“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.” – Joel Salatin
For the past year we have lived more “locally” and ‘in the season’ than ever before. It wasn’t an act of intentional culinarian defiance or even a misguided political statement. It was just the continued evolution of what we have done for the better part of the last decade. Without intending to, our families diet has been hyper seasonal, consuming a wider range of vegetables more intensely. I used to ponder at length why vegetables just tasted so much better in France than here. Eat at almost any restaurant or stop at any town market, buy something and you’ll see and taste what I mean. Zucchini tastes like the perfect zucchini and carrots like the perfect carrot. How could one country do that consistently across the board. Than it hit me like an errant lightning strike on a bright sunny day. Food grown and eaten in due season simply tastes better.
I was halfway through a plateful of artichokes barigoule when I had what I am now terming my artichoke epiphany. I started to notice how much better the artichokes I bought from DeNoble Farms (Tillamook, Oregon) tasted than I ever remembered before. Certainly better than the overpriced, dead looking ones found at my neighborhood grocery store. As I ate, I awoke to the fact that artichokes eaten this time of year are more tender and have no choke to remove; leaving them almost completely edible. I bought bigs ones, little ones, even their five dollar bags of golf ball sized artichokes. Every week for the past month I bought so many artichokes that the girls who work the PSU farmer’s market asked if I was buying them for a restaurant. Truth is, I simply cannot stop eating them.
“When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” – Masanobu Fukuoka, The one straw Revolution
A large part of the problem in America is the way we have industrialized our food system. Vegetables are grown on enormous farms, mechanically picked green and shipped literally thousands of miles before they end up on your plate. Grocery stores are teeming with an insipid monoculture of fruits and vegetables devoid of flavor with an equally suspicious lifespan. Sadly most Americans have grown accustomed to the system and forgotten what real vegetables taste like or even that there used to be an infinite amount of apple varieties to choose from. Nowadays we buy the same five vegetables and eat them monotonously day in and day out. This post isn’t about the ill side of monoculture or even collapsed food systems; read John Seabrook’s article entitled ‘Sowing for Apocalypse‘ from the New Yorker if you want that conversation.
I actively post on a Facebook foodie board made up of what I thought were like minded people who love food almost as much as me. Recently several posts have evolved into a war on farmer’s markets. Tempers flared and arguments broke out. One camp foolishly declared that shopping a farmer’s market was for the elite and that everything is overpriced. Implying it was nobler to shop your low budget grocery outlet. Nothing could be further from the truth. Compare both the flavor and price of artichokes. The four dollar ones found at Market of Choice, Safeway and Fred Meyer looked sad and pathetic; Whole Foods looked nice but lacked the freshness and flavor and stores like WinCo and Grocery Outlet didn’t have any. I started to compare everything I bought and unequivocally not only was the farmer’s market cheaper, but it was better. For me it is simply a lifestyle choice, I rather pay an individual money than a multinational corporation. I suppose buying direct from a farmer is more elite.
- 4 early Spring artichokes
- 1 lemon sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 2 quarts water
- 1 cup of artichoke cooking liquid
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup great olive oil
- 2 young carrots peeled and sliced
- 3 cloves spring garlic mashed
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 lemon zest and juice
- 1/4 cup basil sliced
- 2 ounces butter optional
- sea salt and black pepper
Trim the artichoke stems so they are no longer than two inches long. Cut the top one inch off the pointy end. Peel away the outer layer of leaves till all that remains are the inner, more tender leaves. Trim the stem and bottom with a sharp paring knife till the darker green color is removed and all that remains is the pale flesh.
Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise and drop into a pot with the sliced lemon, salt and water.
Bring to a boil, then simmer till tender, about 20 minutes.
Put one cup artichoke cooking liquid, white wine and olive oil in a pan and bring to a boil.
Add sliced carrots, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Simmer till carrots are tender.
Add artichokes, lemon zest and some lemon juice.
Add basil and mount with butter.
Adjust seasonings and serve.
Artichokes with a Spruce Tip Aioli
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup wild Spruce tips
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 cup Olive Oil
Put egg yolks, vinegar, salt, spruce tips and Dijon into the bowl of a food processor.
Slowly drizzle in olive oil till thick like a Mayonnaise.
The piney - citrus flavor marries well with grilled artichokes. I cook the artichokes like I do for barigoule. Grill the artichokes on a hot coal fire till crispy and slightly charred.
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” – Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
“Organic farming appealed to me because it involved searching for and discovering nature’s pathways, as opposed to the formulaic approach of chemical farming. The appeal of organic farming is boundless; this mountain has no top, this river has no end.” – Eliot Coleman, The New Organic Grower
“When you look at environmental problems in the U.S., nearly all of them have their source in food production and in particular meat production. And factory farming is “optimal” only as long as degrading waterways is free.” ― Gidon Eshel
“The passive American consumer, sitting down to a meal of pre-prepared food, confronts inert, anonymous substances that have been processed, dyed, breaded, sauced, gravied, ground, pulped, strained, blended, prettified, and sanitized beyond resemblance to any part of any creature that ever lived. The products of nature and agriculture have been made, to all appearances, the products of industry. Both eater and eaten are thus in exile from biological reality.” – Wendell Berry
“Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.” – Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table
“A farm includes the passion of the farmer’s heart, the interest of the farm’s customers, the biological activity in the soil, the pleasantness of the air about the farm — it’s everything touching, emanating from, and supplying that piece of landscape. A farm is virtually a living organism. The tragedy of our time is that cultural philosophies and market realities are squeezing life’s vitality out of most farms. And that is why the average farmer is now 60 years old. Serfdom just doesn’t attract the best and brightest.” – Joel Salatin, Everything I want to do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front
“A farmer friend of mine told me recently about a busload of middle school children who came to his farm for a tour. The first two boys off the bus asked, “Where is the salsa tree?” They thought they could go pick salsa, like apples and peaches. Oh my. What do they put on SAT tests to measure this? Does anybody care? How little can a person know about food and still make educated decisions about it? Is this knowledge going to change before they enter the voting booth? Now that’s a scary thought.” – Joel Salatin, Folks This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People and a Better World