So much changes in a month, have you noticed? Many new things to write about since my last entry and a few goings-on I want to mention while I’m here. First, it is nearly the end of the state fair season and Nate and I didn’t miss it this year. Instead of spending the day there in the sparkling weather we have this weekend, we went in the rain a few days back. But it was the day of the Minnesota Cooks event, which we either go to see every year or participate in. It is, I think, the most important and unusual event at the fair. All these fancy chefs in the cities who are esteemed for using local, sustainable foods do a bit of cooking on stage while Andrew Zimmern, the radio host of Chow Hounds, interviews them about their philosophy behind and experience using local foods. As well, there is always a hodgepodge panel of judges who has some connection to the local food industry: politicians, farmers, union spokespeople, and the like. A sampling of the food is always given out in the end to the waiting audience. Make a point of going next year, if you haven’t been already, for if anything it’s a funny relief from all the pronto pups and deep fried twinkies you’ve been eating.
In the last few weeks I’ve been reading about the recovery efforts by organic farmers in the southern part of the state who were hit hard by the August storms. I’ve been astonished by how much damage was done and to so many farms I get my produce from each week, like Featherstone and Avalanche Organics. Turns out the heaviest hit counties are in the top five in organic production statewide. And not just organic vegetable farmers were struck hard but organic dairy farmers and farmers who grow organic feed as well. Some worry that a few of these farms may even be at risk of losing their certification because of the flooding. And few of these organic producers have purchased crop insurance. The Wedge Coop, along with other Twin City coops, has set up a few funds and means of helping these farmers and I encourage you to do so if you can. While shopping the produce section these past few weeks I have noticed a few vacancies where otherwise there would be some seasonal produce and that is hard to witness.
In the meantime, and ironically, there is an area-wide Eat Local Challenge going on through mid-September. The idea behind that is to see how much you can eat locally, on a daily basis, within a given amount of time. At the Wedge Coop they’ve hung “local” signs across the store reflecting which items are within a five state radius (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas) and these signs can be found in every section of the store. What better time to take on this project than now when so many local farms are hindered because of the recent weather? Your purchase of local food does make a difference; it is more direct than you may think. And, my God, what better time of year than right now to eat what’s around.
I always sort of laugh to myself when I think of the locavore (one who only eats local food) and these eat local events because I feel like I do this already without realizing it. I shop once a week, sometimes twice, at the market and can safely say that most of what I’ve in my basket by the time I get to the check out is local. My potatoes and corn, tomatoes and eggplant, my milk and cheese and eggs and flour, my poultry, meat, and sometimes fish. Why have I chosen these things? Because they are the most delicious and reliable I can find; they just happen to be from nearby producers. A coincidence?
Finally, let’s talk food. Apples are beginning to show up at the market stalls and that makes me happy. I’ve been making my way through a bag of Hoch Orchard Red Barons this week and it just feels right. I always wait patiently for the local apples to show up, rarely purchasing them out of season, for they always seem to come from such far away places. So, that said, I am diving in. And Hoch Orchard always is a favorite of mine. You can get Hoch Orchard apples at most local coops, but there are plenty of good apple vendors at your local farmers market too. Don’t forget to make a quick batch of applesauce and shred some potatoes for crisp potato cakes, a match, we all know, is made in heaven. As well, the heirloom melon vendor at the St. Paul Farmers Market has finally showed up and boy do they have some goodies. What else, eggplants? Now’s the time for eggplant, and really, I can’t stress enough that eggplants should really only be eaten when in season and preferrable local. The quality is night and day. I made a very simple eggplant gratin (aka: eggplant parmesan) a few days back and that hit the spot. Plus, when you make the gratin you can use all those local tomatoes sitting around to make a sauce. Or you could saute some eggplant in olive oil, with shallots and ginger, and toss over grilled chicken breasts. Please, let me know if you need eggplant recipes or ideas, I have bundles; the eggplant, it seems, always is so underrated and is rarely a vegetable folks get excited about.
That’s it. On the mommy and baby front, we are only a month and half away from our due date. We’re healthy but slowing down a bit. I’m going to try and keep up with the blog, but I have never been so non-commital than I am now. Just trying to be. And trying to take each day as its own, quite a difficult task but hugely rewarding and steadying.
Happy Eating to you,