I love eating good food and I love cooking good food. There is nothing that compares to food made by the careful hand of someone who cares about the person they are making it for. Time, energy, love and wine are all great qualities of a outstanding meal. Over the last few months I find the people in my life that share themselves through food are those who are really special to me even if it was only for one meal. As a result, I hope to share the people and creations we make together over this upcoming year. It's a important year after all. Why's that?
After reading "The Feast Nearby" by Robin Mather and a variety of other books I'll mention in upcoming posts, I decided to be smarter about my foods. Where did it come from, who made it, what's in it... more importantly, how much did I spend and why'd I buy it? I can make everything and it will be better for me. None of this is really new to me, I had been asking myself that for some time now but with out taking a hard stand on many issues.
That is all changing. Over the next 12 months I decided that I will replace my entire pantry and food supply with locally sourced items from the greater Chicago area. That means I need to can food for the winter and account for several other things as well. There are a few exceptions to this of course, in those cases, I'll always buy American over imported products to keep my dollar in our economy and in the few remaining cases I'll do what I need to do...I need my coffee after all. To further define locally sourced, to start the product has to be grown/raised within 250 miles of Chicago. I realize that is a big area, but I'm going to start there and decrease my radius over time. If I can get down to 50 miles, I'll be impressed but I think it's possible. Equipped with the skills of cooking, canning, food preservation and a amazing group of farmers around this city, this will be a wonderful journey that I am excited about. As a result, this blog will be here to serve as documentation the journey of meals and food preservation with old friends and new.
After the trauma of last year, I have been rebuilding myself through a plethora of experiences, most of which have taken place around food (at least the ones I've enjoyed most). Last year I made it a point to eat out at great places or cook with as many different people as I could. Much of this was because I needed to make friends here but really because good food makes me happy. At a certain point though eating out lost it's appeal and I began to find much of the food shallow lacking that personal TLC no matter who cooked it. While many of the meals were for me to keep me happy, this process lead me to many bold realizations and absolutely outstanding experiences.
Cooking food with friends and family is the stuff that feeds my soul. From canning brandied cherries and blueberry apple jam with Joey; the super amazing meal with my now dear friend Kelly involving a CSA box from Tomato Mountain Farm and some superior meat I had cut after the hog butchering class at The Butcher and Larder and ample wine... quite possibly the best meal of the year; Cooking simply huge scallions with blanched asparagus and all sorts of other goodies with Nikkie; to the monthly supper club (Tony, Barb and Nikkie) that is a potluck of homemade awesomeness; Making creole bread and red beans & rice for the super bowl party at Mike & Amy's and watching people get violent over the bread; lastly, cooking for the great Irish musicians Seamus Begley and Tristan Rosenstock while they visited from Ireland. We had a spectacular breakfast of eggs from Green City Farmers market, butter from Nordic Creamery, rope sausage from my parents farm, bread from somewhere and super awesome strawberry jam I had canned earlier that month. That is the tip of the iceberg, eating at Next, Ria, Sable and fresh lobster in Belize all happened also. What a great close to 2011.
|Pork Collar from The Butcher and Larder about to be brined|
I'm not sure how this food revolution in my life really came about although I can say much of it stems from my father who pulled me aside one day after my mother burned a pot of rice and said (paraphrased) "Son, I'm going to teach you to cook because one day you are going to get married and that person may not know anything about cooking, and you need to eat." Those first few meals we cooked together started everything and gave me the confidence to tackle any dish. Such as making stuffed squid with him when I was 14 or countless dishes out of Jeff Smith's - The Frugal Gourmet series. My time cooking at youth camps in Wisconsin provided a wealth of experience, sadly I've forgotten much of it but that's ok.
Then there is the other research project that has been happening over the last 2 years. As people closest to me know, the other part of this revolution has been a direct result of the research I have been doing into a career change in farming. It's still has yet to happen and probably won't for quite some time. However the massive amount research has directly changed the way I think about food, about life, developing questions, questioning my own morals, ethics and principles about the food I eat. While not everyone agrees with me, I know what I want and where I would prefer to get it. Locally sourced, organic preferably and direct from the farmers that raised it. If I can't get it direct from the farmer, I'll go to someone who did. I want to learn as much as I can about how to make and store all this food I've bought over the years at the store and damn it, I am going to make it. Someday, I hope to grow it.
Alright then, let's do this! Here is to 2012, I am looking forward to so much of it. My Tomato Mountain CSA signup sheet is in the mail and I'm nervously excited about the medium share I ordered. I'm signed up with CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) here in Illinois to meet and learn from local producers. I'm surrounded by some wonderful new friends here in Chicago. Here's to some great food this year and to those that take the journey with me.
I hope you enjoy the journey, I know I will.