes and innovative techniques for preparing wild food that grows and roams in the Pacific Northwest – camas bulbs, venison, and wild berries, to name just a few examples – but also the political, social, and environmental issues surrounding hunting and gathering in the twenty-first century.

The visit will take place on the evening of Monday, November 14, and will follow a VIP foraging walk and dinner at Marché restaurant over the weekend. Books will be available for purchase and signing.

More news soon.

There’s also a fantastic lecture series by food historian Dr. Ken Albala, hosted by the History Department at OSU.  He’s a major figure in food studies, and will be providing a three-part Horning lecture during the week of November 8 on food production, preparation, and consumption.  Click this link to open a .pdf poster.

PERSPECTIVES ON EATING FROM THE PAST:  GROW FOOD / COOK FOOD / SHARE FOOD

GROW FOOD
Tuesday / November 8, 4:00pm
Memorial Union / Room 109
COOK FOOD
Thursday / November 10, 4:00pm
Memorial Union / Room 109
SHARE FOOD
Friday / November 11, noon
Memorial Union / Room 109

A three-lecture series about the historical development of three crucial components of human nourishment and their disjuncture in the industrial era. Ken Albala will describe without romantic sentimentality the ways our food production system, our methods of food preparation and modes of consumption have changed over time to the detriment of human happiness, health and community. Creative suggestions will be made regarding ways we can recapture the positive aspects of past foodways without endangering food security or turning back the clock by abandoning the many valuable advances of the last century. History offers constructive examples of how we can better grow food, cook it and share it, if only we have the means to listen and learn from food writers of the past.

Ken Albala is Professor of History at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. He is the author of many books on food including Eating Right in the Renaissance, Food in Early Modern Europe, Cooking in Europe 1250-1650, The Banquet: Dining in the Great Courts of Late Renaissance Europe, Beans: A History (winner of the 2008 International Association of Culinary Professionals Jane Grigson Award), and Pancake. He is currently researching a history of theological controversies surrounding fasting in the Reformation Era, and has co-authored a cookbook – The Lost Art of Real Cooking, the sequel of which is tentatively titled The Lost Arts of Hearth and Home.

Also next week is a public lecture on campus closer to home, one I’m proud to say is part of our “Food in the Field” Research Interest Group work-in-progress series:

Wednesday, November 2, 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Prof. Nick Camerlenghi, Art History
“Terroir and Regionalism in Gastronomy and Architecture”
EMU Fir Room, University of Oregon

Abstract:  Perhaps the most important reason that comparisons between gastronomy and architecture have rarely risen above mere analogy (think: McDonald’s and McMansions) is that gastronomy still has a limited foothold in academia by which to forge a common ground with other disciplines. Unfortunately, this trend speaks little of the innovations currently underway in gastronomy. A case in point is the recently founded University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy where all aspects of gastronomy—from earth to table and back to earth—are being treated in a scholarly fashion. This is a watershed moment that bodes well for future exchanges. This paper examines the notion of terroir—as recently re-elaborated in gastronomical thinking—in order to develop what promises to be a fruitful point of intersection between gastronomy and architecture.

And on a more personal note:

I have 20 lbs. of cranberries waiting for me in the cooler at Hentze Farm (thanks, folks!) that were ordered from one of the coastal tribes.  Got a frantic call from the MFP coordinator who said they were beginning to look a little neglected.  Sigh, I know the feeling.  Homemade cranberry juice and chutney to come!  Will hold off on the lecture for now.

won’t you be my neighbor? community food exchanges

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Even I’m getting tired of repeating the news that this year is all about sustainability, vegetable gardening, and eating local. But what about the stuff we can’t grow in our own backyard?  How do we buy or trade with our close neighbors?  I’m interested in the next step up from absolute self-sufficiency, a state most of us will never achieve.  How do we turn solipsistic sustainability into a community effort, even if that “community” is just:

  • a couple of homeowners trading jam across a back fence, or
  • a guy at the mushroom festival trading his homegrown matsutake mushrooms, or
  • a meal sharing group, or
  • a local businesswoman who sells her bread as a cottage industry, or
  • a free garden on a sidewalk strip, or
  • an owner of an apple orchard who gives out apples in exchange for your help?

As part of an effort to build more community spirit in this year of local eating, I’m currently writing an article on itsy bitsy food exchanges in the Willamette Valley.  The stories about how and what we trade/sell to our closest associates are fascinating, and I’d love to hear about yours.  I’ll be giving a talk in August on the same topic to Oregon Master Gardeners at the statewide Mini-College conference in Corvallis, so it’s kind of a big project and I could use your help!

I participate in quite a few mini-food networks, and am sure that you do, too. For example, I’m a member of my neighborhood home gardening association (Friendly Neighborhood Farmers), I buy pork from a father-son team with a tiny operation, and I can tuna under the mentorship of a veteran Master Food Preserver.

What do you do?  Potlucks?  Selling your own chocolates or buying farm-fresh eggs from the lady down the street?

To participate in my fact-finding mission, please share in the comments, and I’ll try to include as many ideas as possible in the story or talk (but I can’t promise to quote everyone).   You don’t even have to be local to the Willamette Valley or living in a place where neighbors have their own apple orchards — in fact, I’d really love to hear about unusual exchanges on a very small level from all kinds of neighborhoods and all kinds of people.  The only qualification is that I do mean small — I’m talking local food networks even smaller than your CSA or your farmer’s market!

Thank you for your comments.  I’m really thinking of this article as one that could do us all good by building community, and I could use your help to make it as diverse and unusual as possible.

purple varnish clams, part deux

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After our clamming adventure the other day, I set out preparing the haul.  I was unprepared for the deep purple insides. These little ladies are stunners. They also taste quite good. In the batch of 72, we had only three that were duds. After soaking them in salt water overnight, I rinsed them and refrigerated them today. They could have used more careful soaking, as they were still sandy. The guide suggested leaving them in a mesh bag in the salt water soak, and flipping the bag every couple of hours. I think I’ll try that next time.

clams soaking

To cook the purple varnish clams, I simply steamed them in about 1/2 cup of local Riesling, a couple of teaspoons of preserved lemon juice (lemon juice would do), a couple healthy shakes of dried thyme, a few garlic cloves and pepper. I removed the clams as they popped open in their bathtub, and we ate the whole bowl for dinner. I accompanied the clams with steamed broccoli, a tossed green salad with garbanzos, local beets, and feta, plus an appetizer of Moroccan carrot purée and pita bread. The clams are absolutely delicious!

purple varnish clam-digging

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We went clam-digging this morning with our local Slow Food chapter in Siletz Bay on the north Oregon coast. Poor Retrogrouch (his choice of nickname) was not happy about throwing down cold and wet in the early morning, and I was feeling a rather vile case of nausea because of the car ride and an upset tummy, so we weren’t the friendliest companions, but the Slow Food Willamette Valley Convivium was indeed convivial, and our guide showed us how to get our limit (36 apiece) of the taste-invasion invasive species nuttallia obscurata, or purple varnish clam.

The purple varnish clam was introduced on Oregon beaches from Japan, they say, in the 1990s. It is 2-3 inches in diameter, flat, has a soft, thin shell that peels a bit (hence, varnish) and is brownish-mahogany on the outside and purple on the inside. It’s a pretty little creature, and plentiful, since it is doing its devious business invading the coast. Supposedly, they’re almost as delicious as razor clams.

dscf6860.jpgHere are some things you might not know about clam-digging, try as you google might. The people who write information about such things are usually old, seasoned men, so they leave out crucial information for those of us who have less seasoning and the non-mutant gender.

If you decide to go clamming in Oregon, you’ll need a license, and it will cost you $6.50, but each person in your party needs to show their face to the licensing folks, so don’t think you can you pick up licenses for the whole party. They have licenses (and apparently rental tools) at various locations along the coast, and at [G. I.] Joe’s in Eugene.

Buy a clamming shovel (see pics), which has more flexibility than a clam tube from what I can tell. I think that if you’re digging other kinds of clams, such as the fast-moving razor, this advice might change, but it’s still a good idea to have a long, narrow shovel, especially if you’re only going to get one tool.

dscf6851.jpgThere’s no “assisted clamming,” which is really a stupid rule. It means that two people can’t help each other dig the same hole and put clams in the same bag/bucket. So you need a bag/bucket for each person. It’s OK to share the same digging tool, as long as you dig separate holes on your own.

They sell small mesh drawstring laundry bags at the dollar store, or, at the four-dollar store (i.e., Walmart). The four-dollar version is a real clamming bag, which resembles the laundry bag but has an approx. 8-in. diameter metal circle that keeps the mouth of the bag open, and a clip that you can use to clip the bag to your belt so you don’t lose it in, say, a sneaker wave. I think mesh bags are the way to go, much easier to use than a bucket, especially if you have to bring one for each member of your family.

I am very, very thankful I brought a small cooler with a couple of ice packs thrown in and some extra plastic bags. We put the sandy, full mesh bags of clams in a plastic bag, then in the cooler. No sand anywhere, and we didn’t worry about the clams in the car. And we’re really glad we had an extra garbage bag for our wet, sandy clothes.

dscf6853.jpgOur friendly guide, Bill Lackner, distributed literature that said that “rubber gloves are optional.” Yeah, if you don’t mind breaking a nail or two (which I did). I located one nitrile garden glove, but a leftie, so I was only half-protected. I think, actually, that nitrile garden gloves are perfect for clamming, since you still can feel with the tips of your fingers. It helps when you’re digging down into the hole if you can feel the clams. Digging with your bare hands makes for some mighty cold hands, and the saltwater did a number on my skin. Beware.

If you have waterproof pants or waders, by all means bring them, because you’ll get wet from your knees down (and your elbows down).

I’m purging the clams now in saltwater with a couple of cloves of garlic. (Edited to add:  here’s how they looked and tasted!)