Friday, April 8, 2011

So what am I doing with this blog anyway?

For weeks, perhaps months, I have been planning to start this blog about sourcing, making, and eating food, but I have procrastinated. I kept trying to decide what blog service to use and what to call it and what is it going to be about and do I have a point of view that's fresh.I hesitated, hemmed, hawed. A few nights ago, I was trying to sleep and writing my First Blog Post in my head, and I asked myself: What's taking so long? Why haven't you done this yet? The service and the name aren't that big a deal, are they? Then a tiny voice piped up from the back of the room (because I view my mind as a vast conference room with lots of people there to listen to what I have to say--no, I don't really, but I thought it was kind of fun to imagine anyway), so, where was I? Oh yeah, little voice, back of room, said "But what if it isn't any good?" Yeah, you nailed it, tiny voice: I was scared. I am scared. What if this isn't any good? What if no one wants to read what I have to say about food? And what is it exactly that I want to say about food? Food is good. Enjoyed with friends, it's wonderful. A lot of people are out there talking about food. What do I have to bring to the table?

Well, these are some reasons I want to write about food:

About a year ago in January, my husband Mike and I borrowed an audiobook version of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. When we were done with that, we went on to Omnivore's Dilemma, which more than any other book made us want to opt out of the industrial food chain and so we set out to do that. It wasn't easy, and it still isn't. We have changed our behaviors with regard to getting and making food, and we have changed the way that we think about food, but the practices of avoiding food shipped from halfway across the world (especially in winter), of making your own, of trying to eat mostly local and sustainably raised food are hard. But to us they are incredibly meaningful and so we keep at it. In fact, trying to eat the way that we want to eat is so meaningful to us that I hope to be able to share some of what we have learned and hopefully get others to opt out of industrial food too. Because I also think that the more people opt out of it, the easier getting local, sustainable, nonindustrial, and seasonable food will become as local food distribution becomes more efficient. So there's a selfish aspect to it: I want you to do what I do so that it gets easier for everyone.

Then, there is the love and passion aspect to it, and that encompasses so many different components that I easily get lost. There's the quality of the food that I get from people I directly support. There's the sense of belonging to a community, a place, where I have a stake in the soil, in the air and water, and in the people who live near me. One of the most potent ways I know to connect to the world is to eat. Food is a distillation of sun, soil, place, air. In his book,  NOMA: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine and in his food, chef Rene Redzepi talks about this connection between what we eat and where we are as a way to create sense memories, and in a sense to create an ephemeral art. I cannot create the kind of art that Rene creates, but to take some of that spirit and infuse it into the quotidien is something I want to strive for. I think that the practice of thinking and writing about food can help me to make daily life an art form, which makes my life more meaningful and more beautiful and hopefully does the same for my family.

Finally (at least for this post--there are more reasons and I will develop them as we go along), I want to teach what I know about cooking by passing along my successes and sharing my failures. Hopefully in the process I can keep getting better and learning more.

So this blog will be a mish-mash of recipes and tips, of food politics, of raving about the good (and perhaps the bad), of sharing stuff I learn, of creating art. Hopefully it will entertain, inform, inspire--I mean, why else would anyone write?

And to get started with the recipes, here's my recipe for roast chicken (which I planned to have for dinner tonight, but a family thing suddenly came up):

1 whole chicken (I get mine from Haskins Family Farm, which I will rave about at another time)
salt, white pepper
2 lemons (unfortunately usually not local, but I do have a lemon tree now!), one juiced, the other cut in half
herbs to taste or as available
unsalted butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  2. Butter a baking dish (you want it to be deep so that it can hold some water)
  3. Rinse the chicken with cold water, inside and out
  4. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels
  5. Grab about a tablespoon of salt and rub the inside and outside of the chicken (sometimes you will need more--don't be afraid to salt a lot!)
  6. Rub the inside and outside of the chicken with white pepper
  7. Stuff the lemon halves inside the chicken along with any herbs that you have available (if you don't have any, you can skip this)
  8. Place the chicken in the baking dish, fill the bottom wiht about an inch of water
  9. Put it in the over for 30 minutes
  10. After 30 minutes, pull it out, turn the chicken over in the dish, and pour lemon juice all over it
  11. Back in the oven, 20 minutes
  12. Pull it out, turn it over, and rub the chicken with 1 tablespoon of butter
  13. Back in the oven, 20 minutes
  14. Out of the oven, pour pan drippings over the chicken, flip it over, in again, 15 minutes (you will keep doing this last step for 2-3 more times depending on the size of the chicken). I usually check doneness by poking the joint between the leg and the body to see if the juices that run out are clear. Others prefer a thermometer, which should read about 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh.
  15. When it is done, remove the chicken from the dripping and let it stand and rest on a platter for about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, you can make gravy with the drippings. Use a fat separator and let the drippings divide into two layers. Grab about 2-3 tablespoons of the fat and put it into a pan. Add 2-3 tablespoons of flour to the fat and cook for a few minutes (don't let it burn). Then whisking fast, add the drippings (minus fat) to the fat and flour in the pan. It will thicken quickly. If it gets too thick, you can always add some milk, cream, or stock to thin it. Salt and pepper to taste (mine is usually pretty salty, so I definitely check the salt before adding any).

I usually serve roast chicken with roasted root vegetables (whatever is in season or I have around the house) and some kind of salad. Again, it really depends on what's available and looks good at the farmer's market.

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