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Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Refreshing Old Ways: Sharing the Path

Those of us who remember our Beowolf readings from high school English class merrily purchased our first cup of mead at Renaissance Festivals and were rewarded with a sweet drink. Perhaps we were young and that was palatable. But  it was the last time I drank mead until I moved to Oregon’s Willamette Valley about three and a half years ago.

Living in the middle of wine country is a joy in many ways. Not only does it offer a lot in terms of oenophile enjoyment, but the countryside is beautiful.  And twice a year (Thanksgiving weekend and Memorial Day weekend) almost all the wineries open their doors, even if they normally do not have tasting rooms. It was our first Thanksgiving weekend here and avoiding a popular location with the Portland crowd, we headed up Highway 47 north of McMinnville. When we got to Yamhill we stopped, on a whim, at a meadery at Kookoolan Farms.
Yamhill Oregon Local Farm

Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor and her husband Koorosh met as engineers for Intel and purchased a  farm in Yamhill. Kookoolan Farms has evolved over time to work with other nearby farms to offer vegetables and meat to consumers throughout the region and its reputation for quality is well known. To find out more about the farm and all they do check out their website and their Facebook page.

Like me, Chrissie remembered her Beowolf and started making mead from local honey.  She perfected her craft, moving well beyond the sticky sweet stuff so many of us experienced at those Ren Fairs. In her quest, she started gathering mead from other places in the United States and from around the world. This is when I met her. We visited her mead tasting room and was amazed at the variety of tastes offered.

And why not, when you really think about it. Beer, which has the same basic components, has amazing variety. Wine, of course, varies not only by the type of grape but, as I have learned first hand, by the weather, the terroir, and the skill of the winemaker.  Why not discover the same breadth and depth with mead?

Mead has been enjoyed by people for thousands and thousands of years. It seemed to be found often in monasteries which produced honey for the beeswax to make candles. The mead was a fortunate byproduct of that task.  Today, home brewing shops throughout the country can attest to an upsurge in interest and currently there are over 400 commercially licensed meaderies in 46 states, up from 30 in 1997!  Mead is considered to be the fastest growing beverage business.

Many meaderies, like Kookoolan, are very small with only a limited and local distribution. However, there are many that have larger production and a number of bottle shops are expanding into offering a wider selection.

As interest grows, so do the number of books available on the subject. So far, however, most recent books about mead have been in the “how to” genre. Home brewing is highly popular and there are plenty of tips and lessons available to ease the learning curve.

However, as mead started becoming more popular, Chrissie realized there was something missing. Her clues came from the visitors to the tasting room. Not only “Where can I find mead besides your tasting room?” but “What would be a good dish to pair with this mead?”

She realized she had a definite advantage over just about everyone else in the field. When she went to make her lunch in her kitchen, it was fun to grab a small pour, or two or three in the adjacent tasting room and see what tasted good with the dish she had prepared for her meal. As she kept her notes, the light bulb started to burn brightly and the book concept was born.

The Art of Mead Tasting and Food Pairing (ISBN 978-0-578-18895-9) took three years to produce.  It is a joy to read…and even better to work through by cooking and tasting. Chrissie has not only explained the various kinds of meads that are available, but offered well tested recipes to pair with the various kinds.  Imagine, if you will, you have a pretty terrific chicken pot pie you have made, either from your own recipe or the one in the book.  You might be tempted to pair it with a white wine for supper, but your enjoyment can be enhanced with the right kind of mead pairing.

From spicy (check out the shrimp gumbo!) to sweet there is something in here for every palate. 

The books is also divided into regions of the world, as mead is produced everywhere there is honey. One photograph really caught my eye; it showed an archaeological find at Tel Rehov, Israel with a multitude of preserved hives. This discovery proves that ancient civilizations, this one dating back to 900 CE, had a great appreciation for bees, honey and its byproducts.

The book explains mead history as part of the Paleo world, in Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean region, northern Europe, eastern Europe, the Middle East, and in Latin America. Recipes and pairing suggestions are offered to get your exploration rolling.

And through it all, gorgeous photography. Even a simple photo of the collection of meads Chrissie obtained from meaderies around the world in the research for this book is beautiful, even as it began to overtake the floor space in their dining room.

My hope is in your own life adventures you make room for new challenges.  Part of exploration may be of new places, but some new learning may take place in the known and safe nest of your own. Open your willingness to try not only new foods, but new  beverages too. Perhaps this concept of mead pairings will get you thinking and not only check out the book, but start checking out the shelves in a local bottle shop. At a recent visit to a local grocery store yesterday I found this.

 

 

and now I get to figure out what food will go well with it. Ahhhh, time to reread the book!
15713 Highway 47, Yamhill, Oregon 97148                                                                                                                                                                                                                             503-730-7535   kookoolan@gmail.com

 


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Farm to Table Pork

For those of you who started reading recently when I have been writing about my reaction to the political hoohah of the past year, you might not know that I have been involved in the farm to table movement for the past six years or so. 

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My business, Can-Do Real Food, works with small local farms capturing their surplus produce and preserving it either by canning or dehydrating. This helps reduce food waste, offers the farmers another income stream, and provides local consumers shelf-safe local food that can be eaten any time of the year. I work with produce only; vegetables, fruits and nuts.eat-local

Most of the farmers, however, have animals for eggs or meat production. One of my farm partners, Wooden Mallet Farm, is located northwest of the small town of Yamhill in the foothills of the Coastal Range.  They offered the opportunity to buy a whole or half hog and we plunked down $50 about 6 months ago to help with feed and reserve our half. pigs

This morning I went to the farm to observe the processing. Why? Because I am curious. I get the meat all wrapped up in white butcher paper, so if I lived in a fantasy land I could imagine there is some “immaculate conversion” from hoof to plate, but instead I wanted to honor the animal by being there.

Several years ago I naively went to a farm in West Virginia to observe chicken processing and ended up being involved literally up to my elbows.  So I understood the general process.

One amazing aspect of farming in Oregon is that mobile slaughter is allowed to occur on the farm. The processor butcher explained that the regulations are not as strict as the indoor facilities and we discussed the differences between this winter time processing with the low temps (we are having unseasonable cold weather…it was maybe 30 degrees this morning) and the need to work fast while there is light. Summer time processing has the issues of flies and other insects as well as concerns about higher temperatures affecting potential spoilage.

So from the time the 22-caliber bullet was fired into the brain and the carotid artery was severed, until the time the carcass was hanging in the truck was perhaps 15 minutes. Hoofs were saved for a friend of the farmer to make dog treats. The processor collected the hides and offal for someone else who processes the skin and renders the rest. The livers were inspected and several rejected; winter hogs apparently often have some liver damage. The ears and hearts were saved by the farmer.

The carcasses will be weighed and I will receive an email tomorrow about the hanging weight. That check goes to the farmer.

The email will also give me contact info for the butcher and I will call to give him the cutting instructions. We like our pork chops one inch thick for example. We will get a small ham and the rest cut into ham steaks. We want the baby back ribs and country style ribs. And the bacon. There is never enough bacon. There will be some roasts and a few other steaks and then the rest will be ground. We will request Italian sausage.  There will be a fee for that butchering, the curing for the hams and bacon, and the wrapping for all.

All in all we will purchase a whole lot of pork that will feed us for about a year for about one-third the cost of purchasing the same amount at the store. In addition, we know our farmer so we know how the hogs were raised, the food they ate, and the way they were treated.  And, as much as you love bacon you get at the supermarket, I want to tell you that this bacon is better….way better.

I could take a few hours to honor the animal that will be feeding me. hogs


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A story within a story and a concept to consider

Years ago my maternal grandfather would preside over the Passover Seder. For hours and hours and hours he would intone the readings and prayers in Hebrew while my cousin Nancy and I would compare the levels in our glasses of diluted wine and water. It was all but a meaningless process and once Grandpa died and my father started to preside, I asked my mom if we could perhaps use another Haggadah.

“Oh no!” she replied with shock that I would suggest such blasphemy. “This is the ONLY one.”

(unsaid) Really, Mom? This wine-stained freebie from the liquor store where we buy the Manischewitz?

I tried again when Dan and Lisa were really young. “Mom,” I pleaded, ” Can I revise the Haggadah to reduce it to 20 minutes so the kids really understand and participate?”

“Oh no!”, she replied. (Repeat with me) “This is the ONLY one!” More wine stained than ever.

So, when Graham and I got married and we decided to host a Seder I told him a bit more emphatically than I needed to that I would be finding one that worked better for us. He didn’t care, of course. There are literally over 1000 versions of the Haggadah, each very much following the prescribed order, as Seder means “order”, and telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

That’s the first story. The second is next:

The story we share at the Seder is not simply what Cecile B. DeMille’s movie with Charlton Heston shows. We talk about what went on in the minds and hearts of the people affected there and then. And then we try to make it into something we can relate to.

IMG_1033I don’t know about you, but I can not relate to working my entire life building the pyramids or other structures.  I’ve done some physical work and I work pretty hard at the food processing business, even when my body hurts, but to FEEL like a slave takes a stretch of imagination. Growing up here in the United States in the 50s, 60s and 70s, my freedoms expanded and my opportunities were ahead, ready for the taking.

And yet, each of us are enslaved to something that we know we would be healthier without. Me, it is easily sugar. Someone else maybe their tobacco. Someone else their wine or beer or pot or whatever. We can identify people in public life enslaved to the concept of power and how that has warped their view of what is healthy.

Once we can recognize that item for ourselves we can begin to think about how it feels to get rid of it. And not by our own choice. That freedom from slavery in Egypt was not desired by many. Afterall, there is some peace found in a routine that is not desired but has no responsibility. To become free means to take on a huge change. And we know most people do not like change.

In the Seders I host I try to get the people attending to recognize their own enslavement and how they (and I) fight the change that provides freedom.

So that’s the second story. And now, to the concept I hope you will consider.

In the news today one of the issues is the brouhaha about transsexual individuals using the public restroom for the sex they feel is their identity. There is so much fear about perverts attacking children.  There is so much condemnation for the wrongness of these people. There is not the loving (supposedly Christian) acceptance that they have a difference we might not understand but can respect.

We also have grave concern, all of us, about ISIS and other terrorist groups and how they seem to be difficult to stop.  It is horrible how a few people continue to flow to those groups from western society here and in the UK. Why? But the more difficult concept for me is the hatred of ALL Muslims based on these extreme groups. The people I hear who are so afraid seem not to recognize that all fundamental ends of all religions have their extreme and narrow definition of what is acceptable and believe all others who profess to practice the same religion but in different ways are NOT that religion. And need to be changed. It is true in Islam. It is true in Judaism. It is true in Christianity. Meanwhile, it seems hate of the others is easier than acceptance of the other.

I wrote a blog a few months ago in answer to a friend about whether I would welcome a Syrian refugee family into my home. You can read it here.  That issue, as well as a myriad of others supporting people who have had incredibly horrible events occur simply because they were both where and how they were are not hard for me.

I merely remember that I was once a slave in Egypt and was delivered out of bondage. It is my modern role to help others who desire to, escape their slavery.freedom


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I Feel Lucky

It’s a pretty busy time, but when is it not busy in my life?  Anyway, it’s busy and I like it that way.

Today I had an appointment with my allergist to go another scratch test for some of the standard issues here. I had to be off my antihistamine for 5 days and boy oh boy I didn’t know how effective it was until now. The pokes were easy compared to my memory of the scratch tests as a kid. One of my arms got red and swollen quickly. (Thanks, Cat, who is now 15 and will probably live to 25 just to spite me.) But as soon as that was over I swallowed my antihistamine and rubbed some anti-itch cream on my arm and felt better in a half hour. I sure feel lucky.

I then headed over to the kitchen I rent at the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries. We had the first of two tests as  part of a special project for Can-Do Real Food. One of our farm partners, Keeler Estate Vineyards, has some wine that is not permitted to be sold because of some form that was not filed years ago. So, we offered to see if we could turn it into wine jelly. They gave us bottles of Pinot Noir (a red) and Pinot Gris (a white) and that jelly tasted awesome. We cookeda little more of each down and mixed with sea salt to make a culinary salt as well. I get to play with yummy food. Boy oh boy, I feel really lucky.pinot noir and pinot gris april 4

This weekend I am hosting a handcrafted artisan fair inside a pavilion at the local county fairgrounds here in town. The story of how this all got started points more to my Pollyanna attitude than my realistic view of life, but it is coming together despite a couple of setbacks. Good thing, since it is only 4 days away. We have an awesome and eclectic group of talented craftspeople.  I am going to have a great weekend spending it with artists who show their love with their abilities.  I am so darn lucky.Crafts Fair poster WEB

I got 27 emails from candidates today, most, of course, begging for money. You know, this political hoohah can be very annoying. But you know what else?  We have a system that permits us to be involved. Especially if we don’t like it.  I met a candidate a couple of years ago and after talking with him decided I would help a bit. He’s campaigning again and there I am. It is rewarding and comforting to see an honest person who is very much interested in the issues of the people in this area try to make a difference.  I feel lucky to know how to get involved and help try to make this government work for the people.

My husband Graham probably did not fully know what he was getting when he asked me to marry him. We just celebrated our ninth anniversary and were able to take a few days away “at the coast” (Oregon speak for “down the shore” which is New Jersey speak for “go to the beach” everywhere else). So despite his cold we enjoyed the beautiful sunny blue skies and warm days. He humored me to head to a good viewpoint for a sunset photo too and we headed to Tillamook cheese factory on the way home so we could get some cheese and, of course, ice cream. I know I am lucky.IMG_0679

So this evening we ran a quick errand to Lowe’s to pick up something we needed for a wood craft Graham is making for this weekend. Afterwards we stopped and he put up two signs about the artisan fair. I was off the road with the flashers on and when Graham came back to the car I planned on pulling a u-turn to head home. But there was a car, and then another and then another….three police cars, so no u-ey. I drove a tiny bit and pulled into the grange parking lot to turn around. One of the police cars also pulled in…and turned his lights on. You can imagine the expletive deleted that I was thinking. I figured we might get a ticket for putting the signs up. Nope, he wanted to check we were okay and did we know we had a taillight out? We denied it and promised to get it replaced and headed home. Oh yeah. I feel lucky.

In reviewing my day I realized I left off the very best part. I heard from each of my three kids today. I feel very very very lucky indeed.

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Synergy is Amazing

It is conference season now….a very good thing for the winter as I spend the growing season in the kitchen and shuttling raw produce from and finished products back to the farms involved with my business, Can-Do Real Food.

Two weeks ago I attended the Northwest Food Processors’ convention in Portland with my husband Graham and my friend Jana. They have both been an integral part of providing their own expertise to this process and there are business cards being printed as I write this that names them as Vice Presidents of the business. That and $3.50 will get you a latte. LOL

Early this week I joined my daughter Lisa in San Francisco for the Fancy Food Show. Lisa is a promotional marketer and has been hired the past three years to work for a vendor. She suggested I attend last year but it was scheduled the same as the Portland event. So this year I got to go and saying OMG! is a dramatic understatement.  Not only is it a visual and gastronomic orgy of delectable foods of all types, but the amount of expertise in those humongous rooms was vast. For the most part, if they were not chatting with someone who might mean business to them, just about everyone was very willing to spend 5, 10 or even 30 minutes talking with me, answering questions.

These are the goodies I brought home

These are the goodies I brought home

For example, we have been working to produce a culinary syrup made from raspberries and lemongrass. The raspberries had been frozen…..no issue there. The lemongrass had been dried and while we got an amazing flavor, the clarity was not pretty. I chatted with about 5 vendors who produce lemongrass products and got a variety of suggestions…..and one worked superbly. Three cases of syrup processed this morning!IMG_0363

I met one vendor that I revisited twice more to make sure I let him know how much our interaction meant to me and to say goodbye.  He did not have any food….basically he helps develop packaging and he said he will send me info but that was not our discussion, really. It started like this:

Me: Good morning.

Him: How are you?

Me: Fantastic…this is an amazing show!

Him: I am so happy!!!

We both cracked up. We sounded high and I guess we were. On the positivity that was around us. In the synergy that was flowing. The fact that we were in the middle of amazing food products and I, more than him, was slowly by surely, teaspoonful by teaspoonful, tasting my way figuratively around the world.

But what made this guy stand out is that is all the conversation was about. Choosing to live by finding and feeling the joy in life. When I asked what he does, he waved his hand a bit derisively saying, “pretty packages” .

I look forward to the info he sends.

 

 

 

 


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Are Adults Incapable of Responsibility?

We have known for over 30 years that tobacco caused cancer and yet adults are still smoking and chewing.

We hear there is a national epidemic of diabetes, and yet more and more adults are overweight.addiction

Each day people head to the bars or the liquor stores or the pot shops or their local dealer to get what they use to try to escape their reality.

Each morning people report to work hung over and perform less than their best.

Every day there is another news item where some innocent person was shot accidentally by a gun going off unexpectedly or handled by a child.

 

tv-dinner-feltEach night people turn on the television and then zone out, zombie like, listening to laugh tracks in mindless shows. Or talking heads who provide analysis over what someone in the public eye really meant when they said whatever.

Few people read more than headlines. Fewer people know the difference between a news article and an op-ed (opinion or editorial).

Few people meet with others to work on community efforts of any kind.

Few people meet with others who are not like them.

Few people strive for excellence and accept mediocrity. Einstein-Mediocrity-Quote

Few people understand the issues that are facing their own communities, let alone try to get a handle on the national situation or anything else going on in the world.

Few people are working to try to better the system.

angry-familyPeople know who they hate but not why. Most of the time they are people who are different and unknown. Other are family members.

Few people set goals. Fewer know how to work towards them.

Some people have an image that the boogeyman is going to get them. He may be a zombie in the apocalypse in some scary alternative future. It might be the drug crazed homeboys from the bad side of the tracks. It might be the mother-in-law with her fruitcake. So they need a weapon and they are not afraid to use it. They will kill a person they say.

Few people know how to cook from scratch.

Few people know how to change a tire.

Few people know how to sew a seam or a button.How-to-Sew-On-a-Button-38

Few people know how to set a budget and live within it.

Few people would know what to do if the electricity failed for more than a day.

Few people would know how to survive if the store shelves were empty. If they could not gas up their car. If the cell phone network failed.

Many people complain about about how the kids today don’t know how to hold a job or be respectful and they refuse to admit they are parents with problem kids.

The list goes on……and on…..and on…..when will each adult stand up and assume responsibility?


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As I started visiting small farms in West Virginia to market local food to consumers, I learned a lot I didn’t know.  And it got me very alarmed.

My blogs started taking on a urgent tone…you MUST change your ways….until a woman I barely knew and subsequently became a best friend, cautioned me that no one listens to yelling.

So, I think I will let photos tell the story and just give you something to think about each one.

Did you know that the US government permits chickens to be sent to China where labor costs are so much lower? The chickens will be processed and then shipped back, the better for you to continue enjoying chicken at a low price.567372-usda-allows-chicken-processing-in-china

Did you know that a number of food items prepared in China, from dog treats to baby food, have been recalled because of toxic and unhealthy items?  Unless you know your farmer, you will not know where the meat was processed.

Starting in 1994 some crops were genetically modified. Within ten years it has been estimated that over 75% of the average American diet was obtained from genetically enhanced foods….plants and animals that would not occur naturally and are only designed to help with weeds and pests or other environmental annoyances to the producer.  While the jury is still out about the genetic changes in our food affecting the eater, it is already clear that the manufacturers have not obtained one of their goals: to reduce the use of chemical sprays. So, anyone eating GMO food is getting a huge dose of chemicals that are being determined, because of consumer pressure, to be carcinogenic. gmo-awareness-blog-masthead-4

In the past five years there have been efforts made in a number of states to require foods that use genetically modified ingredients to be labeled. The companies that make the chemicals, control the seeds for planting, and the organizations that manufacture and sell the food involved have poured in billions of dollars and persuaded people who are not taking time to read independently that there is no ill effect. However, in each fight the margin is getting closer and closer so now these organizations are fighting in Congress to prohibit labeling. They think the typical American is too stupid to understand and if they see an issue they will not buy the products.

Most meat that is sold in supermarkets are from animals that have spent at least a few months in what is called a animal confinement facility.  Efforts by activists have raised awareness that the automatic use of antibiotics to increase the growth rate and keep the animals from getting sick in the dirty and congested facilities have resulted in antibiotic resistance strains of bacteria that mean people who get sick may not be able to be helped. Some places have eliminated its use and are advertising “antibiotic free.” pig factory farmKS cattle feedlot

 

 

 

 

It has become illegal to obtain and show these photos, as the organizations behind it realize you might get concerned and stop buying their products. Stopping the photos does not mean the practice has stopped.

So, now what?  Well, take a few minutes and think about your own body or your kids.  Does anyone have pretty constant tummy problems?  How about immune system problems, like allergies, eczema,  arthritis, and there even has been some discussion about chemicals in conventional food related to higher rates of ADHD.  If anyone eating out of your kitchen or eating out regularly has any of these symptoms, you may want to switch a pattern of spending.farmacy

You might want to try what we did……we did a 6-month trial. We did not buy organic as our first choice, but from local farmers we got to know and understood they used no sprays and other organic practices to raise their food. We supplemented with organic products only if we could not obtain what we needed. My husband was skeptical but after 6 months my arthritis was more easily managed and my daughter’s gut issues which had bothered her since her teen years improved dramatically.

Local Harvest  is a national organization that provides information near your zip code for farms. No excuse you don’t “know your farmer.”localharvest_logo

We also discovered one more benefit….our food tasted better than what we could buy in the supermarket.  If only for THAT reason, if you ENJOY eating, you might want to run a test.